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Old cities, new rules.

Florida State University International Programs (FSUIP) in Florence, Italy, Valencia, Spain and London, England are ready to welcome students back to their study centers after programs were halted back in March.

Under new guidelines and exceptional leadership, the international study centers have the unique opportunity to give students an immersive experience in some of Europe’s most ancient cities while adjusting to modern circumstances. 

Each of the respective programs have their own set of guidelines defined by their local governments, but as a whole, FSUIP seeks to maintain a consistent environment that ensures the safety of their students. Here are some things students should expect for their travel plans this summer. 

On the individual level, students will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test in the days prior to their international flight. In addition, students may be subject to further testing during their stay. In line with local guidelines, masks will be required for anyone venturing outside of their residence, much like on FSU’s main campus. 

FSU President John Thrasher opened up the international programs under the condition that excursions would be limited to program planned excursions only. This has given program faculty a greater responsibility to make sure students can fully experience their time overseas. Ignasio Messana, director of FSU Valencia, explained his faculty’s process. 

“We created an initial cultural calendar with the trips and activities (both in and out of the city) that we had planned already having in mind covid restrictions,” said Messana, “and every week we meet, review the situation and plan the activities that can be done during the next week according to protocols and the situation.”

The situation is similar in places like Italy, who are not allowing citizens and students alike to travel outside of their host cities and regions. But for Frank Nero, director of FSU Florence, this has allowed their program to challenge themselves in new ways. 

“We have dedicated ourselves to wearing our metaphorical and metaphysical yoga pants to work every day, realizing we’d have to be as flexible as acrobats in the Flying High Circus,” Nero said. 

That flexibility requires balancing how students will interact with the regions around them and fully appreciating the city right outside their door. 

Nero plans on hosting a program planned excursion every weekend for students, even planning on taking a week off from classes to give students more time to explore the scenic Tuscan region. 

If traveling restrictions for students are not lifted by Mar. 5, as currently stated by the Italian Ministry of Education, Nero and his faculty have a plan B to further immerse students into Florentine culture. 

Activities include: pasta making and gelato making labs, fresco painting and ceramic making labs, scavenger hunts and video contests, as well as traditional fragrance making, screen printing, book presentations by local authors and wine tasting. 

This flexibility has given the COVID-19 restrictions, in Nero’s mind, a rather ironic outcome. Florence, which usually hosts thousands of students and millions of tourists a year, has now become a quieter, more humble environment. Students can now learn and experience the local culture in a wholly intimate way. 

“To wander around one of the world’s great museums literally by yourself, soaking in works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Botticelli… it’s a whole new, and maybe even better kind of learning experience and adventure,” Nero said, adding, “and one the FSU student has and should readily embrace.”

To anyone who may be on the fence in taking part in an international program, Nero offered a simple bit of advice: “Hurdle the fence.” 

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