Indiana University continues its strong ties with the University of Bologna (UNIBO), the oldest university in Europe, through student and faculty exchanges. The Bologna Consortial Studies Program (BCSP) for undergraduates from IU and affiliated universities is still going strong, wrapping up its 52nd year this summer. Meanwhile, an IU graduate student participated in the first research exchange in Bologna last Fall, through the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, and two IU students participated in a week-long institute at UNIBO this summer. Faculty from the University of Bologna have visited IU over the years as well, to present their latest research and collaborate with faculty here.
The BCSP now includes 14 U.S. universities, but Indiana University is its administrative home. Andrea Ricci (Ph.D., ’02) has served as Resident Director since 2003, helping students navigate the Italian university, where they take classes alongside the Italian students. The program also includes a few courses taught specifically for the BCSP students, including the essential Advanced Course in Italian Language and Culture. This past spring, the course had a new theme: the industrial development of northern Italy, with a focus on businesses related to food and fashion in the Emilia-Romagna region. Class excursions included visits to the Lamborghini/Ducati museum, a production site for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and the Giorgio Armani museum (Silos) in Milan.
IU students continue to recognize both the challenges and great rewards of studying abroad in Bologna. Katie Hudgins, BCSP participant in Spring 2018, noted that “it is extremely challenging to adjust to a new way of life in a foreign environment,” but she was grateful for the lifechanging experience. Preston Gilts, who studied in Bologna this past spring, agrees with Hudgins’ assessment. “Studying in Bologna was simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding experience of my life. It is exhausting to think and speak in a language that you began in college, but it’s so exciting to notice yourself rise from being nervous about ordering a coffee to successfully talking about politics and life experiences.”
Kathleen Sideli, managing director of BCSP and associate Vice President for Overseas Study at Indiana University points out that “BCSP is one of the few remaining language and culture immersion programs in Italy today since most providers and institutions offer programming in English to U.S. students. BCSP students are able to successfully integrate themselves into Italian life given the program resources that support the full immersion experience.”
During the Fall 2018 semester, Ph.D. student Marzia Bagnasco spent a semester at the University of Bologna as part of IU's new graduate scholar exchange program. Bologna was an ideal place for her to pursue her study of how migration is treated as a theme in recent Italian cinema, and using such films in Italian language pedagogy.
“Bologna is internationally recognized as one of the best places to study films in Italy and in Europe,” says Marzia, citing the Biblioteca Renzo Renzi (Cineteca di Bologna) as a specific research hub. “Bologna is a unique place,” she says, “with ancient origins and astonishing medieval architecture.” She especially enjoyed the feast of San Petronio celebrations at Piazza del Nettuno. Petronio is the patron saint of the city, and each October 4 Bologna hosts a religious procession, a variety of cultural activities, and fireworks. The next graduate exchange scholar going to Bologna will be Zane Elward, a Ph.D. student studying 20th-century Italian history.
In June 2019, two of our Italian Ph.D. students attended the UNIBO summer program Mediating Italy in Global Culture. Carlotta Vacchelli and Sara Dallavalle found out about the program from UNIBO professor Luca Barra, who visited IU in March to give a talk about trends in contemporary Italian television fiction. Barra is one of the main organizers of the summer program, which focuses on how film, television, digital media, and other modes transmit Italian culture, and how foreign countries interpret the “Made in Italy” brand. Both Carlotta and Sara happen to be pursuing Ph.D. dissertation research on Italian comics, so the seminars and excursions of the summer institute put the pop culture production they study into the greater context of contemporary Italian cultural exports to the world.