College of Education students return from winter course in Florence

Ted Hamilton

Students from the College of Education learned about the differences in universities while visiting the country that lays claim to Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Dante Alighieri.

Ten Kent State higher education and administration graduates stayed in Italy for two weeks while taking part in a course over winter break. The course was designed to look at Italy’s universities and study abroad programs, Assistant Professor Janice Gerda said. The students visited various cities and universities, including Kent State’s Florence campus.

Italy’s higher education system is very different from America’s, said Sarim Tot, higher education and student personnel graduate. Education in Italy is free and universities are not allowed to charge tuition, she said. Because Italy views higher education as a right, Italian universities do not have an admissions process like their American counterparts.

Even the faculty is different because the majority of them also do administration work, she said.

The differences do not stop there. Instead of having a central campus like most American universities, courses in Italy are spread throughout the city, Gerda said.

The student services we see in America do not exist in Italy, she said.

“For me, seeing what the Italian system (of higher education) does or doesn’t provide for students made me think what made it turn out differently (in America),” she said.

Gina DeMart, higher education and student personnel graduate, helped plan the trip. She said the way most professors teach in Europe is entirely different from the way professors teach in America because they do not make contact with the students. Professors would go into the class, give a lecture and leave, she said.

This was the first year of the program, and creators Professor Eunsook Hyun; Kenneth Cushner, executive director of International Affairs; and Marcello Santoni, the director of the Florence campus, at first wondered if it would work out, Dermont said.

“I told many of the members if they took one thing away then the program was a success,” she said.

“It’s one thing to read about (a program, rather) than going and hearing and seeing how a university sets up an international program from both sides of the ocean,” Cushner said.

Having a campus in Florence like Kent State’s can help open the door to major areas of study, he said.

Although the group was in class from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, the group still managed to see the sights during the weekends, Tot said. Sights the students visited included the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City and the Uffizi Museum.

Gerda looked at some of the art online before the trip, but said it did not prepare her for the real thing.

She said some of the things she saw were “absolutely amazing” and overwhelmed her.

“I encourage anybody to go to Florence if they have the opportunity,” Tot said. “The culture surrounding you teaches you a lot about yourself.”

Contact honors and international affairs reporter Ted Hamilton at [email protected].