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University of South Florida · College of Behavioral & Community Sciences · Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling

Dr. Weinberg returns to USF

Dr. Rick Weinberg, professor in the department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling of CBCS, has returned to USF after completing his summer course “Intimate Relationships” in historic Florence, Italy.  He, along with thirty-four USF students studied a variety of topics such as what constitutes a healthy marriage, why people are attracted to one another, what successful couples do to maintain and repair their relationship over time, why people  sometimes cheat, and how to recover following betrayal.  Florence University of the Arts partnered with USF to host the six week course.  With FUA being located in the Palazzo Doni, students were within walking distance to some of the most famous and influential art in history. 

Studying in the land of romance presented a unique opportunity for students to capture a different culture of love.  The Italian architecture, cuisine, and charming ambiance of the city helped make the course one of USF’s most popular study abroad programs. 

Weinberg believes that studying the course in Florence perpetuated the themes of love and romance taught in the classroom.  The Italian environment gave students a peek into what constitutes love and relationships in this Mediterranean culture. 

“There’s such a value to just being in Italy on a travel abroad experience, in which students live in a foreign country and meet people who are from a different cultural,” said Weinberg.

Learning did not just take place inside the classroom.  Students were encouraged to discuss topics studied in class with Italians they met in the city. This helped them to better understand what the “Italian ways of love” truly are.  Chelsea Savitz, USF psychology major, learned important aspects of intimacy typical of the Italian culture. 

“Italians are full of love. Their culture is dependent on the love of family, friends, and intimate partners,” said Savitz.   “They embrace their relationships and intimacy as a crucial and concrete part of their lives.”

Discussing topics first-hand with Italians gave the students a better grasp of their differences culturally.  Amanda Higgins, USF biomed and behavioral health major, noted some differences between American and Italian cultures on intimacy.

“Intimacy is a different thing to Italians, but with the same concept. It’s love, infatuation, and attraction,” said Higgins.  “But they do the whole process kind of different. I almost feel like it’s less nerve-wracking the way Italians do it.”

The range of topics studied in class included how and why relationships begin with certain people, why they may fall apart, and what to do to repair them.  Students were encouraged to have open discussions and share their perspectives on how intimacy is expressed in their generation.

“We covered many provocative topics and the students had lots of things to say about it,” said Weinberg.  “Physical intimacy is just a small part of the larger fabric of loving someone.”

The students enjoyed their time learning and living in one of the most romantic cities in world.  Florence added a value to the experience that could only be captured first-hand. 

“Love is the most dreamt about, written about, sung about, gloriously experienced relationship dynamic in all of recorded history,” said Weinberg.  “And the students’ openness and active participation made my experience as a professor very gratifying.  It was a wonderful course to teach from start to end.”