University of Florence, Italy
Through the American Studies Diploma Program at Smith, which awards a one-year scholarship to selective students from around the world, many international students during the past 50 years have worked on various academic projects to further their education.
This year, 10 individuals were awarded the scholarship, representing eight countries. Filippo Cervelli, an American Studies scholar who earned master's degrees in both English and Italian at the University of Florence (Italy), is focusing his Smith project on the relationship between multicultural issues and ecological challenges.
Cervelli, who is from Florence, has traveled to many countries, including the United States. This year will be his third visit to the U.S. and will be his longest stay here. Fluent in Italian and English, Cervelli is not experiencing any difficulties adjusting to the language in and outside the classroom. In fact, he tutors students in Italian and helps conduct lessons outside the classroom for beginner students.
Meanwhile, Cervelli is exploring all that Smith has to offer. He has enjoyed his class on Chinese culture and a seminar on American literature.
Having grown up in Florence and experienced the Italian education system, Cervelli brings a unique perspective to Smith's academic curriculum and campus life. At the University of Florence, there is no campus life because, like most European universities, there are no student dormitories or even a campus, per se. University buildings are for academic purposes only, Cervelli explains. While students at Smith enjoy amenities such as dining halls, a post office, a gym, a student center and performance spaces, students at the University of Florence have no access to such services. Typically, they rent apartments independently or commute from home to the university.
In comparison, however, the cost of an education is much cheaper in Florence, and while financial aid is offered, most students do not need it.
The curricular program of studies is also very different. Students at the University of Florence declare their major before beginning their course of studies and therefore, unlike students at Smith, they have little freedom to choose courses outside of the major. Yet another difference between the Italian university and an American liberal arts college is the amount of time students spend in class. Italian students spend their time in lecture classes with little to no opportunity to discuss or debate in small settings.
Despite these differences, Cervelli feels that Smith is meeting his academic expectations thus far.
As for campus life, Cervelli points out that Smith offers a multitude of co-curricular activities that encourage students to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world. For example, a student studying gender relations at Smith can join a number of organizations that advocate for issues relating to gender. In Florence, such co-curricular activities—or indeed any kind of club—do not exist.
After graduating from Smith in May, Cervelli hopes to study at least one more year in America to extend his academic learning experience. For the moment, he will continue exploring the advantages of a liberal arts college and he would like to experience all that Smith has to offer.
By Sara Ottomano '15, Global STRIDE Fellow