CSU Pueblo’s study abroad programs connect students to history and heritage
After renewing their partnership with the University of Bergamo, Colorado State University Pueblo President Timothy Mottet, his wife, Rick Gonzalez, and CSU Pueblo Italian Director Chris Picicci dined in Bergamo, one of Pueblo’s two Italian sister cities, when their server, a young guy named Alex, came to take their order.
Striking up a conversation with the three men having dinner, Alex learned that the three were from Colorado. He told the men he was supposed to study at a university in the state but his travels were cut short by the pandemic. He asked the men at Centennial State if they had heard of the university, CSU Pueblo.
“We just watched him and we watched each other,” Mottet said. “We said, yeah, we’ve heard of this place. We introduced ourselves, and it was just very coincidental… We gave him our business cards and told him we’d be more than happy to help him. We laughed and went to the next town on our route, but it was a beautiful night and it was very fortuitous.”
As part of a study abroad program, CSU Pueblo has exchanged students with the University of Bergamo and the University of Turin since 2009. The program was briefly suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, but CSU Pueblo will host one student from the University of Bergamo and two students from the University of Turin this fall.
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“Our agreement is that we will help students take courses, obtain financial aid, arrange housing and necessary support for international students … This is nothing new for CSU Pueblo,” Mottet said.
While CSU Pueblo has funds set aside for international exchange programs, the university also seeks community partners to support exchange students who come to Pueblo and vice versa. The university has exchange programs around the world, but the exchange program with Italy is important because of Bergamo’s status as one of Pueblo’s sister cities, Mottet said. .
Program allows select CSU Pueblo students to learn about history and explore Italian roots
CSU Pueblo students who wish to study abroad in Italy can spend a semester or summer at one of the Italian universities taking intensive courses in Italian language and culture, embarking on trips to museums and attractions across Italy and taking other courses towards their degree.
“The international experience is really a culturally rich experience where you study Italian with students from all over the world,” Picicci said. “The common language will always be Italian in the classroom. Some students in this class…there is no default language. It’s exciting because everyone is forced to use the Italian all the time.”
Sergio Mendoza-Chacon, a CSU Pueblo student who spent a summer abroad in Bergamo, said his Italian skills improved significantly thanks to an intensive course, despite only lasting two weeks. Through cultural courses, he learned to prepare authentic Italian pizzas and pies. He also visited the Gaetano Donizetti theater and several churches in the region.
“It’s almost like you’re in a movie,” Mendoza-Chacon said. “The beauty of the city and its history combined with the course make it an amazing place to study abroad.”
To study abroad in Italy, CSU Pueblo students must be at least 18 years old and have a minimum 2.5 GPA. Picicci also recommends that students take at least one or even two years of college-level Italian courses before studying abroad.
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CSU Pueblo students studying abroad typically study for their Bachelor of Arts degree at the university’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. However, the program has also hosted majors in chemistry and engineering, among other disciplines.
Studying abroad has been particularly popular with students of Italian descent looking to get in touch with their roots.
“I think it’s important to connect our students to their heritage, whether it’s our Italian students or our Hispanic students,” Mottet said. “First and foremost, if we can help them better understand their heritage and their culture, where they come from, I just think that’s a pretty invaluable part of their education that allows them to go from here. and feel connected to the wider world.”
While at CSU Pueblo, Picicci said he heard all kinds of stories about students having “life-changing” experiences after studying abroad in Italy. An engineering student got a tattoo of Bergamo’s skyline before heading home. Another, a non-traditional student adopted at a young age in New York, has reconnected with her Italian biological mother and now lives in Florence.
Those interested in learning more about study abroad programs at CSU Pueblo can contact the Center for International Programs at Inclusive Excellence at 719-549-2329 or email the Assistant Dean of Student Support and Advocacy Bonnie Fruland at [email protected]
Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at [email protected].