Category Archives: Travel + Study Abroad

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.”


For more information, please contact Marist International Programs


Bizarre Poughkeepsie in Your Own Backyard

by Robin Miniter

Nestled along the banks of the Hudson River, Marist College’s wholesome atmosphere provides an idyllic learning and living environment: we’ve got the greenery, the scenery, and…a ghost? Now if you thought the most bizarre things about Poughkeepsie were the roaming cabs with shoddy paint jobs, it’s time to think again. Like any city, it has bizarre tales to tell that might just hit closer to home than you might expect.

Hudson River State Hospital

No one's home: The empty Hudson River State Hospital stands empty, a shell of its former self. (Image courtesy of Sebastian T./Flickr)

No one's home: The empty Hudson River State Hospital stands empty, a shell of its former self. (Image courtesy of Sebastian T./Flickr)

Looming upon a hill overlooking Route 9 is the old Hudson River State Hospital. Opening its doors in 1871, it was home to thousands of inmates at a time when insanity was thought to be a treatable ailment. However, as in many cases in the heyday of mental hospitals, undeserving victims were often committed. “Insanity” had no clear-cut definition. Abusive husbands could have their spouses admitted; orphans, women pregnant out of wedlock, and rebellious adolescents were all common faces in the wings of these hospitals. Though the state forbids trespassers, the spot is popular among urban explorers looking for a sinister thrill. Now it sits quietly in a state of squalor and decay, haunted by the shadows – and as some claim, ghosts – of its dark past.

The Haunting of Sheahan Hall

Shelley L. Sperling, purportedly Marist College's resident spirit. (Image courtesy of

Shelley L. Sperling, purportedly Marist College's resident spirit. (Image courtesy of

Speaking of spooky specters, our next stop on the list brings us to our very own Sheahan Hall. On February 18, 1975, quiet Marist College became a chaotic crime scene when student Louis Acevedo shot and killed ex-girlfriend Shelley Sperling in the cafeteria (now the Presidential Dining room). Angered by her new collegiate lifestyle, Acevedo was taken into police custody after he was found in

a rocking chair looking at pictures of the couple. Sperling was lying just feet away. Her spirit is said to roam the halls of Sheahan and the wooded Grotto memorial, dedicated to students who have died while attending the college.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

Though the Hollywood version of this story is a bit more fluff than fact, you may never look Fulton Ave. the same way again. Directed by John Erick Dowdle, this slasher flick was inspired by local serial killer Kendall Francois. He was a local man, born and bred in Poughkeepsie with a history of violence and solicitation.

'Poughkeepsie Tapes' Movie Poster (Image courtesy of

'Poughkeepsie Tapes' Movie Poster (Image courtesy of

As missing persons reports filled the Poughkeepsie Police files from 1997-1998, a pattern and the suspicion that something more sinister was at hand began to emerge. On September 2, 1998, eight bodies of missing prostitutes were discovered all throughout house number 99, not far from the popular upperclassman housing.

The movie is based loosely on the story in a fictitious “Saw”-meets-psuedo documentary style. In the movie, police find hundreds of hours of murderous video footage after raiding a house. Through these clips, they try to piece back together the story of the crimes and the identity of the killer who remains at large.

The Start of a Season

By: Michelle Morico

The temperature is rising, students are finishing up school, and spirits are high. This is the start of summer; this is the start of festival season.

“Ah, music festivals, all that is good wrapped up in a weekend full of partying, laughing and listening,” Tom Clancey said. Clancey is a Marist grad, and avid festival attendee, having attended festivals all over the east coast, traveling as far south as Florida.

Mountain Jam is a local festival that people travel from all over to attend. This year, from May 29- May 31 is the celebration of the fifth annual Mountain Jam festival. It is located about an hour from Marist College at Hunter Mountain, a popular winter ski spot.

Radio Woodstock and Warren Haynes present Mountain Jam. According to the Mountain Jam website, Rolling Stone named Mountain Jam one of the top 8 music festivals in the United States in 2008. A 1 day ticket ranges from $80-90 dollars, while a full weekend festival pass can be purchased for about $140. A full weekend festival pass can also be purchased to include camping which is priced at about $160. More information about VIP ticket offers can be found as well.

“I honestly try to wait to buy my tickets on Craigs List for most festivals,” Clancey said. “A lot of people realize they have something to do that weekend, or last minute have to give up their ticket, so they’ll take whatever you will offer them on Craigs List.”

According to the Mountain Jam website, there are some great headliners this year. Some of the highlights are The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Umphrey’s McGee and the Derek Trucks Band.

“I have seen all of the big headliners live before, and they all put on a great show,” Clancey said. “I most recently saw Michael Franti in New York City and it was great.”

For those not into the jam band scene, Girl Talk, popular American musician who specializes in mashup remixes, will also be performing at Mountain Jam. Gomez, an English Indie Rock band will be playing as well as Martin Sexton, an American folk singer-songwriter, and many more. The full lineup includes more than thirty bands.

“The main draw for Mountain Jam is that it is a smaller festival, so there aren’t as many people,” Clancey said. “They also have bathrooms which is nice.” At huge festivals, such as Bonnaroo, it can cost $15 to shower.

Many students go to Bonnaroo and other huge festivals just to go to a festival. They don’t care about the lineup, they just want the experience. Robert Boyce, Marist graduate, has been to Mountain Jam, Bonnaroo two years in a row, and Langerado, which is located in Florida.

“The weather in the Hudson Valley is much nicer than waking up in a tent in 95 degree Tennessee heat,” Boyce said. “Not to mention the thirteen hour drive to Manchester, Tennessee.”

“Unlike a lot of other festivals you don’t have to miss one big act to see another,” Boyce said about Mountain Jam. .

The crowd enjoying the music at Mountain Jam.

The crowd enjoying the music at Mountain Jam.

Everyone wants to go to music festivals, the reason for last minute back outs are usually because of money or transportation.

“Mountain Jam is right in our backyard, and the lineup is normally very good, why wouldn’t people want to go?” Clancey said. “Normally I drive so far to get to any festival.”

“It is hard to believe Hunter is only an hour away, and it is so pretty up there,” Boyce said. “The nature is insane; there are tons of waterfalls and great hiking trails.”

Boyce said he loves how Mountain Jam is not located in the complete middle of nowhere. Many festivals are in places where you can not just drive to get a bite to eat, you either bring your own food or buy food at venders, which are always extremely overpriced.

“It’s nice that you can get up in the morning and drive into Tannersville and get something to eat,” said Boyce. “It is a cute town up there, and at any other festival you would spend money eating from venders or try to be thrifty by eating peanut butter sandwiches all the time, which can definitely wear on you after a couple of days.”

Students React to the Devastation in Italy

By Emily Dalrymple

On April 6, a devastating earthquake hit central Italy, specifically the city of L’Aquila, 75 miles northeast of Rome, leaving thousands injured and homeless, and several dead. A university dormitory was among one of the many buildings collapsed.

According to Reuters, many of the victims were students at L’Aquila’s university. A fireman from the port of Pescara who came to help rescue efforts collapsed in tears after unearthing the body of his stepdaughter, a L’Aquila university student.

Relief workers dealing with the destruction. Image from, courtesy of European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre

Relief workers dealing with the destruction. Image from, courtesy of European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre

Alyssa Longobucco, a Marist sophomore currently studying in Florence, said that many parents were unsure of the devastation and were frantically trying to reach their children.

“It was terrible to hear that several students were killed in the earthquake,” said Longobucco. “What made it hit home more was how many people didn’t know exactly what happened in the US and called panicking about their children.”

“The haziness of the situation made a lot of people back at home panic.”

According to an article from BBC News, Luigi Alfonsi was residing in a collapsed dormitory.

“We managed to come down with other students but we had to sneak through a hole in the stairs as the whole floor came down,” student Luigi Alfonsi said.

“I was in bed – it was like it would never end as I heard pieces of the building collapse around me.”

According to, the Italian Red Cross has set up mobile kitchens that can provide 10,000 meals a day run by a team of 46 staff and volunteers.

“I know there have been a couple of blood drives organized, but as far as anything else, I’m unsure,” said Longobucco about the efforts made by her school to help out in this crisis.

The day after the earthquake, Reuters reported that at least 235 people were killed. Authorities estimate that 17,000 people have lost their homes. Many people have been living in tents while rescue shelters have been constructed.

Alex Resnick, a Marist junior, has received little information about what is happening in L’Aquila. Students studying abroad in Italy are receiving about as much information as those of us in the United States.

“I know from various television channels and news sources that throughout the course of the recovery people were forced, and probably still are, to live in tents,” said Resnick. “Many people were found alive hidden in the rumble, but many people were also found to be dead.”

An Inspiration to Fight Against Pain

By Emily Dalrymple

Lindsey Kinel's profile picture from

Lindsey Kinel's profile picture from

It is minutes before the game is supposed to start and Marist College softball player Lindsey Kinel, 21, finds various parts of her body being taped up. Her wrists are tightly wrapped in pre-wrap and sports tape. This will continue on for the next fifteen games of the season.

Kinel suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. According to, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s tissue is mistakenly attacked by their own immune system. RA is a progressive disease that has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disabilities.

An example of arthritic joints. Courtesy of

An example of arthritic joints. Courtesy of

Kinel is a softball player from East Hartford, Connecticut. When she came to Marist freshman year, she was recruited as a catcher. Because of the RA, she has since been moved to the third base position and has also decided it is in her best interest not to catch again. As a senior, Kinel hit her first home run this season. She has undertaken a series of different treatments over the years, from shots to painkillers, in order to decrease the pain and to enjoy her favorite game.

“Now every six to nine months, I have to go into the hospital and I get an infusion,” said Kinel. “You go in for the day and you have an IV all day.”

“Two weeks later you go in and have the same thing done.”

RA can be debilitating in several different ways. Because RA causes inflammation of the joints, it becomes difficult to bend, various joints swell up, and the pain can be overwhelming. When Kinel tells people that she plays softball while going through this pain, it surprises and motivates them.

“I was a camp counselor,” said Kinel. “They know that I play softball and go to school, they like look up to me to go to college and try to play sports.”

Kinel has found herself in a role model position for the past few years. She is a camp counselor, she coached girls’ softball ages 9-12, and she knows that she influences these young girls.

When asked what she thought about being a role model, she said: “I kind of like it, I feel like I’ve done a good thing with my life.”

Kinel said the hardest part about finding herself in a role model position is being watched by the girls. Sometimes the girls try to add her as a Facebook friend, but she has to reject them.

“I think that’s the hardest part,” said Kinel. “When you know that they’re watching, you have to watch what you say and do because you know that they’re taking every little thing that you do into perspective.”

Kinel and Casamento. Courtesy of Casamento and

Kinel and Casamento. Courtesy of Casamento and

Kinel’s friend Kristen Casamento has seen her struggle and believes that she can do anything.

“I could absolutely see Lindsey as a mentor in the future because she has been through a lot and she can help other athletes out that have this crippling disease,” said Casamento.  “She is a positive person and can definitely help anyone out.”

Kinel would like to continue to coach softball and wouldn’t mind if people knew her story, but she doesn’t think she could ever be the kind of person who would try to be a motivational speaker.

“I would want people to know the arthritis side of my story just to know that it is possible [to play sports,]” Kinel said. “I wouldn’t mind having an article in a magazine or something along the lines of that.”

“Someone can pick it up and read it and know that they can get through it because at one point, I was really bad,” Kinel said.

Kinel’s struggle has not always been successful. There was a point in her softball career that the arthritis could have stopped her from playing.

Kinel before the "science prom." Courtesy of

Kinel before the "science prom." Courtesy of

“Last year the Marist doctor told me that I was no longer going to be allowed to play because he thought that the arthritis had affected my neck to a point where if I slid, it could be catastrophic,” Kinel said.

Casamento remembers how Kinel was unable to play during her junior year. “I know how much that hurt her,  Casamento said. “She always wanted to play so bad but she knew that she couldn’t.”

Kinel said that at the time, she was not feeling any pain in her neck. She decided to get a second opinion from various other doctors and was eventually able to continue playing on the team.

Casamento is proud of Kinel for continuing to play, even if it meant that she would have to take a risk.

“This is probably the last couple of months she can play softball and she is proving that she is not going to let anything bother her,” Casamento said. “This is the best she has ever played and she is happy.”

Kinel’s story can be motivational to anyone who thinks that a disease can keep them from succeeding. She has persevered through the pain just for her love of the sport.

“I know that I can get through it and still be successful, still graduate,” said Kinel. “I never have to quit because of this.”

Students Travel to Mexico Despite Safety Fears

By Emily Dalrymple

The drug war in Mexico had caused many students to cancel their spring break plans in order to ensure their safety. But what happened to those who still had to make the trip because financially, canceling the trip would have been devastating?

Phil Vallone, a Marist senior, made the trip to Acapulco with several of his friends and housemates.

“We stayed at the hotel during the day and did not leave until later at night when we would take cabs straight to the clubs and come right back from there,” said Vallone. “Other than going out to the clubs, we did not leave the hotel property much.”

According to the New York Times, the impetus for the drug war began during the 2006 campaign of President Felipe Calderon. He received threats from drug cartels which fueled President Calderon to send the army into the streets to fight the drug cartels. Fighting has been heavy around the Mexico border, especially in the city of Ciudad Juarez.

Map of cities with high drug violence. Courtesy of

Map of cities with high drug violence. Courtesy of

The Juarez cartel is battling with rivals from the northwestern state of Sinaloa for the control of smuggling routes into Texas. 5,000 troops were sent into Ciudad Juarez just last month, according to Reuters.

“I wasn’t too concerned because Acapulco isn’t a border city and that’s where most of the violence was,” said Vallone. “I felt pretty safe when traveling around the area.”

One of the top drug cartel leaders is shown here after his arrest. Courtesy of

One of the top drug cartel leaders is shown here after his arrest. Courtesy of

According to Reuters, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said that the death toll has dropped by 25 percent in the first three months of this year from the last quarter of 2008. 1,600 people have been killed thus far from January to March.

Many who traveled to Mexico over spring break made themselves aware of the possible danger before embarking on their trip.

“I watched a few news stories on the situation and read the government warnings as well before leaving,” said Vallone. “It was nothing like it was portrayed on the news.”

For the Love of the Game

By: Michelle Morico

“I pee in almost every pool I swim in,” said Molly Mihalcik, Marist junior. “You can write that in the article, I do not even care.”

Mihalcik coming out as a debutante.

Mihalcik coming out as a debutante.

Mihalcik is a Marist Division I water polo player. “Her sense of humor and wittiness gets us all through practice,” Kristen Powers, Marist senior and fellow teammate, said. Mihalcik is blunt and honest, but also manages to be very courteous and considerate of others. She credits this to her months of debutante training.

Mihalcik in her roster photo.

Mihalcik in her roster photo.

“I started playing [water polo] in fifth grade because I injured my rotator cuff and I could no longer swim at the level I wanted to swim at,” Mihalcik said. “I’ve loved the game since.”

Mihalcik went to boarding school at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and was the captain of her water polo team from sophomore until senior year.

“I went to boarding school because I was playing two different sports on opposite ends of New York City and boarding school was somewhere I could do both competitively and conveniently in one spot,” she said.

Mihalcik also studied abroad in London where she continued to play water polo at a competitive level.

“I played for three colleges, in two different leagues,” Mihalcik said. “Kings College, Imperial College and Bath Uni., I played in a Premier League and a Uni. League,” she said. “I wanted to see how the level of competitiveness compared to Division I in the United States and I also wanted to stay in shape.” She wants to continue playing water polo after she graduates from Marist College as well.

“The team I would like to play for is the New York Athletic Club, it consists of players who played only in prep school, Division I players and Olympic players,” Mihalcik said.

Often women’s water polo is overlooked at Marist. Mihalcik said she thinks this could be because they are a newer sport, or because they have no male counterpart.

“I think the reason that a lot of students do not follow water polo is because many of the players are from obscure places so we do not have a local following,” she said. Mihalcik, like the rest of her teammates, gets aggravated when people refer to water polo as a club sport.

“It really bothers me because I know that we are one of the hardest working teams on campus just by sheer hours and it makes me resentful that we work so hard and people underestimate our level of competitiveness,” she said.

Mihalcik said she views water polo as more than just a sport, she thinks of it as a lifestyle. The team has a very rigorous practice schedule. Mihalcik wakes up at 5:15 a.m. in order to practice from 6 a.m. until 7:45 a.m. She then returns to the pool for practice again at 6 p.m. where the team does a dry land activity for a half hour, and then has swimming and water polo practice until 9 p.m.

“Sometimes we do abs, or run a campus loop, and if we behave, sometimes we get to play dodge ball,” Mihalcik said about their dry land activity.

Womens water polo team.

Women's water polo team.

This life style definitely brings stress upon Mihalcik. Morgan Carnevale, Mihalcik’s roommate says she does not get to hang out with Mihalcik as much as she wants because she is at practice all the time, and when she is not practicing she has so many other things to do.

“It stresses her out a lot but I know she will never quit,” Carnevale said. “Every year she mentions it and I always think she might actually do it, but she never does. She loves water polo too much.”

“I have been playing my whole life and because I have been doing it for so long I would never give up my life’s work just because I do not like to wake up early,” Mihalcik said.