FAQs for student courses
WHY CHOOSE ART HISTORY ABROAD?
At the genesis of AHA, the idea was to understand and enjoy art and culture in the best possible way. Like the natural world, art is most exciting when viewed at first hand. The aim is still that we teach people of all academic interests to value art for the rest of their lives. No other teaching organisation has this pure approach.
At AHA we are interested in three-dimensional culture, so we see the relevance of economics, politics, poetry, philosophy and the greatest context we can access, when considering how civilisation has progressed. Like many family-run organisations, AHA has become a life choice for us and we tend to attract others of a similar inclination onto our faculty and administrative staff. We take more care when dealing with students and parents and it is perhaps the combination of belief, perseverance in hard times and reputation that has carried us through 30 years of enormous fun.
AHA is nothing like school. We will teach them things that could never be taught in the class room – we encourage them to embrace and love culture for life.
Age – for the Summer Courses, 17 – 22, for the Gap Year Courses, 18 – 22.
What if my child is under 18?
When we have students under 18 years of age, we expect them to be with tutors after 11pm unless we have express notification from parents that the student may stay out unaccompanied by a tutor.
Attitude – we expect our students to be reasonable, courteous and civilised throughout the course.
All we ask for from our students is an enquiring mind and the enthusiasm which makes the course a real cultural adventure. During our recruitment process we will try to find out if AHA is a good fit for you or not. This is not about exams but your zest for life.
We do plenty of walking and you’ll be carrying your own bags over bridges in Venice and across cobblestones to the railway station in Florence. Be prepared. That said, we took a student in a wheelchair on a summer course recently so anything is possible if you are determined. You must make us aware of any medical conditions before or during your interview, so that we can take them into account.
Tutors are kind and offer support to students, but they are not carers. Some students speak to their therapist, which is fine, however, AHA expects full disclosure about all conditions past and present, so we can best manage the course or assess the suitability of a student for the course.
What if you have not done art history before?
No problem, 60% of our students have not studied it before.
Reading and preparation – can I prepare for the course?
Yes, we will send you our “Books worth reading, films worth watching” List; they are not obligatory but they are fascinating.
How do I apply?
First, fill in our application form and we’ll schedule a chat. If all goes well, we’ll send you an email with a link to a registration form. As soon as you’ve filled this in and returned it with your deposit, your place on the course is reserved.
Are students vetted in any way?
Yes, they must meet our eligibility criteria and undergo a short interview on application.
Why do you need to speak to me?
We are keen to make sure that you understand what our courses offer and that you can ask questions about it. Equally we want to know more about what makes you tick, to be sure you are a good fit for AHA.
When should I apply?
Some students sign up for a course a year ahead and others leave it very late. It is best to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
I don’t come from the UK – can I come on a course?
Yes, we take students from around the world, as long as they speak good English.
Can I speak to alumni and parents as references?
Yes, just contact us, we have a list of people who are happy to share their experiences with us.
What is covered by the fees?
Tuition in small tutor groups, accommodation, transfers in Italy, museum entrances, breakfast (see our Dates & Fees pages for details). The hidden benefits are local knowledge, privileged access and care (with benign guidance for those under 18).
What is not covered by the fees?
Flights to and from Italy, insurance, spending money, lunch and supper (see our Dates & Fees page for details). We use our many years of experience to eat out at inexpensive trattorie or to buy picnics. This greatly enhances the sense of experiencing Italy and avoids set meals in a hotel.
Are there scholarships?
Yes! Details are on our Dates, fees & Scholarships page.
Do you have payment plans?
Yes, but full and final fee needs to be in our account before the course departs. Contact us for details.
Are discounts available?
If you take two summer courses in consecutive years, we will offer a discount.
TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATION
When do Gap Year courses in Italy leave?
January (Spring Course), April (Early Summer), August (Late Summer) and October (Autumn).
The Semester Course leaves in September, beginning in London, then Paris, Nice and Montepulciano.
When do Summer courses leave?
Do you have to travel with a friend/people you know?
Not at all, most students don’t know anyone else before they join. It’s half the fun!
How do you travel around Italy?
We often take trains, sometimes private buses and, of course, we walk a lot.
Where do you stay?
We stay in family-run hotels in the historic centres of the cities we visit. Tutors stay in the same hotel and so are always on hand. Students share rooms of triples or twins; occasionally we may use quadruple rooms for the shorter stays.
Are the rooms cleaned?
Yes, as with most 3* hotels but we find that students are less likely to lose things, either mislaid or stolen, if their rooms are kept reasonably tidy.
How are travel arrangements made?
When you have paid your deposit we will suggest flights that you can book in order to arrive with the other students at the beginning and end of the course. Travel during the course is arranged by us.
Do I need to get a visa or vaccinations?
British nationals need neither of these to visit Italy. If you are not a British national, check with your nearest consulate or embassy. In all cases, responsibility for visas remains with the student, not AHA.
Who does the teaching?
Our brilliant, unstuffy tutors! Students come to us from every academic discipline and for this reason it is vital that our tutors are expert, approachable and interesting. We consciously choose them to serve as mentors for our students.
We have collected tutors from all parts of the art world – including experienced tutors, academics, picture conservators and artists. They all work in their own field and join us several times a year with a real enthusiasm to pass on their knowledge.
Can I get a reference for university or college?
Yes, we would focus on attendance, contribution and range of experience.
What is a typical day like?
We start out after breakfast at 9.30 am having divided into our tutor groups for the day. Each tutor will lead his or her group off to a different site on a different programme of study. There is a break in the mid-morning for coffee and refreshments. Students are free to do as they wish at lunchtime but often they stick with the tutor who may well know somewhere good and inexpensive to eat nearby. Read “A day in the life of an AHA course” for more details.
After the afternoon session, joining the group for dinner is not compulsory but most students prefer it. There might also be a language session, mask-making, cooking or preparation for the next day’s visits.
Can I go for a short period of the course?
Not on our Summer or 6 week Gap Year courses but on the Semester you can join us for shorter periods.
What is the maximum size of a tutor group?
Do course itineraries change?
Yes, we like to give our tutors the flexibility to vary their itinerary based on weather, current exhibitions or the “locals only” café they’d like to introduce to the students.
Are there tutorials, assessments or classwork?
There are no obligatory assessments but you can do some if you choose. They are quite rigorous and some people find them useful for university or college … or even fun! There are occasional one-to-one tutorials with tutors where students can discuss academic progress.
Do you teach Italian?
We teach students enough Italian to be self-sufficient for when they are on their own and for forming the basics of courtesy and good manners. On the Semester course they have 2 weeks of morning language lessons at Il Sasso language school.
Can I use my time with AHA as my Residential project for my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme?
Yes, if your school/organiser approves it beforehand. Our courses meet all the requirements.
How do you ensure quality?
An anonymous questionnaire, brilliant reviews and in 30 years only a handful of complaints all of which were resolved amicably.
How do I know AHA are good?
What will I get out of the course?
Our courses are an opportunity for students to study for fun. Our 6-week gap year courses are equivalent in teaching time to eighteen months of study in one A-level subject. We have never had any problems with truancy and we have no need of an exam.
Our aim is to balance travel with scholarship in order to develop within students a cultivated eye with which to appreciate great creative achievements. Also, university admissions tutors stress the importance of the personal statement on a UCAS application form. Distinctive and eye-catching “statements” include evidence of intellectual horizons beyond essential curriculum for A-levels.
How long has AHA been going?
Since 1987, in its current incarnation.
CLOTHES & LUGGAGE
What will I need to pack?
Before you go on the course we will issue you with advice on what to pack. Essentially, we are outside for much of the time, rain or shine.
We recommend layers to cope with hot and cold weather, for our longer courses. In the summer, remember that many churches in Italy will not allow bare shoulders/knees so a scarf can be very useful. Remember that you may have to carry your bags over bridges in Venice or from the train station in Florence.
What do students do about washing clothes?
Sending clothes out from hotels is expensive and generally students do their own hand washing. The nearest laundrettes are pointed out during the initial orientation.
Will I have to carry my bags?
Yes. Often. Again, we will advise you once you sign up but be aware and if you have a history of back or knee problems, be sure to tell us.
RULES & SAFETY
What are your rules?
There is a Student Code of Conduct which is not a contract, but a covenant i.e. an understanding of what is expected. Should students step beyond what is reasonable, courteous or civilised AHA will intervene.
Do others bring laptops and tablets?
Increasingly, yes. Hotels have wifi, generally, and we have a mobile phone policy. You should note serial numbers and have photographs of equipment in case of theft, for your insurers.
Sex, drugs and rock‘n’roll?
Students cannot have anything to do with illegal drugs on the course and we would either remove a student from the course or take them to the police. Rock’n’roll, is fine, on the other hand. However, we would counsel students not to enter into an exclusive relationship while on the course. There are practical limitations and, importantly, AHA’s student courses are a group activity and exclusive relationships tend to create distance within the course. In our view, it is less complicated to be in love with Italy and life rather than each other.
Alcohol and tobacco
We do not forbid alcohol or tobacco during the course but AT ALL TIMES we expect our students to remain reasonable, courteous and civilised, as per the Code of Conduct that they sign. Equally, we expect students who smoke to observe the etiquette of putting other people first and never smoking where it may cause upset or annoyance to anyone else, or indeed, where it is forbidden.
What do we do about safety?
We have a risk assessment plan, a crisis management plan and, of course, public liability insurance. Our tutors are in training for approximately 12 months covering teaching, pastoral care and administration. Tutors in the field have the support of a fully-staffed UK office, not to mention a large network of AHA friends and connections in Italy. As we are in a European country we are always within striking distance of good medical back up.
What happens if something gets stolen?
A tutor will either direct you or take you to the local police station, where you make a “denuncio” or declaration that you have lost possessions. Most insurers require this in order to make a claim. One of our students lost a beloved teddy bear once but a valiant tutor retrieved it from the hotel laundry!
Does the UK government give advice on gap year travel?
Yes, here , as part of their Travel Aware scheme. We advise all students to read it.
Is AHA a member of any organisations which ensure rigorous safety standards?
Yes, we are a founding member of the Year Out Group.
Although our gap year courses are in mainland Europe, there are still inherent risks in travelling. We see the main ones as:
- volcanic eruptions
- exuberant youth who have attained their majority
To manage these risks, we no longer visit towns in earthquake zones, we follow advice from the geological survey in Naples and we think carefully when we choose to travel by public transport. As much as anyone can, we monitor the situation and react accordingly.
As to the last of these risks, as young adults on a gap year course, we feel strongly that they should be treated as adults with adult responsibilities.