First Group of Kent State Freshmen Start Their College Careers in Italy
When Joshua Budd thinks about all the places he has traveled up to his senior year of high school, only one has been outside of the United States, and that was a quick jaunt to Niagara Falls, Ontario, in Canada. So, the thought of actually living in a foreign country, especially Europe, was well outside of his comfort zone.
As an incoming freshman in Kent State University’s Honors College, Budd faced his first major decision: Should he study abroad before he takes his first class on the Kent Campus, even before he moves into his residence hall and before he narrows down his future career choice?
It is a question that 15 Kent State Honors College freshmen answered over the summer with a resounding “yes,” making them the first incoming freshman class to study in Florence, Italy. The group of students has been given the nickname the Florence 15.
“I decided to go, not just to spend an exciting four months on my own away from parents and family, but because I wanted to take this opportunity to experience all life has to offer in a foreign country – including a different world view, a different way of life, and a different language and culture,” Budd said.
Kent State Florence is not new. The university has been educating students in Florence for more than 40 years. But what is new is sending freshmen overseas before they have been introduced to traditional college life.
“Freshman programs are unique, and very few universities across the country send freshmen abroad,” said Aaron Hanlin, coordinator of admissions and scholarship for Kent State’s Honors College. “This program adds to the distinctiveness of Kent State University and provides another element that makes us ‘Undeniably Kent State’ and demonstrates the boldness of our students.”
The program merges academics and culture into one comprehensive learning opportunity. The students take three required classes to learn the Italian language and Italian art, and to explore culture and identity. Students also take two additional classes based on their interests and academic goals. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, leaving long weekends to explore Paris, London, Barcelona, the Tuscan countryside or any other part of Europe.
The program is housed in the Palazzo Vettori, which is a prestigious and ancient building located in the heart of Florence. Students actually get to walk the same stone streets that Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante once traveled.
Budd is a self-proclaimed history buff and said he looks forward to experiencing the rich cultural history and the impact of Italian culture on modern Western civilization.
“Everything from art, religion and centuries of conflict and essential theories of government that we know of today was born out of Italian city centers such as Rome and Florence,” Budd said. “I want to be sure to indulge in all the historical Easter eggs scattered throughout museums and architectural centers in Italy.”
One goal of the program is to increase global awareness, not as a tourist, but as a community member, sharing a daily routine with local residents and beginning to understand life through the lens of another culture.
“Studying abroad opens up a student’s horizons,” said Frank Congin, director of academic relations for Kent State’s Office of Global Education. “It exposes them to new ways of thinking and seeing the world and, more importantly, allows the students to compare the U.S. and their host country and see what the similarities are, examine the differences more closely and learn to see that the differences aren’t as negative or ‘foreign’ as previous thought.”
The honors students are studying in Florence for the 2016 Fall Semester and then continue their studies at the Kent Campus in the spring.
Budd admitted that the choice to take his first college classes overseas, instead of on the Kent Campus, was a difficult one. However, he is excited about the opportunities.
“I want to begin to experience the world around me on another, broader level, and I hope that my time in Florence will bring that to the table,” Budd said.