Griffin Verheyden

Griffin Verheyden is a member of Marist's Class of 2013. She was a double major in Art History and Studio Art at Marist's branch campus in Florence, Italy.

Why did you choose the Marist Florence branch campus? 
I choose to come here first and foremost because it gave me the opportunity to finish my degree in a foreign country, specifically a European one. Though I had never been to Italy before, I had lived and traveled for short periods of time in other countries in Europe and loved the culture and history. I had never heard of Marist College but it seemed to have a good reputation from those who did know about it. I was happy to know that the Bachelor’s degree program had been established a few years before and seemed to be flourishing. This has definitely continued to prove true upon my arrival at the school.
Describe the learning experience in Florence. 
I was never the kind of person who felt the need to have the “normal college experience” and it’s part of what makes me appreciate the school here so much. Classes are always small enough to give the teacher opportunity to get to know your name and encourage discussion during lectures. Depending on what your major is, you may or may not end up spending more time in certain buildings, all of which are scattered throughout the historical center and all of which have their own special character.
What is your favorite class? Why? 
My favorite class that I’m currently taking is called Images and Words. It is required for both of my majors but I would have taken it in a heartbeat anyway if I’d known how much I’d love it! As obvious as this may be, it deals with the relationship between art and literature, what defines art, whether or not it can be described with words if it’s worth creating a copy of something when it can never, in reality, create that item’s true existence, and so on. It’s really quite psychological and makes you think which is what I appreciate most – thinking. True education teaches you how to use your mind, not just what to fill it with.
What was your most challenging class in Florence? Why? 
Lost Symbolisms and Secret Codes in Art was unquestionably the most challenging class I have ever had, but I loved every second of it. The teacher, Gianna Iandelli, knows how to push her students and only expects the best. She knows how to do it in such a way that you respect her and have a legitimate desire to do your best work possible. Besides having a great teacher, the class is incredibly interesting. We visited interesting museums and sights around Florence, including a Freemason’s Temple. At the end of the class, I felt like I had a much better idea of the inner workings of the city but also 14th and 15th century Italy and cultural norms of that day that have changed dramatically over time.
What is your favorite place in Florence? Why?
Piazza Repubblica is one of my favorite areas to just be in, especially in the evenings after dark. I’m not much for nightlife, but there’s always something exciting going on. There’s almost always live music and people milling around, the carousel off to one side, and all the architecture, especially the arch, is lit up so beautifully. My favorite historical place to visit though is the Church of San Lorenzo. There is just so much history, with every piece of decoration having significance, a place where art by the most famous Florentine artists of the Renaissance can be found.
Where have you traveled and where do you plan on traveling during your time in Italy? 
Since I had spent a good chunk of time in Europe before, I wasn’t as focused on traveling during my time in Italy because I knew I wanted to focus on school but also on this country and get the best grasp on its culture that I could. Needless to say, I have seen plenty of places and always take advantage of long breaks. I’ve seen much of Italy from the Sondrio in the Alps of the North to Sorrento in the South near Naples. But I’ve also had some great extended travels to places I’ve been before like Edinburgh, London, and Southern Germany, and new places like Krakow (one of my favorite cities), Budapest, and Madrid.
What is the most interesting difference between Florence and your home country? 
The most difficult transition for me was into life in a city. I’d traveled to plenty but lived in none. Florence is home to around 400,000 people so for a city, it’s relatively small, at least compared to London, Los Angeles, places like that. Because the city center is so old, there are no parks until you leave the outskirts; but if you’re willing to take the time to get there, they’re beautiful. The countryside looks nothing like my home in Texas, though it’s equally as beautiful, if not more so. I absolutely love all the history of the historical center though and I will never get over the fact that I have to walk by the Duomo literally every single day on the way to class. I am constantly overwhelmed with the history, the music, the architecture, the excitement of everything that is happening around me on a minute-to-minute basis.
How did the faculty and staff support you during your time in Florence?
I have greatly appreciated the timely manner in which I always receive responses to my e-mails. There’s also always someone at the front desk of the Marist office here in Florence (which I’m ever so grateful for) that is willing to help with just about anything.
What advice would you give to a prospective student considering the Florence branch campus? 
Be prepared for something new. Florence is like no other city in the world and living thousands of miles away, in an unknown country, with an unknown culture, with an unknown language can be a little bit overwhelming. But if you’re willing to try something new, to see the positive in the unexpected, to realize that there’s more to life than what you know already, to stick it out even when you get a little lonesome for home, then this city, this school, and this program is definitely for you.

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Profile Tags:

Profile Type: Alumni
Major: Art History
Academic School: Communication and the Arts
Campus: Italy