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GIG off the ground in Italy!

Photo of GIG Italy launch event in the Salone Grollo
Move over MedRen month, 2019 is in full swing here at the Monash University Prato Centre.

Our programs have begun with the launch of the first-ever Global Immersion Guarantee program in Italy. Known as GIG for short, this is a funded overseas study experience for all Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Global Studies, and related double degree, students to China, India, Italy, Indonesia or Malaysia at the end of their first year of university.

Through a three-week pre-departure module and a two-week in-country immersive experience, GIG students are guided to think about the human impact on the environment, and how to balance environmental protection and sustainability within economic and social development. Through guest seminars and site visits, students engage with people and organisations already working on these issues. This gives them the opportunity to gain an understanding of the complexities and challenges involved in implementing sustainable and innovative solutions.

“Italy is an ideal location for students to explore issues such as urban development, the impact of tourism, and the balance between economic development, heritage and environmental protection”, explains Associate Professor Sarah McDonald, Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Arts, Monash University. GIG Italy students participate in seminars with academics from the University of Florence, University of Siena and Venice’s Ca’ Foscari on topics including sustainable tourism in Italy and the Sustainable Development Goals. The program also involves a visit to local textile factories to see how these companies seek to meet the challenge of operating sustainably in an era of fast fashion. The students then travel in smaller groups to either Venice or the Cinque Terre to gain insight into local issues such as the contentious MOSE project, which aims to protect the Venetian Lagoon from flooding during high tides.

Students return to the Monash Prato Centre to work through their field experiences and undertake their assessment tasks before heading to Rome together for a briefing at the Australian Ambassador’s residence and other site visits. The first GIG Italy group also had the opportunity to meet Antonella Santilli, the head of sustainability of Italian company ENEL, the world’s largest producer of renewable energy.

All 40 students in the first GIG Italy group attended the program launch event in Prato on 9 January. Dr Greg French, the Australian Ambassador to Italy, and Mr Matteo Biffoni, the Mayor of Prato, generously gave of their time to speak with students at the launch, as did local councillors Daniela Toccafondi and Simone Mangani. From Monash Australia, Professor Abid Khan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement), Associate Professor Sarah McDonald, Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Arts, and Associate Professor Kevin Foster, Head of the School of Languages, Literature, Cultures and Linguistics came to support the launch and A/Prof. Foster is staying on to teach into the GIG program.

Other education programs taking place in Prato this month are: the Monash Business School’s unit Current Issues in Business, and its international study program in accounting, and banking and finance, which will take students to several different countries in Europe; the Monash Education International Professional Experience where 16 future teachers are practising their skills in schools in Prato; the University of Hartford (a private university in Connecticut, USA) study abroad program examining the history, culture, art and dramatic literature of the Italian peninsula; and 15 students from Canning Vale College, a public secondary school in Western Australia, are here to learn Italian language.

It’s certainly another rich month of globally-focused education programs here in Prato. We share students’ experiences on our Facebook and Instagram pages so please follow us to see photos and learn more. You can also find out more about the Global Immersion Guarantee on the Monash Arts website.

Pontetorto textile factory

Photo: Monash Arts GIG Italy students visiting the Pontetorto textile factory in Prato.