Diversity & Inclusion

The Best Combination: Travel and Studies

Paisley Haddad

Emma LeMay ’20 reflects on her time in the Freshman Florence Experience

Imagine starting your first year of college not by moving into a dorm, but living in Florence, Italy. Emma LeMay ’20 of Vermont had an experience of a lifetime choosing Marist’s Freshman Florence Experience (FFE) over a more traditional start of college life. 

“Coming from an all-girls boarding school, I wanted a change of pace and environment, and that is why I took the leap into the FFE program,” said LeMay. The FFE program is for incoming freshmen who feel they want a more adventurous first year of college rather than just moving right into dorm life. “The dorm style in Florence is an apartment style in walking distance from the Duomo,” said LeMay. “Our classes really encapsulated the different historical sites that were just outside the classroom,” said LeMay. “One of the most interesting classes that I took during my time in the FFE program was a history course about the Holocaust. Our professor was a Holocaust survivor, which made the class that much more special.” 

Emma LeMay '20 in Florence, Italy

Florence was a major experience for LeMay in every way. “Living in Florence was the best year of my life. I got the opportunity to travel to different countries, try new foods, and adapt to a whole different lifestyle,” said LeMay. FFE students are able to experience places and cultures that they would not have otherwise been exposed to on the Marist campus in Poughkeepsie. 

LeMay recounted one particularly special FFE memory. “One night we decided to get dinner on the Arno River in Italy. The restaurant only offered communal seating, and we were seated with two women. We had such a nice conversation and talked for what seemed like hours. At the end of the night, they ended up paying for our meal and told us that ‘someday you will return the favor.’ Experiences like these are what make the program so special.” 

While she had an amazing time in Florence, LeMay found herself anxious for the return home to the Poughkeepsie campus. “The transition back to Marist was kind of a reverse culture shock,” said LeMay, “However, once we settled in on campus, joined clubs, and found our group of friends, it was easier to acclimate to New York.” 

Emma LeMay '20

On campus, LeMay, a communication major, works in the Admission Office and is a member of the Women’s Lacrosse team. “Being on a team takes up a lot of my time, but it is worth it to be able to play a sport I love with a great team,” she explained. However, being busy doesn’t stop her from being a part of the Honors Program. “Being in Dr. Graham’s Honors Seminar in Florence brought me full circle once I returned to Marist’s main campus,” said LeMay, “I was able to sign up for another one of her Honors Seminars, Memoir Writing, and I can honestly say it was the best class that I have taken so far in the program.” Being in the Honors Program requires students to produce a semester-long project, which LeMay is working on now. 

How does LeMay compare Marist’s Florence and Poughkeepsie campuses? “In Florence, I was allowed more free time, and I felt like an independent young adult, which was great. However, you cannot beat Marist Poughkeepsie’s feeling of community and school spirit.”

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