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Student Traces 30 Years of Mother’s History Through Florence Program

Posted April 16, 2012 | Ryan Collins
enter photo description
Kent State student Lydia Coutré stands on a bridge over the
Arno River in Pisa, Italy, near the Santa Maria dellaSpina
Church during her education abroad experience in Florence, Italy.
Coutré is visiting the same sights her mother traveled to 30 years
ago, retaking pictures of the same landmarks and blogging about
her experience.

From 1982 to 2012, famous Italian sights like Florence’s cathedral, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Coliseum or Venice’s Grand Canal probably haven’t changed much. However, the person behind the lens in 1982 and 2012 will be different.

When Kent State student Lydia Coutré, a junior newspaper journalism major, returns in May from studying abroad with the College of Communication and Information’s program in Florence, Italy, the photos she might add to her family’s scrapbooks will look familiar.

Coutré’s mother, Rita, backpacked across Europe in 1982. She traveled to cities like Pisa, Rome, Venice and Interlaken, and Coutré wants to see literally the same sights as her mother.

Coutré’s mother brought back carousels of 35mm slides from her trip. Coutré originally saw the slides when she was working on a 5th grade project about Italy. She says she’s been captivated ever since.

Before Coutré left the United States, she spent hours converting many of the slides to files on her computer. She plans to visit the same cities as her mother and retake some of the slides 30 years later.

“I got the idea to do my ‘30 Years Later’ project last summer while I was working one of my three jobs to save money to get here,” she says. “I mentioned it to my mom, and she loved the idea.”

Coutré says her map is marked with some of the spots she needs to visit, but she plans to get directions from the Kent State Florence staff for more elusive locations.

“I knew I wanted to go sometime in my life, but I never even dreamed that I would get to spend four months here,” Coutré says. “When I found out Kent State had a program for it, my only questions were ‘What semester am I going?’ and ‘Should I sell my car to get there?’”

The Kent State Florence program is housed in a 13th-century palace located in the city center. Students live in apartments near the building, and they have the support of a fully English-speaking staff.

Even though her classes in Florence get her full Kent State credit, Coutré’s apartment is fully furnished, and she gets to eat amazing Italian cuisine, the most exciting part of the semester for her is to visit Venice, just as her mother did.

“Everyone says that studying abroad will change you,” she says. “You’ll come back a completely new, and all-in-all better person. Not only am I getting to know myself, but I think this trip is giving me an entirely new way to get to know my mom.”

Coutré is blogging about her experience and posting the “30 Years Later” retaken photos as she travels at http://lydiaislost.blogspot.com. Her first retaken shot was of Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo.

At the end of her semester in May, Coutré hopes to have 40 to 50 retaken pictures.

For more information about Kent State education abroad opportunities, visit the Office of Global Education’s website at www.kent.edu/globaleducation.

For more information about the College of Communication and Information’s program in Florence, Italy, visit www.kent.edu/ccistudyabroad.