Art History & Digital Photography in The Netherlands & Italy

Fashioning the Self
Portraiture in Past & Present

Learn from the master works of art history while you explore your own creativity by photographing the fascinating sites and people around you. Pre-apply HERE and you can live in a Dutch castle as you travel to Europe’s great cities of art.

AIA is offering undergraduate students a special opportunity to participate in Emerson College’s prestigious, 5-week Art History and Photography program: Fashioning the Self: Portraiture in Past & Present.

The program is based in the beautiful Kasteel Well castle in The Netherlands and includes nine days of travel to cities in The Netherlands and Italy.

Kasteel Well’s rich amenities and many activities allow students to form their own socially vibrant community, in the comforts and security of a beautiful study center. Located just minutes from the German border and well connected to cities across Europe with low-cost airlines, the castle is a perfect spot to meet the local culture and experience Europe’s major metropolitan centers.

Courses in art history and photography will immerse students in the rich culture of Europe’s Renaissance and capture how the continent’s cultural traditions are adapting to contemporary trends.

Participants will travel with their professors and local experts to visit Bruges, Ghent, Amsterdam, Florence and Venice to study the masterworks of Renaissance art and the historic settings which house them today. Field trips include transportation, lodging, museum entries, walking tours and a taste of local cuisine.

At a Glance

  • Name: Fashioning the Self: Portraiture in Past & Present
  • Where: The Netherlands & Italy
  • When: May 15 – June 22, 2020
  • Cost: $6,900 (see what’s included below)
  • Facilities: Kasteel Well castle, The Netherlands (Emerson College)
  • Housing: Dormitory in the castle with full amenities for social activities
  • Field Trips: Bruges, Ghent, Amsterdam, Florence & Venice
  • Credits: 8 units from Emerson College, Boston
  • Courses: Art History & Photography
  • Faculty Directors: Dulcia Meijers & Rob Duckers
  • Applications Open: Nov. 1, 2019
  • Applications Close: March 1, 2020
  • Eligibility: Open to all undergraduate majors from any university through AIA
  • Pre-Apply HERE (non-Emerson students)


Fashioning the Self Flyer

Kasteel Well, Live and Learn in a Castle

Cross the moat and enter through the gates of Kasteel Well and you will feel at home in a centuries-old castle with a perfect blend of historic character and modern comfort. The castle’s amenities include fully-equipped classrooms, comfortable shared bedrooms and modern baths, a spacious dining hall, inviting common spaces for casual and organized social activities, both inside and out.

The castle houses almost 100 residents in many different programs, so you are bound to make new friends with diverse backgrounds. Social life in the castle includes meals, movies and music, whether you are dancing or playing the common room’s grand piano. You can relax at the swimming pool or in the private gardens enclosed in the confines of the castle walls.

When you are ready to explore, leave the keep and soak in the charm of local villages and countryside. And if you want a weekend getaway, Kasteel Well is conveniently located to airports that connect to destinations across Europe.

The Netherlands, Italy (and in-between)

From the canals of Amsterdam to those of Venice, The Netherlands and Italy mark two pinnacles of Renaissance art, culture, trade and economic power. Each is defined by distinct local traditions, foods, architecture and landscapes. This program gives students the opportunity to experience both lands, to meet local residents and to explore the museums, streets, shops and foods of two still distinct European settings.

The program will be based in The Netherlands on the border with Germany and it will travel for a week to two of Italy’s capitals of art history, Florence and Venice.

On weekends, students can travel independently to the many exciting countries between these two poles of their formal study.

Special Activities

Pixels & Pigment

We take pictures of ourselves and our friends and family all the time, but what do we learn from them? This program uses street photography to foster close contact between participants and local residents. Curiosity develops, then conversation and understanding.

And as students get to know their neighbors, they get to know themselves and their own culture better. Students will follow carefully constructed assignments to engage with host country residents, produce a body of creative photographs and design and mount a final exhibition of their work.

Through this hands-on creative exercise, students will also come to better understand the art historic role of painted portraiture to express ever-evolving intangibles of beauty, self image, social status, economic power, cultural values, gender roles and more. The two courses are seamlessly integrated into one, program experience.


Classes meet Monday through Friday from 10:00-12:00 and again from 14:00-17:00. Many lessons are held outside of the classroom, in museums and galleries and on the historic streets of European cities.

Fashioning the Self: Portraiture in Past & Present
Art History

What can a portrait tell us about the person it represents, its creator, the society and time in which it was painted? In this course you will look closely at some of the most important portrait paintings of renaissance Europe to understand better both the diverse trends of art history and the social, political and economic forces that moved artists to produce those specific works. The course will provide a solid introduction to Renaissance portrait painting in the Kasteel Well classroom. Then you will travel to museums across Europe to see the authentic masterworks in person and to experience the modern cultures that have evolved out of the historical contexts that produced them.

Digital Photography

How can photography help us to see ourselves and understand the world and diverse people around us? Explore your own creativity while you get to know the real people and places of a beautiful, traditional region of Europe. Learn about photographic technique and the history of this medium that is both a product of modern technology and an instrument to artistically capture life for the past 150 years. Students will learn photographic and digital editing technique and leave the classroom to use street photography to engage with the people and places of their local communities.

Field Trips

Local experts will join program faculty to lead the group on field trips to locations in the low-countries of northern Europe and a six-day field trip to Italy.

Three-Day Field Trip to Bruges and Ghent

The group will travel by coach to Bruges for a walking tour to include St. Saviour’s Cathedral, the Groeninge Museum and the Old St. John’s Hospital, one of Europe’s oldest surviving hospital buildings, now the site of the Hans Memling museum.

From Bruges  the program will continue to Ghent for a walking tour to include St. Bavo’s Cathedral and its renowned Ghent Altarpiece.

Day Trip to Amsterdam

The program will travel to Amsterdam for a day trip. Among other sites, the group will visit the Rijksmuseum and the FOAM Photography Museum.

Six-Day Field Trip to Italy

The program will fly to Italy for a six-day exploration of Italy’s art and urban culture. Program leaders are fluent in Italian language and culture, and will introduce students to the country’s great museums and daily life.

The program will arrive in Florence, with visits to include walking tours of the historic city center, the Duomo Complex, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Galleries, the Bargello Museum, Archaeological Museum, and Palatine Gallery at the Palazzo Pitti.

The group will then travel by high-speed rail from Florence to Venice, where it will stroll the city’s maze-like streets and boat along its canals. Cultural visits will include the Palazzo Ducale, San Marco Basilica, Galleria dell’Accademia, San Tarasio Chapel, Church of San Zaccaria and the Correr Museum, Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.


At Kasteel Well breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided each weekday. The fare is international, and each day features food from different parts of the world from Europe to Indonesia. Lunch include hot and cold options, and special dietary needs are accommodated. Castle life offers special meals and the program concludes with a farewell banquet celebration.

On weekends at the castle, students venture to the town’s cafes or order in from delivery services and eat in the castle’s dining room or garden.
While on field trips, students are provided breakfast in their hotel and a daily meal stipend to explore the local of their choice from city’s cafes, restaurants and food stands. Field trips can also include group meals to share the experience of the local food culture.


The program’s faculty leaders are Dr. Dulcia Meijers, Rob Dückers and Gerlo Beernink.

Dr. Dulcia Meijers

Meijers has been the director and then executive director of Emerson College’s European Center at Kasteel Well, The Netherlands, since 1992. Dr. Meijers graduated from the University of Nijmegen with an MA in art history and classical archeology and a PhD in the architectural history of Italian/Venetian palaces from the late Renaissance and Baroque period. Dr. Meijers is the author of many scholarly articles, and two books on art history and has curated art exhibits in The Netherlands.

In Venice she has consulted with city architects on restoration projects, conducting archival research and art historical analysis of historically important buildings.

Since 1986, Ms. Meijers has taught many courses at Kasteel Well in the areas of European studies and civilization, European cultural history, and European art history.

Rob Dückers

Duckers is the assistant director for administration and management of Emerson College’s European Center at Kasteel Well, The Netherlands. He holds an MA (Hons.) in art history from the Radboud University, Nijmegen and studied codicology at the University of Leiden. Rob is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on manuscripts from the so-called Upper-Quarter of the Duchy of Guelders (a region now in The Netherlands). His specialist fields are manuscript illumination and medieval church-treasures. He regularly publishes and lectures on these subjects.

Prior to coming to Kasteel Well, he taught and did research at the Radboud University, Nijmegen and was invited by Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, to curate two internationally acclaimed exhibitions on Medieval manuscripts featured loans from some of the most prestigious collections in the world. He is also curator of the Treasury of the Basilica of Saint Servatius in Maastricht, which has the finest collection of medieval and post-medieval ecclesiastical art in situ in The Netherlands.

Gerlo Beernink

Gerlo Beernink instructs students in the use of digital camera and photography technique during the Kasteel Well summer programs. He studied Science and Nature Studies at the University of Nijmegen. Since his graduation, he has been working as a freelance photographer and given many short-term courses on European Photojournalism to various audiences. In 2003 and 2004, he taught at the School of Journalism in Utrecht. Professionally, Gerlo has won several prominent prizes for his photo work: in 1991 he won a third prize at the World Press Photo Award under the category of “Daily Life”. In the same year, he also won the first prize for the Silver Camera Award under the category of foreign country.

How to Apply

This Emerson College program is offered by Academic Initiatives Abroad to undergraduates of all major at any university. You will need simply to pre-apply to AIA and we will refer you to Emerson Colleges program application process.

1. Submit a simple pre-application request to AIA HERE.

2. AIA will confirm your application and refer you to Emerson College application process.

3. Apply to the program through the Emerson College Global Pathways portal.

Program Direction and Credit

Academic Initiatives Abroad (AIA) is collaborating with Emerson College, Boston to offer this important Emerson program to students of other universities around the world. All program content for this program will be delivered by Emerson College. Emerson College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Emerson College will issue a transcript to non-Emerson College students to request transfer credit from their own university. Ask your admissions office, academic advisor or study abroad office about specific transfer credit procedures for this program.

AIA is a respected study abroad provider hosting study abroad programs for many universities in a variety of fields and locations. Learn more about AIA.

Learn More about this Program at the Emerson College Global Pathways Website.

Learn more about castle life at Kasteel Well here.