Artistic Journey

A pilot study-abroad program puts a transformative learning opportunity within reach for first-generation students
by Katie Neitz
students visiting several Amsterdam art collections
Photo: Courtesy of Rick Rinehart
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From March 11 to 16, students had the opportunity to visit several Amsterdam art collections, including NDSM (above), the Van Gogh Museum, the STRAAT Museum and the Nxt Museum.

he value of studying abroad is priceless. Navigating an unfamiliar environment, becoming immersed in a new culture and interacting with people with different perspectives broadens students’ understanding of the world while helping them become more insightful, adaptable and empathic.

But the cost of studying abroad can be significant — and therefore prohibitive.

Bucknell wants to close that gap. In March, the University launched a new pilot program — Art in Amsterdam — that enabled eight first-generation students to spend spring break exploring the vibrant artistic culture of the Netherlands for less than $500. With support from the Office of the President, students’ travel, housing and most meals were covered. Out-of-pocket expenses were limited to passport fees and spending money for souvenirs and incidentals.

Rick Rinehart, director of Bucknell’s Samek Art Museum, and Professor Sally Koutsoliotas, physics, accompanied the students and led the educational excursions, which included tours of museums, art organizations and private collections.

The itinerary included a visit to the home of Renée and Bob Drake ’73 in Wassenaar, where the couple shared their vast collection of contemporary art. Other highlights included a private tour of the Museum Voorlinden, arranged by Bart Dura ’88, who also lives in the Netherlands, and a day trip to Brussels.

“We designed the program to have an interdisciplinary approach that went beyond the appreciation of art,” Rinehart says. “We positioned students as global citizens who are developing a holistic view of art’s connection to society. Students were given rare behind-the-scenes access to learn how the art world works from the perspective of artists, collectors and dealers. We discussed topics such as how sustainability and artificial intelligence are influencing art.”

First-generation students from all majors were encouraged to apply. For those selected, the experience was illuminating, in different and unexpected ways.

Changing perspectives

Katie Schadler ’26, an English — literary studies major from Reading, Pa., says the program, which was her first time abroad, challenged her assumptions. “I always felt intimidated by the art scene because I felt you had to be really astute about it,” Schadler says. “But Bob and Renée made the point that anyone can become an art collector by buying a piece that interests them. It doesn’t have to be what society considers ‘good art.’ I like that concept — that art can have value by speaking to you.”
students on a tour during Bucknell study-abroad pilot program
Photo: Courtesy of Rick Rinehart
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A Bucknell study-abroad pilot program enabled eight first-generation students to explore Amsterdam and Brussels and experience the cities’ sights, cultures and cuisines.

Inspiring wanderlust

“Before this trip, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study abroad for a full semester, but now I 100% know it’s going to happen,” says Tales Carneiro Passos ’25, an international relations major. “I was born and raised in Brazil, but this was completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. I have a whole new appreciation for art and travel and new people and places. It was life-changing.”

Finding direction

For Malika Ali ’26 of Carteret, N.J., the program exposed her to many firsts — including flying in an airplane. “This trip completely changed my perspective on what I’d like to achieve in life,” she says. “The art industry is filled with affluent individuals, which is a stark contrast to my background. I never imagined that I would have the chance to step foot into it. This program was not only an educationally enriching experience, but it has motivated me to become part of this world in some way. It’s the driving force in my decision to now major in classics & ancient Mediterranean studies.”