This three-part feature on Dr. Daniele Gatti's global citizenship course includes a Q&A with Isabel M. IT'19; an essay from Kurumi S. IT'19 describing her participation in Rome MUN; and a video feature from Gatti describing what it is like to teach at SYA. As the course title indicates, the focus is central to SYA's mission: global citizenship in the 21st century.
Interview with Isabel M. IT'19 (Avenues School, NYC)
Why did you sign up for SYA Italy's global citizenship class?
I was immediately interested in global because I wanted to become a more “global citizen” — more informed about the world around me and the role that I play inside of it. I personally believe that it is extremely important to be this way, because I want to be as aware of my environment, my responsibilities and the impacts that I can make. In taking this course, I hoped to gain a deeper understanding of a variety of global issues through observation, discussion and several other means, as well as those specific to Italy. Overall, I sought to learn to become a more informed, critical thinker.
Has the class changed your understanding of your place in the world, and if so, how?
One aspect of this class that I have found very interesting is the opportunity to leave the confines of the SYA environment and speak to/get to know other people in my community whom I would otherwise not know by having interesting, thought-provoking conversations with them. This class has allowed me to make many meaningful and interesting connections with those around me, as well as to become closer to my host family. Thus, these assignments, as well as our class discussions and the articles we have read, have shown me the importance of getting to know my community, taking advantage of being here in Italy and the value of speaking out and connecting with others.
In what ways have you been challenged by this course?
One of our first assignments in global citizenship was to go out into Viterbo and talk with locals about an issue of our choice. I chose the recent immigration policies in Italy, which would have been a controversial and extremely complex topic even if I were back in America, surrounded by my own culture. Being here in a brand-new environment made it all the more difficult. This assignment was not only challenging because of the initial language barrier between myself and the Viterbese, but also because I was an American coming into a foreign culture, and I did not want to embarrass myself or cause any controversy. Therefore, I did find it challenging to venture outside of my comfort zone and strike up conversations with strangers in cafes. However, I am reaching a point where I am comfortable approaching a stranger and asking them about a given topic, because I have learned how open and understanding people are and how much they enjoy speaking to students because they are simply glad that we are curious. Although it is challenging, learning this skill will be useful to me not just this year, but throughout my life as I continue to travel, interact with other cultures and learn to become a more global citizen.
Another way this course has challenged me is by forcing me to open my mind to various opinions, beliefs, ways of life, etc. that are not necessarily my own. For one assignment, I needed to talk to Italian high school students about their opinions on fascism. Before this year, I had never met anyone who supported fascism, or even claimed they did without knowing the true meaning of the term — as is the case with many Italian teenagers. During these conversations, I really had to try to recognize that just because I strongly disagreed with what people were saying does not mean I should not listen to it, or it is not important to hear. On the contrary, it means it is all the more important, because it gives me a deeper understanding of my environment and peers, and further cements my own ideas of the person/leader that I want to be and the beliefs I want to hold and teach to those around me.
How has the global citizenship course changed your understanding of Viterbo and Italian culture?
This course has given me a much deeper understanding of Viterbo and Italian culture, and because of it, I feel as though I am much more a part of the community. Reading local newspapers, hearing the stories of locals I encounter, wandering through the streets of different neighborhoods in Rome, chatting with my host family about global events — all of these things contribute to my experience in amazing ways. Without this class, I can safely say that I would feel much less at home here in Viterbo than I do.
How is the class different than classes you might take at your home school?
This class is unique because it truly strives to take advantage of one’s environment and the resources that it can provide — something that I had not experienced so much at my home school, since we typically focus on issues that are occurring across the world, or on those that took place long before I was born. All of the current events discussions we have in Global refer to events happening just outside our front door. Further, all of our travel (day trips, school trips, independent travel, programs such as MUN) also contribute to this idea of environment-specific and experiential learning.
What skills have you developed the most through global citizenship?
Whether by reading newspapers, talking to locals, visiting museums and finding various historical monuments, I have learned to become much more competent and comfortable in Italian culture, both in terms of language and otherwise. I have also learned how to keep my mind open while focusing on the facts and content of what I hear/see before jumping to assumptions and conclusions. I think that these are essential skills in life, and throughout the rest of the year here, I plan to continue to work on them both in and outside of global, as well as take them with me wherever my future may lead me.
Business as Usual, Kurumi S. IT'19 (Spence School, NYC)
Strutting along in snazzy blazers and classy heels, we professionally greeted the chairmen and colleagues with firm handshakes and confident smiles. With great enthusiasm and passion we arranged our papers and took exhaustive notes. We met people for networking, learned about conventional marketing strategies given our background research on unconventional marketing, and made new friends from all over the world, picking up some new phrases in other languages.
Rome MUN was definitively the most academically challenging yet rewarding experience at SYA thus far, while encouraging a social life as we bonded with the small group of students from SYA and our teachers as well as undergraduate and graduate students from all over Europe and the Middle East. The program was divided into three sections: the Model UN committees, the Business Game, and the Press Game. As we are always encouraged to follow our passions at SYA, we were able to choose which simulation to do at the conference. As a great economic enthusiast, I chose the Business Game.
My friend Will and I were one of the youngest participants in the Business Game, as we were surrounded by bachelor’s, master’s and MBA students, from whom we learned an inexplicable amount on how to form a proper business proposition and present it to investors. We created business plans for innovative food truck ideas, attraction of HR for the Costa Crociere using social media, and the promotion of a start-up energy company. Given limited time for each project, we worked all day with passion and excitement as we were given the opportunity to present our creative ideas to a board of judges, from whom we would receive awards based on best group, best individuals per group, and best participant in the entire Business Game conference.
Whether it was the thrill of working with such professional students and judges or having the opportunity to hang out with our friends and meet new people in both a professional and chill manner, MUN was fulfilling and promising for our future. I networked, I studied, I got to dress up, I developed new friendships and enforced old ones, I had fun. Without a doubt, this was a great opportunity for my future career and a rewarding experience as a high schooler.
Kurumi S. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Spence School in New York.
Hear what SYA faculty member Dr. Daniele Gatti has to say about global citizenship: