What position do you hold at AIFS? What has been your career path so far?
Monica: I am the Resident Director of Richmond, the American International University program in Florence. I am in charge of all the academic aspects of the program in liason with our main Richmond Campus in London: arranging and supervising curricular and extra-curricular activities; organizing cultural events; promoting and maintaining contacts with local authorities and cultural Institutions, dealing also with fiscal and financial matters.
I graduated from the University of Florence with a degree in Humanities focused in English and American literature. I was granted a merit scholarship for spending one year at Smith College, Mass as a graduate student receiving a post-graduate Diploma in American Studies. I eventually obtained a post-graduate certification from the Italian Education Authority for teaching English language and literature. I started working for AIFS in 1983 and was appointed director in 1986. From 1989, I became Director of the Florence branch of Richmond, The American International University in London.
Did YOU study abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Monica: Since when I decided to study foreign languages and Literature I had a dream: going to the US to know first- hand the country which I could portray in my mind only through studying its history and literature. Thirty years ago there was no internet or Facebook, therefore much more was left to personal imagination and American movies than in our days and my imagination was pretty fervid. When my American History Professor at the University of Florence asked me if I wished to be presented as candidate for a full merit scholarship at Smith College, Mass, I could not even believe that a dream that I had pursued for so many years could come true. Spending a year at an American University turned out to be an amazing life changing experience.
How have you changed or grown since working for your current company?
Monica: Working with young American students is a challenge especially if you see this also as a mission: guiding and encouraging them to discover a new culture, keeping their academic motivation high, helping them solve their personal problems has been the most rewarding part of my job. And thanks to my students I can also keep up with what is trendy among young Americans, what they like, what they think. This gives me the illusion of being “forever young” as they are always the same age!
What unique qualities does your company possess?
Monica: Our program in Florence is organized in such a way that we constantly interact with students. I tell students that they help us “shaping the program” and the more effort they put in the more they get out of it. Their active participation and constructive critical thinking is fundamental to the success of the program. It is a great satisfaction to read on final students’ evaluations that: “AIFS in Florence was my family abroad." Helping students integrate means sharing with them the things that we find distinctive in our culture enjoying doing activities together.” Learning through experience “is our favourite motto.
What does your home-country’s culture value that is taught in your program?
Monica: Learning a new culture from inside means not only studying it but also being personally involved and participating. “Empathy" is the key word and involving our students in community service activities has been a mission for us since when we established in Florence. More than 1000 of our students have volunteered in Florence giving back to the community and at the time same receiving in terms of personal growth, experience of local culture and interpersonal relation.