In less than three weeks, USC Aiken junior Kasee Futreal will begin what she considers a life-changing experience – and who could argue.

The fine arts major is headed to Orvieto, Italy, on May 16 for six weeks as the recipient of a scholarship from the Partners in Friendship organization in Aiken.

During that time, Futreal will work on an archaeological dig and get a chance to see art pieces throughout the country directly.

Dr. John Elliott, an art history professor and a PIF member, encouraged Futreal to apply for the scholarship.

“I can hear Dr. Elliott’s love and passion for art history,” Futreal said. “His classes are amazing. He casually suggested the trip, and said I would regret it for not applying. I jumped on it, and I still haven’t stopped smiling. I’m so ecstatic.”

Founded in 1996, Partners in Friendship collaborates in a sister-city relationship with Orvieto. That opportunity provided many Aiken residents the opportunity to meet the late artist Livio Orazio Valentini.

He visited USCA for the first time in 1997 and continued to return and also welcome those from Aiken to Italy. His artwork remains on display at the university.

Valentini provided many workshops and lectures and became good friends with Elliott and others – among them Dr. Bob Alexander, a retired USCA chancellor.

For many years, the group has sponsored high school student exchanges with Orvieto.

“We’ve always wanted to send a college student to Orvieto for the archaeological dig,” Elliott said. “Kasee will live with an Italian family. She is such a treat and really works hard. She’ll do papers for Bob and me.”

Futreal grew up in Clearwater and graduated from Midland Valley High School. She has been obsessed with Roman and Greek mythology, and there’s a reason.

“Actually, it was the Disney movie, ‘Hercules,’” Futreal said with a grin.

Maria Anastasiou, USCA’s international programs director, agrees that Futreal is getting the opportunity to expand her world. The dig in the Orvieto area is focused on exploring caves from the Etruscan period dating back 25 centuries and more. The project director, Dr. Claudio Bizzari, also has visited USCA and taught there one semester.

“Kasee will be working on a new portion of the dig, where evidence has been found of a pyramid,” Elliott said. “ ... It’s an exciting find as there is no previous indication of an Etruscan pyramid.”

Futreal won’t be traveling alone. She has the same schedule as a group of University of Arizona students – all 90 of them.