Page 11 - Marist Magazine Fall 2012

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John had been planning to participate
in Marist’s Freshman Florence Experience
(FFE) ever since he was in 8th grade. The
twins and their parents had visited their
older sister, Amanda, in Florence when she
spent her freshman year at Marist’s branch
campus there in 2006-2007, the inaugural
year of the program.
“It was a beautiful place, and I wanted
to come back to it,” John says. Their parents
were very supportive of the idea, Nick says,
because his sister had had a great experience
abroad. “She grew so much, and they wanted
the same thing for us.”
They felt nothing but excitement as they
sat in Kennedy Airport in August 2011 wait-
ing to board their flight to Italy. “For us,” Nick
says, “there was no nervousness.”
The twins were two of 56 Marist students
who would be spending their first year of
college in Florence, a city of 400,000 with
huge cultural and historical significance as
the birthplace of the Renaissance. Florence
has proved a popular destination for English-
speaking students from around the world,
including Marist students. In 2006, the first
year Marist operated the branch campus,
17 students participated in the BA and FFE
programs in Florence. That same year, Marist
sent another 62 students to Florence to
study for a single semester as part of their
Marist studies. By 2012, the corresponding
numbers had grown to 118 in the BA, FFE,
and the newMA program in museum stud-
ies, and some 222 semester-based students
fromMarist spent time in Florence as well.
Note that students can spend a semester,
a year, or even longer on the branch cam-
pus. In fact, the branch campus offers eight
four-year degrees in seven available majors:
conservation studies, digital media, fashion
design, fine arts, interior design, Italian, and
studio art (available as both a BA and BS).
Thus a student can complete one of these
degrees at the branch campus completely in
Italy in what is the only American four-year
undergraduate program in Florence.
Several factors make Marist’s Florence
programs unusual. First, the College’s branch
is a partnership with the Lorenzo de Medici
Institute. The institute began in 1973 as one
of the first centers in Florence to specialize in
teaching Italian as a foreign language. Later,
the institute branched out into studio art
courses and is now known as Italy’s largest
and most comprehensive institution for
international education. This partnership
gives Marist-LdM an authenticity missing
from other Florence programs.
At Marist-LdM, the professors and
administration are from Italy and across the
globe. This highly international staff allows
students to have access to different views
and opinions.
“While many other institutions oper-
ate campuses in Italy, they do not have the
branch campus status Marist has,” says
Christie Alfaro, assistant director of Marist-
LdM programs.
“Additionally, many of these schools
mostly import American professors and
American administrations executing an
American degree on international soil. In
some cases, they can be a bit of a cultural
silo.”
“We seek to push beyond the silo,” says
John Peters, dean of international programs.
“We want as much as possible to push stu-
The Florence skyline
Renaissance Men: Nick and John La Mela
G
oing to college means leaving home, adjusting to a new environ-
ment, and learning how to do things on your own for the first time.
For 19-year-old twins Nick and John La Mela of Marlboro, NY, it meant
something more: spending a year in Florence, Italy.
FLORENCE
Spending their first year of college at
Marist’s branch campus in Florence, Italy,
brought the La Mela twins an extraordinary
learning experience.
P h o t o s b y V i c t o r Va n C a r p e l s
photo courtest John La Mela
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