Savoring Bergamo, Italy, with gelato in hand

This panorama, taken from the top of the bell tower in Citta Alta, or upper town, offers views of the lower town in Bergamo, Italy. Students can study abroad there through a new agreement established by Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Università degli studi di Bergamo. (Photos courtesy of Gloria Pastorino)

By Kenna Caprio

Anjelique Williams experienced a bit of an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment while studying abroad in Bergamo, Italy.

Atop the Citta Alta, or upper town, Williams paused looking over at the mountaintops.

“I stopped to take a breath and take it all in — gelato in hand — of course,” says Williams. “I just sat there and felt accomplishment.”

The 21-year-old rising senior and communication major traveled abroad as part of the pilot semester of the Bergamo program this past spring.

Fairleigh Dickinson University recently approved a “direct articulation agreement” with the Università degli studi di Bergamo. The agreement, which follows a model similar to the one established in Wroxton, England, allows students to retain their financial aid and take pre-approved classes, says Brian Swanzey, study abroad director.

“Students also pay the same tuition as if they were here (in New Jersey),” he says.

And in the summer, students can take advantage of two-for-one credits at the Università and Italian students can do the same through FDU.

The entire exchange was established through Professor Gloria Pastorino’s connections to the area.

Pastorino, who previously took students to Alassio on the Italian coast, decided after a conference in Bergamo to start taking students there too.

The Italian and French professor took 30 students abroad the first time she ran the trip and 20 the second year. Then Pastorino started thinking bigger — and eventually, with her guidance, the two universities hashed out the study abroad program.

“Italy ranks up there are one of the most popular study abroad spots,” Swanzey says. “And the more adventurous student is definitely interested in the immersion aspect of this program — it’s one of the less touristy spots, a smaller, northern Italian locale.”

For Williams, that solidified her choice.

“I received more of an Italian experience while studying in Bergamo simply due to its quaint appeal,” she says. “If I were to study in Florence or Rome, I would probably have stuck to other American students, which leaves no room for proper adaption nor growth.”

After realizing that she simply just, “needed a change,” Williams swapped northern New Jersey for northern Italy.

“Going to a university the size of FDU becomes a little small,” continues Williams. “I needed to expand my horizons and felt that since FDU prides itself on being a global university that they would have great opportunities for me to take advantage of.”

She found that “great opportunity” along with some global flair in Bergamo.

“The university and town are small enough that you end up having your favorite places and know a lot of people, but it’s still international,” says Pastorino. “Most of the town is entirely walled with Medieval and Renaissance architecture,” she says. “The lower part of town is more modern, from the 18th, 19th and 20th century.”

“The pink and white facade belongs to the Cappella Colleoni, a chapel built between 1470 and 1476, to host the funerary monument of Bartolomeo Colleoni,” according to Pastorino.

A mere 30 minutes from Milan and a train ride away from Venice, the “welcoming” town is used to having foreign students visit and stay — and in fact — wants foreign students there, says Pastorino.

It’ll get at least a few more from the United States come fall as five more FDU students are headed to Bergamo for the semester, according to Swanzey.

“Because it’s not an island program (where students live and study with other Americans), students tend to make friends and then they’ve got people over there all of a sudden,” he says.

That’s certainly true for Williams who is anticipating a visit this coming October from her Italian friends.

For now, she’s working at Massage Envy in Florham Park for the summer and “just relaxing,” a skill she honed in Italy.

“On Sundays, I’m used to doing everything I haven’t gotten done during the week. But weekends are reserved for leisure there — everything in Bergamo is closed all day Sunday and shut by 8 p.m. throughout the week,” she says.  Though it took time to acclimate, Williams says she “came to really appreciate the way of life and culture of the Bergomascos.”

“You learn to adapt, you learn other cultures other than your own and not through a textbook. Despite all the money spent, travel seems to be the only experience that makes you richer,” Williams says. 

Students who apply to the Bergamo program must first complete a second-semester Italian course and maintain a GPA of 3.0.

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

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