50 Years of Global Education

By Isis Wozniakowska (California State University in Florence)

I will say I was happy to be a part of California State University (CSU) Florence’s 50th anniversary celebration. It began with a good set of speeches from important figures both from Florence and the United States. In the crowd was: Abigail M. Rupp the U.S. consul general; Cristina Giachi the Deputy Mayor of Florence; Eugenio Cecioni director of the Accademia di Bell’Arte; Annick Farina President of Ateneo Language Center at the University of Florence; Leo Van Cleve director of CSU International Programs; and Lee Foust a CSU Florence professor and alumnus. Amongst them were the three student presenters: Dominic Aliotti; myself, Isis Wozniakowska; and Michael Flores The deputy mayor’s speech in particular was very much about inclusivity of American students in the culture of the city of Florence, which, at least for me, making cultural diversity a part of any culture is an important thing for any city or even country for that matter. Then after the speeches from the various VIPs, there were a few awards handed out and then students spoke briefly on their experiences studying abroad, while another student made films that included the 50 years of history at CSU Florence. For me, being one of the students presenting, it was quite the honor to have us alongside these important figures seeing as how a lot of the experience is something that the faculty isn’t often familiar with. Beyond that, as well, every person’s experience and how they handle their time abroad is completely different from one another which was a main part of the emphasis of the student works presented. My presentation, for example was built on the out of school activities that we as students are both encouraged to do and assisted in finding. All these things can build our resumes and character, and were a welcome piece to a ceremony focusing on a sharing of cultures. The ceremony was followed by a musical interlude from pianist and CSU professor Daniela Costa and renown tenor Leonardo de Lisi.

After the main ceremony, there were three museum tours available for guests to go on, all of which were led by student volunteers who researched the contents of the buildings (Archaeological Museum of Florence, Instituto degli Innocenti, e Museo di San Marco) and after a brief explanation of the piazza SS. Annunciata the two-hour tours took place. I will say they were insightful tours and having them be student led was a fantastic idea. In the evening, student art was displayed throughout the CSU campus, while models from the architecture students were displayed in the main lobby area. Once everyone had arrived, there was a reading of a Calvino collected Italian folk tale complete with colored sketches by a few of the art students. Finally, a cocktail reception was held where students could explain their pieces to those who wished to learn about them, and guests could all mingle as they saw fit. It was a simple way to end off the day, but it was a good rest from the ceremony of the rest of the day.

Day two was much calmer, the morning into the early afternoon was dedicated entirely to the architecture presentations and talks, that went further into the creations as well as the things learned here in Florence with the program. After that, a literary reading and analysis took place upstairs followed by presentations in classical history also run by students, while downstairs several prestigious political scientists, held a symposium about Trump politics. While I didn’t see the political science presentation, I was a large part of the upstairs presentations. There were literary readings with so\me students dramatized in costumes, which was meant for students to have a chance to present about what their experiences with Italian culture through literature were. For example I read an excerpt from Calvino’s Invisible Cities, which really got me thinking about how people interact every day. I wrote a piece about people watching and how we spend so much time making judgments on people without even knowing them. I think that since study abroad I’ve thought a lot about that kind of thing, and how now I have broader vision from what I did before. After the literary stuff there was a brief series of presentations relating to the classical world (Greco-Roman and Etruscan world), and a display of architectural drawings related to classical architecture.

The final day was dedicated to a closing ceremony and an evening art show done by the art history and art students as well as students from the Accademia. For anyone interested, “Appropriazioni” will remain at Palazzo Strozzi until July.

The celebration of 50 years here in Florence, was about the successes and accomplishments of CSU Florence, and how they are built by the students who decide to come here. As part of my opening presentation I spoke about how for me study abroad is more than just coming to school and studying, but it is also built upon the activities we engage in outside of school. I feel like when we talk about the success of study abroad we need to talk about how we as students not only get to learn about a culture other than ours but we truly get to experience it. The estrangement of foreignness, the confusion of language and even the homesickness is certainly one part of the equation. However, getting out into the culture; meeting families, doing civil service work, and even learning about the food and lifestyle makes me feel like a part of something else. In this ever more global world, study abroad can make you a stronger person and a wiser person. I feel that CSU Florence was able to help me become that person, as it has been doing for others for 50 long years.


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