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Domenico Mazza

University of Florence

Domenico Mazza

For Domenico Mazza, who is spending this year 5,000 miles away from his home country as a graduate student in Smith's American Studies Diploma Program, the term "home" has several points of reference.

Mazza grew up in Messina, Italy, the third largest city on the island of Sicily, before moving to Florence in 2006, then to the island Republic of Malta for 5 months, on to Lisbon, Portugal's capital, for one year, and finally back to Florence, where he graduated from the University of Florence with a degree in government and foreign affairs.

With internships, work programs, and his educational pursuit keeping him on the move for much of his life, Domenico is no stranger to adjusting to unfamiliar environs—even if it's a women's college in northeast America.

For Domenico, being at Smith suits his educational trajectory perfectly. "Here, I have the opportunity to challenge myself intellectually with the best," he says.

Although he never imagined studying at an American college when he was younger, his upbringing in Europe helped his transition to Smith.

"Europe has given me the beauty of differences of understanding and exploring new cultures," he explains. "If you travel 30 minutes by train even just in my region, it will be very different from Tuscany or Rome."

An experienced supporter of study abroad, Domenico describes the European Union as "the largest melting pot you will know," due to the distinct national groups juxtaposed within its boundaries. The intellectual and cultural opportunities found in Europe and in America vary significantly, he notes, and in order to gain an accurate global perspective, Domenico believes one must experience the variety first hand, just as he has throughout his education—and as he is now at Smith.

While a male student in Smith classrooms is not the norm, Domenico does not consider his gender among mostly women his most distinguishing factor. "I think it is the age gap," he admits. As a graduate student on a mainly undergraduate campus, a solid four years separates Domenico from the majority of students here.

During his first two weeks on campus last September, Domenico recalls feeling separated from the rest of the student body. "The first two weeks were strange," he says. "I felt the silence and chatter when I passed everywhere."

But he quickly settled in as a Smith student, and by now feels comfortable here, at "one of the most prestigious educational settings in the world," he says. Besides, he adds, "I love contradictions and paradoxes."

By Eleana Thompson '16, Global STRIDE Fellow