How can FIU inspire its students to broaden their perspectives by experiencing the world outside Miami – say, in Italy? Recent graduate Amelia Raudales '22 and student Michelle Puentes have ideas.
The two were recently awarded a weeklong trip to Genoa, Italy, by FIU Global to experience the city’s rich culture and history; meet with local university administrators, municipal officials and business leaders; and identify opportunities for FIU students who may be interested in studying or interning abroad.
FIU Global leads the university’s campus internationalization efforts and works closely with internal and external constituents to advance the institution’s impact on fostering international and intercultural understanding.
During their exploratory mission, Puentes, a double major in art and psychology, and Raudales, who has a bachelor's in international relations, were encouraged to collect observations about the city and its population – through the eyes of students – which will inform FIU Global’s future outreach campaigns and partnerships in the city.
“Genoa is a fantastic city with wonderful people. Living there will change students’ lives. Amelia and Michelle offer a unique perspective on the city that will help FIU encourage students to come here and experience what it has to offer,” said FIU World Center Italy Director Matthew Rice, who has lived in Genoa for 20 years and spent the last 18 years helping FIU identify mutually beneficial opportunities and build relationships across the city.
Rice said FIU has formed connections across Genoa that have the potential to benefit students immensely, above all with the University of Genoa. FIU is also resuming discussions with the Genoa Chamber of Commerce and with Genoese industries such as hospitality and tourism. These could open future opportunities for dual-degree programs and academic certificates, faculty or student exchange programs, long-term student internships abroad, and more. A thriving FIU–Genoa program could also strengthen the connection between industries in Genoa and Miami and promote a greater sense of cultural understanding among the cities’ populations.
Puentes and Raudales were selected for the Genoa trip out of a group of applicants who submitted written proposals demonstrating their open-mindedness, cultural awareness, communication skills and general views on traveling and studying abroad.
While in Genoa, Raudales and Puentes served as student ambassadors of FIU, participating in several meetings with local leaders. In one such meeting with the Costa Crociere Foundation and Secretary-General Davide Triacca, they discussed the potential for student internships as cruise activities resume in the wake of COVID-19.
At the University of Genoa, they met with its president, Federico Delfino, and other university leadership as well as U.S. Consular Agent Anna Maria Saiano to discuss potential collaborations with FIU, such as faculty and student exchange, joint research projects and more.
They also met with City of Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci and City Councilor for Culture and Education Barbara Grosso to explore how the local government may support opportunities for international education programs.
Alongside their ambassadorial itinerary, Raudales and Puentes had plenty of time to explore. They visited The Wolfsoniana, an FIU affiliate and sister institution of The Wolfsonian—FIU museum, library and research center in Miami Beach; toured the Ligurian coast and historical landmarks, including the Palazzi dei Rolli (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Staglieno monumental cemetery; attended the Euroflora international flower exhibition; and learned about the city’s public transportation system.
In her written observations following the trip, Puentes noted students would be interested in Genoa’s many outdoor attractions, including hiking and visiting nearby fishing villages or historical landmarks. She suggested that FIU could emphasize similarities between the Miami and Genoa coastlines to make students feel more at home traveling between the two cities. She also pointed out that the city is only a few hours from several major Italian cities, including Milan, Turin and Florence, which would make exciting day trips for students studying abroad.
“This place has it all: the coast, the mountainsides, the valleys, the fields, and the big city feel. The social life erupts in this city with hundreds of people walking the streets by day and crowding the piazzas by night,” Puentes wrote in her report.
Raudales and Puentes both noted the city’s affordable dining and access to transportation would be attractive to students, as well. Their ideas to convince FIU students to study or intern abroad in Genoa include increasing visibility of the FIU—Genoa program on social media, especially on Instagram, and using social media to showcase all that Genoa has to offer FIU students. They also suggested FIU foster more partnerships between departments at FIU and the University of Genoa, which could reach a more diverse group of students who may be interested.
“What marked me the most from this visit was how livable Genoa is for FIU students past a one-week experience… there are hundreds of things to do in Genoa during one's free time,” Raudales wrote in her report. “The citizens are friendly and proud of their city, it is a historical and architecturally beautiful place, and nature is everywhere you go. Genoa is the perfect location for students, faculty, families and solo travelers.”
Puentes said her experience in Genoa was “life-changing.”
“[It was] one I will never forget. It was my first time visiting the other side of the world, and seeing in person the wonderful sights, narrow streets, and bright color everyone described was a dream come true.”