Fashion students experience Italy

Allison Tomei

Students in the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising have the opportunity to experience European fashion first-hand.

The program, which was created in 2002, lets students spend a semester in Florence, Italy, learning about the fashion industry. They also travel to Paris, London and Milan, Italy.

The school uses space leased by Kent State to teach classes in the fall, and architecture students use the space in the spring for their Florence study program.

“Florence gives students access to the Italian culture, and its proximity to other European cities puts it in the European mecca of fashion,” said William Hauck, assistant professor of fashion.

Students pay program and study tour fees in addition to Kent State housing and tuition. They are also responsible for their own plane tickets, he said.

Hauck said he prefers students to be in their junior year when traveling to Florence because most of the prerequisite fashion classes are completed by that time.

He said another good thing about Florence is that a lot of college students in that region are American.

“A lot of colleges have outlets there like Kent State does,” he said.

Hauck said the school sends two faculty members with the group to teach classes from the Kent State curriculum. The faculty selected to go to Florence vary each year.

One of the professors in Italy right now is Elizabeth Davic, who is also the program coordinator.

As coordinator, Davic said she has the responsibility of organizing field trips and study tours, scheduling guest speakers, facilitating the process of obtaining passports, visas, and other documentation, and being a liaison between the Kent State School of Fashion and the students enrolled in the Kent State Florence Fashion Program.

“It is simply amazing to be given the opportunity to teach here and see so many places detailed throughout art and literature,” she said in an e-mail from Florence.

Davic said one of the most enjoyable parts of the semester is watching students learn and grow from their experiences in Florence.

“All the participants become a close-knit group, and it’s truly a privilege to be a part of that,” Davic said.

“Being in Florence was the best five months of my life,” senior fashion merchandising major Jocelyn Simms said.

Simms said she and her peers loved Florence so much, they cried when it was time to leave.

“I was depressed when I got home,” she said. “We’d do anything to go back.”

Simms said the best part of being in Florence for the semester was being able to live in another place as opposed to just visiting on vacation.

“It’s just amazing waking up,” she said. “I was always like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I am in Italy,'” she said.

Simms also said students should travel while in Europe, because it is “so cheap to go places for the weekend.”

Elizabeth Rhodes, director of the school, said there are 33 students studying in Florence this semester and two professors teaching the classes.

“It gives students the opportunity to see the world from a different viewpoint,” she said. “It really is a life-changing experience.”


Junior fashion merchandising major Lauren Zajac answers questions about Florence via AOL Instant Messenger. Zajac has been in Italy since August as part of the Kent State University Florence Fashion Program.

Q: What has been your favorite city to travel to so far?

A: I would have to say that Florence is still my favorite city. I love it here, and it feels like home every time I come home. It’s so quaint and very Italian.

Q: Where else have you gone?

A: Milan, Paris and London through the program. But my friends and I went to Barcelona and Munich, Germany.

Q: You just packed up and went on a trip? Doesn’t that get expensive?

A: We find really cheap, small airlines for the flight. Then we just take a train or bus to get to the airports and hotels.

Q: How much in dollars does it cost for that?

A: About $300 — once you pay for a flight, hotel and food.

Q: What was the biggest culture shock you’ve had?

A: Everything is very slow-paced, a complete 180 from how it is in the states. They take three-to four-hour breaks during the middle of the day to go home and have lunch with their families. It’s a very relaxing way of living.

Q: What is a typical school day like?

A: I usually have two classes a day, Italian and a fashion class. School week is Monday through Thursday.

Q: A four-day week — that must be nice!

A: We don’t have class on Fridays so we can take long weekends to travel!

Q: How is the food?

A: I really enjoy the food. Everything is so fresh, and it is so rare to find anything fried.

Q: If there is one American food you could have right now, what would it be?

A: I would love to have a chicken Caesar salad. The salad dressing in Italy consists only of oil and vinegar, which is really kind of tasteless and old after two and a half months of it.

Q: If we could bring one restaurant to you right now, what would it be?

A: Chipotle — I can’t wait to eat it!

Q: What do you miss the most about Ohio?

A: The convenience of having any type of food available. The food here is delicious, but it gets old eating pastas all the time. I also really miss TV shows in English and being able to understand people.

Q: How will you feel when you have to leave?

A: Right now, I am not ready to leave. The lifestyle here is amazing. I do miss my family and friends so much, but this has been the best experience of my life.

Q: Did it take you a long time to adjust to the time difference?

A: Honestly, the time difference wasn’t too much of an issue. I adjusted pretty well to jet lag.

Q: Compare Florence weather to Ohio weather.

A: So far, the weather has been perfect. It’s still in the 70s and hasn’t rained yet. The rainy season is November, so we’ll see what happens. I don’t miss Ohio weather at all!

Q: What’s the biggest difference between America and Florence as far as lifestyle?

A: Things here are very family-oriented. Family-owned businesses, family dinners on Sunday, etc. They don’t stress themselves out too much.

Allison Tomei

Contact School of Fashion Design and Merchandising reporter Allison Tomei at [email protected].