Kent State Florence program celebrates 50th anniversary

Ashley Caudill, Reporter

The Kent State Florence program is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The program allows students to expand their cultural and educational minds beyond their degrees.

The program was originally developed in 1970 as a trip for architecture students and has since developed into an award-winning program, recently receiving the 2022 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization from the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, which has course and semester offerings year-round.

Kristin Stasiowski, assistant dean for Kent State’s International Programs and Education Abroad, lived in Italy for over 10 years, studying during her undergraduate and completing three advanced degrees in Italian studies. Now she acts as a mentor who encourages and helps students to do the same.

“All of your aspirations, all of your dreams, all of your projects, all of your plans, they become new, different and enormously possible because you are now filled and rising no matter what,” Stasiowksi said. “It’s not because you learned, it’s because you changed. That’s higher education.”

The Palazzo Vettori is a 15th-century building that is also the heart of Florence’s program. It houses classrooms, computer labs and resources that students have access to throughout their time in the city.

The Florence summer program consists of two courses, equating to six to seven credits, that run Monday through Thursday. There are no classes scheduled on Fridays so students have the opportunity to explore Florence and surrounding cities in Italy.

“It’s just Kent State, but more delicious on every level,” Stasiowski said. “Every aspect of what you would expect from the most amazing Kent State experience in Ohio has been transformed into one where you are now in cobblestone streets and ancient palaces.”

The idea of traveling abroad to a different country can cause concerns for students and parents, but Stasiowski said it only fuels a student’s growth and experience.

“The idea of going somewhere that is different is just so overwhelming sometimes …” Stasiowkski said. “Yet that is also the way in which we grow. You find parts of yourself that you never knew existed.”

Graduate student Antonia Costa attended Kent State’s summer Florence program in 2022 for the June session.

Like many other students, this would be Costa’s first time traveling to Europe. Costa had concerns about leaving her comfort zone and imagining what her life would be like in Italy.

“Going there and walking in those streets and being there in the city, walking by the Duomo, running into a pizza shop and a gelato shop every 15 steps, you feel like you are on a movie set and they are going to take the curtains down at any moment,” Costa said. “But it’s not and it’s real, it’s real life.”

Similar to Costa, senior theatre studies major Caroline Kellogg had worries about going to Europe for the first time as well. She will study abroad in Florence this summer during the July session.

Kellogg said that she is nervous to go somewhere out of her comfort zone and travel with her food allergies.

“Florence is such a place of history and art and all of these things. Being able to go somewhere that’s rich in culture, I am so excited to see how cool it is,” Kellogg said. “I want to go to Florence and be like ‘History happened right here.’ Michelangelo and all of these famous people from hundreds and hundreds of years ago, walked right where I am walking.”

With Kent State celebrating 50 years of its Florence program, there are plenty of celebrations and events set to take place over the next 18 months. The events will involve alumni, faculty and students in Kent, in Florence and virtually.

The application for Florence’s summer program and sessions closes Feb. 1 at 11:59 p.m.

“There is just no better thing that you can do with your undergraduate experience than to take this time and invest it in yourself and invest it in doing something different within a familiar series of context,” Stasiowski said. “It’s a passport to so much more than just another country.”

Ashley Caudill is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].