Founder of Wolfsonian talks study abroad in Genoa

Mitchell Wolfson, the founder of The Wolfsonian Museum, believes that the city of Genoa, the sixth largest city in Italy, is a wonderful place to visit.

“It’s a fantastic experience for young people to have this European introduction,” he said. “Genoa is a wonderful city. It’s the real thing. The last of the really great European cities that’s still intact because the others have been overrun by the hoards and Genoa still has the rhythm of a 19th century city so it’s a fabulous introduction into the Old World.”

Wolfson’s association with Genoa goes back to 1968, when he was posted to the United States Consulate there.

Now, he urges University students to travel to Genoa for a study abroad opportunity.

“It’s an experience we always comment about,” he said. “Men and women have no knowledge of the life people lead abroad and I would’ve made it a requirement for students to go abroad... Europe is the largest market in the world and it’s had more experience than the United States in every way, shape or form – politically and socially. I think [going abroad] enlarges the person because it gives new thoughts, new approaches to the human condition. It’s like an education, like going to school – but not formally. You’re participating and I think the young people prefer to participate.”

Douglas Kincaid, head of the study abroad program and Associate Professor in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies, said that students get most of their education outside the classroom.

“We have courses in which, yes, we’re in the classroom, but there are times where we go visit archives, villas, Turin, automobiles factories and other places, and most FIU students have never been in a manufacturing facility,” he said.

About 10 students go every year.

For six weeks, students become “immersed” in the residential life in Genoa, living in apartments and as pedestrians and shopping at the local grocery store, said Kincaid.

“[Previous students] love the lifestyle,” said Kincaid. “They love the immersion in the old city, which is, by no means, a museum; you’re in a medieval area that people have continuously lived for many centuries… Genoa offers a readily accessible living and learning experience. A residential immersion in a genuine Italian city.” Wolfson agrees and thinks that study abroad is about a full immersion into a country that is not your own, which may provide a better way of thinking, particularly important for politicians.

“If Busch would’ve known Europe or lived there, he would have understood more than he did being a domestic figure, that’s why Trump speaks this isolationist language – because he’s never had any experience abroad,” he said. “Trump can’t see beyond the oceans and the mountains.”

Daniela Rojas, a junior studying anthropology at the University, thinks this program is a good opportunity for her.

“It’s good for people majoring in anthropology or sociology because it gives you a firsthand experience of another culture and, ultimately, it provides an insight to what anthropology really is.”

Julie Walsh, freshman studying journalism, agrees.

“I’m definitely looking forward to interacting with a new culture and environment that is personally unknown to me,” she said. “Genoa is not touristic so I know I will be earning a very unique education and I’m very excited about that.”

Students interested in applying for the study abroad program in Genoa can contact Dr. Kincaid at kincaidd@fiu.edu.

“It’s an exposure that a book could never get you. A full-frontal exposure,” said Wolfson. “I just think it’s an enlarging experience. You learn about the human condition, the importance about not only the now but of the future. It’s an education in and of itself. It gives you advanced ways of thinking and it enlarges your capacity.”