American students choose Valencia (ok, and London and Florence too) for their ‘European’ experience.
London, Florence and Valencia are all delightful cities with many attractions for tourists. Another thing that they have in common is that all three have been selected by Florida State University as European cities in which to set up centres for their students to spend some time during their degree studies, extending their knowledge about European cultures without interrupting their academic work.
Ignacio Messana is the Dean and Director of the Valencia centre, situated in a beautifully restored and modernised building with accommodation for 90 students next to the emblematic Serranos Towers.
Florida State University (FSU), with around 40,000 students, is one of the most important in the USA, having been founded in 1851 in state capital Tallahassee. Its international programme began over 55 years ago with a site in Panama and reached Europe in 1967 with the establishing of the Florence and London Campuses, this last one next door to the British Museum.
The adventure in Spain began in 1997 when they set up in Madrid, moving to Torremolinos the next year. After only a year, a planned trip to Madrid had to be changed due to accommodation problems and was switched to Valencia at the last moment. The then director fell in love with the warm January weather and the other charms of the city and when FSU International Programs Director, Doctor James Pitts, paid a visit, coincidentally during the internationally famous Fallas festival, he and his wife fell in love with Valencia, and the decision was made to stay.
After setting up initially of the Polytechnic University campus, FSU finally bought their present headquarters in the historic centre. Ignacio, a graduate in business studies from both the University of Valencia and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, learnt his English during a series of stays in Dublin, first as a 13 year old student and then as a monitor, and developed his linguistic and other skills as the Commercial Manager of a multinational company in the robotics sector before joining FSU as Assistant Director in 2000, and becoming Director the following year.
He leads a staff of almost 30 Americans and Spaniards, about half of whom are teachers, teaching a wide range of about 25 subjects, including Spanish language, business, humanities, anthropology, archaeology, accountancy, fine arts and hostelry. The FSU students who come to Valencia range from freshmen to final year students, who may stay for a term or for a whole year.
Apart from their academic subjects they take part in a variety of cultural visits both to other Spanish cities and to local places.