Located in a newly renovated, 13th century convent, the Orvieto semester is positioned in the historic city center just steps away from the ruins of an Etruscan temple and spectacular views of the valley below heading in one direction to Florence and the other towards Rome. The convent houses all of our program activities, from classrooms, dormitories and offices to our dining facilities and shared public spaces. It hosts all of our daily routines in addition to every public event and exhibition that we open up for the local community.
We want our students to live well and to enjoy all the opportunities of living in a foreign country. It begins with hospitality. We are guests residents and we need to share from our gifts just as we receive from the welcome that others have offered to us. This hospitality is essential to our community life since, to be in Orvieto means to be completely present in the full context of the place and purpose of the program. The true success of the semester is as much about the community formed as the curriculum we undertake. It also means we have an equal responsibility to live as neighbors and not separated from the town by the gate to our courtyard. We look for opportunities to live in the life of the town throughout the year.
Recognizing that genuine community may occur wherever mutual, interdependence is welcomed, being “in” Orvieto reflects the specific intentionality we have to embody this as fully as possible. We chose our current location with this in mind.
A convent, historically, is a community of brothers or sisters who live and share life under one roof. But, unlike most monastic communities, they are meant to go out and serve in the community. They withdraw inside the convent, not as a means of withdrawal from society but rather as a means to live an intentional life of mutual support in order to be more in communion with the society they go out to greet and serve. This is a view into our intentions as well. We expect the convent to be a safe place of personal growth, artistic and intellectual exploration but also the place from which we go out to an encounter the reality and circumstances of the time and place we live in.
True solitude is the home of the person, false solitude is the refuge of the individualist.
There seems to be an urgency for genuine solitude in our society today. Any form of solitude requires time and a balanced understanding of the relationship and respect for others. It is by entering into the stories and experiences of other people that we meet them and it is how we honor one another. This reality of encountering and sharing is the beginning of trust in community and it is how we approach our life and our work in Orvieto. It is what makes possible a unique, common, union of diversity each and every semester. It is what invites each person and group to study and pursue their ideas in a freedom free from competition.