Academic journal article Italica

Instilling Reflective Intercultural Competence in Education Abroad Experiences in Italy: The FICCS Approach + Reflective Education

Academic journal article Italica

Instilling Reflective Intercultural Competence in Education Abroad Experiences in Italy: The FICCS Approach + Reflective Education

Article excerpt


The importance of international education in developing globally competent citizens is indisputable. However, regardless of the large number of students from the United States who choose to undertake an experience abroad (more than 260,000 students were recorded for the 2007/2008 academic year) (Institute of International Education [Opendoors], 2009), there is still much discussion among educators about how best to achieve effective results in this endeavor. Siena Italian Studies (SIS) at the International Center for Intercultural Exchange is a private, Italian-run study program in Siena, Italy, whose primary goal is to foster the development of intercultural competence. SIS has developed a system combining its own instructional approach called FICCS (Full-Immersion: Culture, Content, & Service) along with reflective education to carry out full-immersion study experiences with the goal of developing a reflective intercultural competence in its students. Through this reflective intercultural competence, the student can become a globally competent citizen, capable of facing and interacting with different cultures throughout the course of his/her lifetime with awareness and sensitivity.

Overview of International Education in Italy

According to the Institute of International Education's 2009 report Opendoors, Italy is the second most popular destination for American students studying abroad, placing behind the United Kingdom, and before France, Spain, and China, respectively. The "study abroad business" has become a bustling trade in Italy, seeing more than 25,000 American students come and go each year (Opendoors, 2009). What has resulted in countries such as Italy, however, is the development of countless "island" programs with high enrollment numbers which, in effect, recreate the atmosphere, services and academic structure of an American campus, often employing American or American-trained staff and faculty. Of course, the objective of an American undergraduate embarking on a semester or year abroad is to gain some exposure to a foreign culture while continuing one's college education. But what do these students actually take away with them from their experience? For some it has been the experience of a lifetime; they've perhaps made significant improvements in their language skills, made an authentic and meaningful connection with their host family and Italian friends, been able to absorb and metabolize the cultural riches of Italy, and have begun to observe the societal complexities of Italy today. Unfortunately, for the majority of American students studying in Italy this isn't the case. They tend to arrive at their campus away from home, make friends with the other Americans in their program, often opt to live amongst themselves, and, while they, too, study Italian language and topics in Italian culture, they are often busiest planning their next weekend elsewhere in Europe and taking advantage of the virtual absence of a legal drinking age. Who can blame them really? Any 20 year old American student would find it very difficult not to lose himself/ herself in the excitement of spending an extended period of time on a continent as accessible and culturally diverse as Europe, whose laws governing alcohol sales and consumption are much more lenient in comparison to those of the U.S.

Siena Italian Studies: Objectives

The challenge, therefore, is to provide the student with the necessary skills to create an environment where intercultural competence can be cultivated. This active and constant effort to develop an intercultural competence in students abroad has become the cornerstone of SIS's intercultural philosophy. SIS considers itself a "gentle" full-immersion program. The term full-immersion for SIS doesn't simply mean instruction in Italian, Italian language study, and accommodations in a home stay; rather it is a means to an end, a method with which to develop an intercultural competence. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.