Creative Writing: Italy

Pavia, Italy
May 7 - June 7, 2016

Program Highlights

  • Live and study with Italian students in a beautiful and historic college
  • Experience the life of an Italian university town
  • Explore northern Italy on weekend trips to Parma, Como Lake, and Milan
  • Spend two days in Florence
  • Develop your writing skills through exercises, cross-cultural workshops, and individual feedback

Program Description

Northern Italy holds Milan, Lake Cuomo, Verona, and Venice; it features great works of Da Vinci, and the historic, beautiful towns of Turin, Parma, and Mantua.  Students enrolled in this four week May term travel to the northern university town of Pavia, Italy (about 30 kilometers from Milan) to stay with Italian students in the prestigious Borromeo College.   

CSB/SJU students will take this course together with English-speaking students of the University of Pavia.  The creative writing course centers on writing exercises and workshops within a larger thematic framework: the ethics of creative writing.   What ethical crises-moral, political, ecological-do American and Italian poets write about?  What concerns do our cultures share and in what ways might we approach the same concerns differently?  Through our reading of selected contemporary poets, we examine together the rich differences in perspectives we have on some of the challenges we share as humans in the modern age.  Professors of literature from the University of Pavia will provide supplementary talks, in English, about Italian poets and perspectives.  

Students work together in small groups to help one another negotiate a foreign language (reading a few poems in English and a few in Italian); undertake creative writing exercises in the gardens of the Borromeo; and create a portfolio in which they explore their own concerns in their own words.  (No previous knowledge of Italian or creative writing experience is required).  

Staying in the Borromeo College, students will have opportunities to engage in activities with Italian students (including tutorials in areas of their majors, excursions, and guided visits), to go on weekend expeditions to surrounding towns and famous cities (see below for details), and to experience the life of an Italian university town.   


To immerse ourselves further in the Italian culture, we will explore the region on weekend trips to Mantua and Parma.  Milan, a world-class cultural destination, is a half-hour train ride from Pavia and this modern international hub will be easily accessible on an almost-daily basis. As part of our cultural enrichment, students will also travel to Florence to stay overnight and have a guided tour of the city and visit the world famous Uffici and Accademia Galleries to see Michelangelo's David among other masterpieces of western civilization.  At the conclusion of the four week program, students will also have the option of signing up for a group trip (with other students) to Venice or Rome.

Program Costs

The estimated program fee is $4,262 (this includes meals and airfare) plus the cost of 4 CSB/SJU credits at the reduced summer tuition rate (approximately $525 per credit)

The program cost includes:

  • Round trip international airfare from Minneapolis to Milan
  • Accommodations during the program
  • Primary transportation
  • Course related excursions including: admission to museums and cultural attractions
  • All meals in Pavia and most group meals (in local restaurants) on excursions

The program fee does not include:

  • Meals outside of the college (if students decide to dine outside of the college)
  • The cost of 4 credits at CSB/SJU
  • Personal spending money
  • Activities, housing, accommodations not associated with this program


We will be staying in the Alma Collegio Borromeo, located in the heart of Pavia, Italy.  It is in easy walking distance to the University of Pavia, astounding churches (including San Michele, where Charlemagne was crowned, and the Duomo, designed by Leonardo da Vinci) and plethora of shops and open-air markets.  Saint John's students will stay in the classic men's dormitories and Saint Ben's students will stay in the new women's dormitories.

The College has extensive grounds including gardens, a library, music room, and a 16th century chapel.  All students are welcome to dine in the refectory for the meals or to venture out to one of Pavia's many cafés, restaurants, or pizzerias.

You may read read more about the College at this website:

Or you can take a virtual tour of the college using this link:

Join us for an intercultural encounter that will bring you into close conversation with students from another part of the world. Though taught in English, this program offers an immersive cultural experience through the many ways that CSB/SJU students will be able to join in the college life of their Italian peers.


The director and instructor for this course is Jessica Harkins of the CSB/SJU English Department.  Dr. Harkins studied literature and philology at the University of Pavia, Italy. She is fluent in Italian and her scholarship and teaching includes many Italian authors, including Dante and Petrarch, and the women writers of the fifteenth century. She has published several translations of the female Venetian poet Gaspara Stampa, and is currently translating Stampa's book of poems.  Dr. Harkins is also a poet inspired by her time in Italy - her poems about Italy appear in literary journals within the U.S., Sweden, and the U.K.