Freshmen in Florence program experiences changes

Kent State’s Freshmen in Florence program will go on hiatus during the 2020-2021 academic year as it undergoes changes. On Nov. 12, the decision was made to transition the program from fall to spring, before students started to register for the upcoming year.  

“We’re looking at making the program a lot more intentional, make a connection at Kent, make a connection with the cohort before they leave,” said Frank Congin, director of academic programs at Kent State’s Honors College.

The switch from fall to spring will allow students to take First Year Experience (FYE) in the fall semester within their major college instead of in the spring, said Ólöf Thórdardóttir, director of admissions at the Honors College. This change gives students the chance to connect with others in their major and college.  

The Honors College is also in the preliminary stage of “hybridizing” the Freshman Honors Colloquium by having a Kent State professor from the fall work with a Florence professor from the spring instead of having the same professor for both semesters, Congin said.        

The Freshmen in Florence program is offered through the university’s Honors College and allows students to spend their first semester in Italy. The program consists of only 15 to 20 students each time, giving participants the chance to form connections with other students.

“We want to build a cohort experience,” Congin said. “We want them to have kind of a mini living-learning community in Florence.” 

Students who are a part of this program go through a regular Destination Kent State (DKS) in the summer to get introduced to the university. However, participants also go through a supplemental DKS with the Honors College, Office of Global Education and academic advisors to prepare them to go abroad, Congin said.         

While the program is being revamped, many aspects of it will remain the same. Specifically, the academic features will remain unchanged.  

Students must be accepted to Kent State, accepted to the Honors College and be pursuing certain majors to be eligible for the program. For example, a nursing or architecture student would have difficulty participating due to the structure of their academic programs, Congin said. Once in Florence, students take the Honors Colloquium, as well as elementary Italian I and various other electives, such as art history, Thórdardóttir said. 

Although the academics are important, the Florence program offers students a more holistic experience, Congin said. Given the unique nature of this program, Thórdardóttir works with the Florence staff to make sure students are adjusting well, both academically and mentally, so that they have the best semester possible, Congin said.  

Contact Abigail Mack at [email protected].