, Muskogee, OK

November 18, 2013

Fort Gibson graduates spending semester of study in Italy

By E.I. Hillin
Times staff writer

— Donna Justice can’t get over the fact that her grandson, Wiley Abbott, prepared an Italian dinner. And she is even more impressed that it was prepared in Italy.

“Wiley is doing things there he never did over here,” Justice said.

Abbott, along with three other 2012 Fort Gibson High School graduates are in Arezzo, Italy for a semester in a study exchange program.

Justice recently returned from a nine-day trip in Italy.

“I’m just so proud of all of them, they are great kids, and so talented,” Justice said.

The three students, David Dunlap, Amber Morton, and Abbott, graduated ranking third, fourth, and fifth at highest honors at Fort Gibson High School.

They are now sophomores at the University of Oklahoma. The three are a part of OU’s Study Abroad program, OU in Arezzo.

Arezzo, a small town located in Italy’s region of Tuscany, has a population of around 100,000.

It is about 50 miles southeast of Florence, set atop a steep hill rising above the Arno River.

During the first week of orientation, the students took a tour of Arezzo to meet the people and learn the history and culture. The took a cooking class that evidently has helped to impress visitors.

All students study Italian in addition to their specific areas of interest.

Students are given many opportunities to take tours of the city, churches, museums, and historical buildings in the area.

“These students are getting a real education, far beyond what they could learn from books,” said Bill Justice, Abbot’s grandfather.

The semester in Arezzo is comparable to one at OU with a full schedule of classes.

The exchange students live in OUA apartments and participate in community services in Arezzo.

 The classes are taught by OU professors. Dr. Robert Griswold is the OU faculty-in-residence during the 2013-14 academic year. Classes will end on Dec. 13 just as they do at the OU campus in Norman.

Wiley gave Justice and other family members a personal tour of the city before they headed home.  

“He has always been relatively quiet, but he just had confidence, when he showed us around he didn’t hesitate,” Justice said.

“Studying abroad in general is a plus, but it’s OU classes taught by OU professors, paid with OU tuition,” said Nicole Bisby, OUA Study Abroad adviser.

“It’s a nice transition from being here on campus to going over in Arezzo. The always come back more mature and more well-rounded.”

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or ehillin@