Marist’s Florence Campus, FFE Program Take Flight

by Robin Miniter

In Florence, students live with history in their own backyard. Seen here is Il Duomo, Florence's central cathedral, on a rainy Easter Sunday. (photo by Robin Miniter)

In Florence, students live with history in their own backyard. Seen here is Il Duomo, Florence's central cathedral, on a rainy Easter Sunday. (photo by Robin Miniter)

Thinking of Marist, visions of the Hudson, the Rotunda, and those perfectly manicured lawns may come to mind – but what about the Arno, il Duomo, and cobbled streets? Stressing the importance on the development of global citizenship, the Marist International Program has set up a branch campus in partnership with Scuola Lorenzo de’Medici in the heart of Florence, Italy. As one of the top rated institutions in the country for the study abroad experience, Marist sees hundreds od upperclassmen off each year to destinations around the globe. Now, in competing with other top universities in the country, the fall of 2009 will bring fourth wave of freshman students to Italy through Marist’s own Florence Freshmen Experience (FFE).

Taste of Italy: Students experience local culture and cuisine at the local market. (image by Robin Miniter)

Taste of Italy: Students experience local culture and cuisine at the local market. (photo by Robin Miniter)

Though under one umbrella, both programs are unique in their offerings. As a branch campus, Marist enrolls students from all over the world to attend LdM, hailing from as far as Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. Here, they can receive a four-year degree with a Marist seal in digital media, conservation studies, studio art, art history, fashion design, or interior design. Also at this location, the FFE program allows incoming freshmen to bypass the traditional campus experience in favor of a global one.

After receiving a letter in the mail and a phone call from the Marist International Program in the summer of 2007, current sophomore Sophie Ordway elected to give Florence a shot. “It gave me an outlook on life that I think would have been completely different had I come to Marist my freshman year,” says Ordway, “I feel much more receptive to other cultures and I would like to think I have a somewhat better understanding of people in general.”

Kate Giglio ‘07, Resident Director of the Marist-LdM program, likes the FFE program because it gives students who are already predisposed to adventure a chance to, “really take off like a rocket.”

“I mean, why not just head out into the world, ASAP?” says Giglio.

Fresh out of high school, incoming freshmen are offered to partake in the fledgling year-long program. According to Joe Associate Giacalone, Coordinator of International Recruitment at the Admission office, potential student criteria include their major, strong academic standing and demonstrated interest in a global education. The past three years have seen number participants in their teens.

Dr. Claire Keith, French professor and director of the Global Studies minor sees the program as an opportunity for students to really, “break their ‘American’ crust.”

As a full accredited university, freshmen receive full-credit transferable back to Poughkeepsie when – and if – they decide to head back to the states. The students live in apartment-style Marist housing in the city center, footsteps away from local markets and the most renowned Renaissance art and architecture in the world.

"When in Rome...": The FFE students take a day trip to Rome in the fall of 2007. (Image courtesy of Heather Staats)

"When in Rome...": The FFE students take a day trip to Rome in the fall of 2007. (photo courtesy of Heather Staats)

“I have watched students come to Florence kind of nervous, some whom have never even been outside the States, and by the time they leave in May they’ve become more confident, more adventurous, more likely to keep traveling…” says Giglio, “When we are away from our comfort zone we learn the most about ourselves and our surroundings.”

Erika Sorg, Ordway’s roommate and FFE alum, praised the program in the sense that it taught her much more than she thought she was capable of. “I gained confidence and a better understanding of myself] “she says.

Kelly Gallucci, also a sophomore back on campus, chose Marist because their International program selection was, “diverse and full of opportunity.”

“I wasn’t nervous at all when I first heard about the FFE program, it was really exciting to me,” says Gallucci, “The Marist staff took such good care of us, we had programs about culture shock and homesickness and other things that really made me felt safe while I was there.” Though she fondly remembers, “[bonding] over the silliest things – burnt french toast, lack of Italian language skills, uncertainty of how to use the washing machine,” she cites, “to see those things that I had once learned about in school, up close, was the best part of the whole experience.”

“It made me feel like I was a part of something so much bigger than me, something that transcended time – to be standing within arm’s reach of the works of Michelangelo [was incredible].”

As of press time, the decision making process for the class of 2013 continues. When asked what she for sees for Marist’s international programs down the road, Keith replied, “Well, I think the student body will vote with their feet.”

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For more information, please contact Marist International Programs

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