We were so delighted to hear from our former Senior Tutor and Course Manager, Dan Evans, having reminisced with friends about his gap year.  He has kindly shared his thoughts on what has clearly been a momentous journey.

Photos: Dan teaching in the Bargello, Florence, left; teaching in the Giusti gardens in Verona, right; wearing the pink sunglasses, below right

“It was 20 years ago today that I went to Italy with Art History Abroad. I had not enjoyed A-level Art History, but a desperation to go to Manchester University meant that I decided to take it for my degree and my Dad thought he better do something about my antipathy to Art History. He agreed to split the cost of the course: I worked in a pub for three months and saved up my portion of the fee.
But my five weeks travelling around Italy, taught by the best people I have ever met, was more than just a platform for my degree. Yes, my brain was ignited properly for the first time (despite the best efforts of my beleaguered secondary school teachers) and I fell back on my AHA tuition at university, picking the Italian Renaissance modules whenever I could. I graduated with First class honours and took up a post as Senior Tutor and Course Manager for AHA for 9 wonderful years.

But with 20 years of hindsight, now that I am a Housemaster at a leading independent boarding school, teaching A-level History of Art and History, what I feel AHA really gave me was a powerful lesson in what Education should be. I learnt that information could be inspiring, that facts could be awesome, that theories could be laughed at, that being a bit geeky was cool.

Any teacher will tell you that the best lessons are the ones where students are stirred into taking the lead, where there is a palpable buzz in the room about the stuff they are learning about. This was what I experienced for the full five weeks of that Gap Year Course. I laughed, I doubted, I argued and I learnt. I nodded sagely. My eyes popped and my mind raced. I ended every session wanting to know more. The tutors I had, had a genius for teaching. It was a real 1990s Gap Year experience for an 18-year-old.

I forged new friendships (I shared a hotel room with and Old Etonian – we are now both godfathers to each other’s children). There were cheap lunches, boozy suppers, nightclubs and plenty of flirting. I was under the weather in front of Botticelli’s Primavera, I fondly remember being tipsy during an afternoon visit to Villa Farnese in Caprarola. Some nights there was little to no sleep. But I was never dragged from my bed by the tutors.

So I suppose I also learnt to be disciplined, I learnt about duty, responsibility and resilience. Now that there is some grey in my beard, my career is established and I can look back on ‘turning points’ in my life, this time in Italy with AHA was certainly one of very few. Ultimately, I learnt to love learning and I was inspired to inspire others.”

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