Geneva, Florence presentations end two-day Summit Tuesday

Marissa Mendel

The Office of International Affairs closed its two-day Study Abroad Summit Tuesday with presentations on its two longest-running programs, Geneva and Florence.

Susanne Peters, assistant director of the Geneva Program spoke about the city’s culture and history and the program’s opportunities and faculty.

“It’s not only known for its chocolate or its cheese,” Peters said.

She said Geneva is known for its international organizations and explained how parts of history have helped internationalize the city.

Peters spoke about the four-month internships that about half of students do in international organizations or one of Geneva’s 700 non-governmental organizations.

“After four months, students come back tired, sure, wise and happy, more rounded, knowledgeable, worldly and confident,” Peters said. “And so we hope that they really had a good experience.”

Marcello Fantoni, director of the Florence Program, spoke about the “myth” of the city, the program developments and the importance of students seeing other parts of Italy.

Fantoni said the culture of Florence is more than the famous works of art and gelato.

He said during the first week of orientation, a police officer comes to tell students what they are not supposed to do in order to stay safe.

“It gives the illusion that it is a Disney World, a renaissance Disney World,” he said. “It’s not true. It’s a real place.”

Fantoni said today’s high quantity of tourists alter the culture of the city, so he encourages students to travel outside of Florence.

“Florence is not the right place to be if you want to learn about Italy,” he said.

It is the program’s fourth year in the newly renovated Palazzo dei Cerchi, and Fantoni said the switch to the new building was a “turning point in what we do and who we are in Florence.”

Fantoni said the new facility has changed the structure of the program and the courses offered.

The Florence Program continues to develop with the addition of an Honors College program beginning Spring 2009.

Kenneth Cushner, executive director of the Office of International Affairs, said this week’s Study Abroad Summit was successful.

“I think it was a really good beginning to start a serious conversation,” Cushner said. “We (the university) have lots of good secrets that need to be exposed and this was a good start.”

Contact international affairs reporter Marissa Mendel at [email protected].