Hamish Dicketts reminisces about his time on the John Hall Venice Course in 2020, exploring Venice and its rich culture.
The John Hall Venice course is a nine week residential course that introduces gap year students to some of the most wonderful aspects of culture, with subjects ranging from music, cinema, art history, architecture, literature, world issues and much more, with optional extra classes in cookery, photography, Italian language, and life drawing.
“’The glassy palaces that strike your gaze ring brittler than before’ – Late Autumn in Venice, Reiner Rilke.
Venice possesses an awe-encompassing quality. It can expand the senses, heighten emotion, at moments feel overwhelming, yet there is a deep fragility and sensitive beauty attached to its irrevocable history. And this is what Rilke understands, this is what makes Venice so unique, so special.
When you arrive in Venice, you find yourself in a position of deep, majestical awe towards the dense beauty of the city. Even in the most trivial of endeavours, such as drinking coffee in a hidden backstreet amongst the canals, a feeling of grandeur pervades the mind. Venice, the source of inspiration, takes centre stage.
However, with the John Hall Venice Course, students are invited to immerse themselves in an exceptionally privileged culture of tradition and affluence, of great ecstasy and jubilation. We are exposed to a grand scope of artistic expression; the lectures themselves touch upon Venetian art, contemporary art, film, opera, classical music, philosophy, poetry… the list could go on. The quality of speakers, too, is of the highest standard, and JHV rightly prides itself on the expertise of those who open student’s eyes to what is around them and what has come before.
The self naturally shapes within the eight or so weeks of the course, not merely because of what is taught, but because of the relationships formed amongst the group. The bond between friends are secured within the first few weeks, and continually expand to the point where, by the end of the course, you couldn’t imagine not being together. Which is why the end is so hard. One emerges from a haze, an eight-week dream.
In the moment there is no time for reflection, but as England is greeted again in late March, you become pensive, nostalgic with the knowledge that there is a lot to digest, a lot to still to learn. It is thus, the perfect preparation for university, a morally uncovering journey filled with delightful fragments of blissful routine. Whether it be undertaking a private tour of St Mark’s Basilica, drinking in the Campo Santa Margherita, or merely walking aimlessly across the Rialto bridge, there is always something to be digested. Venice. You live in it, you let it happen. Let it unfurl.”