HTM program hosts trip to Italy in May

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HTM program hosts trip to Italy in May

Nance Shaw

Nance Shaw

Nance Shaw

In Cinque Terre

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From May 13 to May 25, Business and Economics Professor Norm McElvany will take 14 students to Italy as part of an ongoing series of upper-level Hospitality and Tourism Management elective classes.

“Normally we have one to Europe and one to somewhere south, Costa Rica, Brazil, Central America or South America,” he said. “We try to bring students to a variety of parts of the world.”

Once in Italy, McElvany and his wife will transport the students throughout the country in two 9-passenger vans. The focus of the trip is to immerse students into the life, culture, history, cuisine and language of Italy. The course maintains a specific hospitality perspective in that students observe, research, and discuss how the areas of Italy they visit handle the huge number of tourists and visitors who arrive each year. They also examine how this influx of tourists affects the area’s infrastructure, food supplies, transportation, lodging and sanitation.

Finally, all of these observations are brought home by comparing how these events parallel what happens during the various tourist seasons in Vermont.

McElvany began leading these trips in 2001, when he took a group of students to Ireland. “I wanted to take students out of their comfort zone, but not so far out that they wouldn’t want to do it,” he said. “Ireland is an easy sell. Everybody knows Ireland, they want to go to there, and everyone there speaks English. Kind of. So it was easy. It worked so well that I thought I’d push a little harder, and the next trip I took students to Italy.”

While students are required to complete a number of projects and readings prior to getting on the plane, the main focus of the course is experiential learning. “I figured a large part of my education came when I was traveling the world in the ski industry, and if it worked for me, it obviously would work for Johnson students, many of whom have never been on an airplane before or out of the country,” McElvany said. For this year’s Italy trip, students are reading two books, Irving Stone’s “The Agony and Ecstasy,” and Ross King’s “Brunelleschi’s Dome.”

Both books are intended to give students a better idea of the history of Italy, especially the birth of the Renaissance.

Other projects involve studying the destination’s culture, sociology, and economy. “If you don’t have a sense of place, you don’t fully appreciate the trip as much,” McElvany said.

Once students arrive in the country, however, it’s more about gathering the experience of being abroad.

“I used to have grand schemes about what I wanted students to learn, and what I discovered was everyone learned a lot, but not necessarily what I wanted to learn,” McElvany said. “We each pick up whatever it is we want to pick up. So I stopped worrying about it.”

McElvany will lead the students through Rome, the Cinque Terre area on the northwest Mediterranean coast, Florence and its surrounding towns (for example, Pisa and Lucca), and towns in Umbria, including Sienna and Montalcino.

During their stay in each location, students are expected to visit cathedrals, museums, sculpture gardens, and study examples of architecture from Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance times. Doing so allows the students to absorb as much local culture and history as possible, and eat as much delicious Italian food as they can stand.

A huge part of traveling abroad is to reinforce the idea that you do not have to speak the same language as the other person in order to communicate. “Eighty percent of communication is non-verbal,” McElvany said. “That’s part of the reason I do this. You go a long way with a smile and hand gestures.”

While the classes are identified as business classes, McElvany stressed that students do not have to be business majors to apply. Since the classes are upper-level electives, they help satisfy the 39 upper-level credit requirement for graduation. However, if students want an edge on the application process, they have to be ready to apply early. Students traveling abroad this upcoming summer semester had to apply and be accepted to the class before Christmas.

Financial aid is also available. If students are interested, McElvany encourages them to stop by his office in Martinetti and ask questions.

“You can read a book about it, or you can go there and experience it,” McElvany said. “Students have come back years later and thanked me for doing it, because they wouldn’t have done it themselves.”

Another International Travel and Tourism trip will be led by professors Henrique Cezar and Todd Comen to Portugal in May.

 

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