Alexis Rizzica stands behind her friend Natalie at the top of the duomo, located just around the block from her apartment. Alexis says “This, so far, has undoubtedly been the best experience of my life... I never want to come home!”

This fall semester, three CSI students are benefiting from full scholarships to study in Florence, Italy. Two of them, with previous Italian language coursework at CSI, were awarded additional grants from CSI’s Italian Studies Program, which is a part of the World Languages and Literatures Department.

Hundreds of students have benefited from the opportunity to study in Italy as a result of CSI’s nearly three-decade-long partnership with the Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici, (LdM) in Florence. The partnership between CSI and LdM has enabled numerous CSI students to take advantage of studying abroad in Italy, and since the inception of a full LdM scholarship, CSI has enrolled one or more students per semester (fall or spring) in the program with tuition covered by the grant.

"There are so many things that I wouldn't have been able to accomplish if I didn't study abroad. I never thought I would have had the opportunity to climb a volcano and I did it! This experience is life changing." -Debra DeTeresa

At LdM, participating CSI students have the opportunity to study in their chosen fields while learning about Italy in a wide range of courses taught in English. While many students have studied Italian before the program, it is not a prerequisite, although it is a requirement to take an Italian language course while on the semester program. Students earn college credit while studying courses and participating in experiences they would not otherwise be able to partake in back home. Whether walking the streets of Florence with a noted art historian, making jewelry with an expert artisan, or visiting the countryside of the Tuscany region, students have the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Italy.

Two or more students per semester from any major may be chosen to receive the LdM Full Program Scholarship to study in Florence, with additional funding support possible from the Italian Studies Program. The fund from the Italian Studies Program may be available for qualified students, who are Italian majors or minors or with some previous CSI coursework in Italian language studies.

Along with the Italian Studies Fund, there are other ways that students can receive awards that will help alleviate the cost of the trip, such as the Frank and Margaret Ricciardi Scholarship Fund, created by Margaret Ricciardi for the sole purpose of helping students realize their dream of studying in Italy.

Michelle Lagana, a recent recipient of the Ricciardi Scholarship Fund, looks forward to meeting Mrs. Ricciardi to “thank her personally,” for the opportunity to study in Italy during the one-month July session this summer.

“Without this scholarship I would have not have been able to participate in the study abroad program,” Michelle said of the scholarship. Michelle, who is a Communications major wanted to study in Italy so that she could improve her “grasp of the Italian language as well as the culture.” She traveled throughout Italy and even ventured into Barcelona, Spain during her stay this summer in Florence.

While studying at LdM, students have the opportunity to not only focus on their fields of study, as classes are taught in English, but participate in internships that are available during the semester. Internships for credit are offered by LdM in the following fields: international business, marketing, museum experience, communications, graphic design, and fashion marketing and merchandising.

Speaking about the importance of studying and working in Florence, Gerry Milligan, the new Chair of the World Languages and Literatures Department at CSI, called these internships opportunities to make an “authentic connection with the culture.”

A huge proponent of studying abroad, Milligan, who himself  has studied abroad five times and has worked extensively with LdM, understands the importance of immersing oneself in another culture. 

“Florence was the cradle of the Renaissance,” said Milligan of the value for students to study in the city Leonardo da Vinci once called home. “Studying its art, architecture, and politics allows CSI students to compare their own city, arguably the capital of modern society, with the capital of a distant and foreign world. What students ultimately learn, however, is not only how Western culture was transformed in this great city on the Arno but how they themselves are part of world that is larger and richer than they could ever imagine.”

Holdaliz Brito is a SEEK student who received funding from the Office of Special Programs due to her academic achievements. A recent participant in the month-long summer session at LdM’s Florence campus this past June, she discussed the day she found out that she would be awarded the money for her trip. She said, “At that moment, I realized hard work really does pay off. It’s a scholarship that I will forever be grateful for because I got to experience and see things that I never thought I would.”

“Living in Florence was an experience of a lifetime,” she said, discussing her stay in Italy. “I visited the Amalfi Coast—that weekend, I saw another side of nature. The scenery looked as if it were painted on a canvas.”

Four CSI students will be studying in Florence at LdM for the fall semester but the CSI Center for International Service is currently accepting applications for the spring semester. Students are encouraged to apply for the Full LdM Program Scholarship and funding via the Italian Studies Program, as it is a great way to not only study in the birthplace of the Renaissance and one of the oldest cities in Europe, but also take part in, as Holdaliz put it, “the experience of a lifetime.”