Category: Students

EU in Focus Day 3: Down to Business

A group of 20-year olds infiltrated the EU Commission building and held back-to-back meetings this past Monday, October 30th. The young adults were all students travelling in representation of New York University, forming part of the institution’s annual trip to Brussels, Belgium.

“This is an extraordinary group”, reluctantly admitted Professor of Comparative Politics at NYU Florence, Nicolo Conti.

Well, perhaps ‘infiltrated’ is the wrong word. Yet being granted the privilege to take part in a conversation held at a EU conference room felt quite surreal. This is what I mean by infiltrating; we jumped a few steps. We were by far the youngest crowd within a 5-mile radius.

Our first session was held in the Council of the EU at 10:00 a.m. with Maurizio Di Lullo. Di Lullo is a Political Administrator, focusing on climate change, he also takes part in the Coordination and Horizontal Affairs Unit; he is a member of the Environment, Education, Youth, Culture, Audiovisual and Sports Directorate and the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union.

Throughout the meeting, Di Lullo discussed several characteristics behind one of the most recent outbreaks in Environmental Politics: The Paris Agreement. The speaker put much emphasis on the gravity behind the eminent threat that is climate change and explained the measures the EU is taking to help combat the issue as well.

At the end, several questions were raised by the students; some oriented towards the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and how the decision might affect the treaty’s effectivity. Di Lullo responded by saying, “I think that there is no way back from the Paris Agreement. Because everybody is in and is convinced that this is the only way. In the US, basically what I see, is some people who are not willing to go along. But that is something that we have seen already for the last 20 years. In the conservative (atmosphere) there is apparently a reluctance to go along with this but what we see in the rest of the US is that action is being taken, what matters the most is not the legal framework”.

Our next speaker was Susanne Nielsen, also a Political Administrator, member of the External Relations, Asylum and Migration Unit, Home Affairs Directorate, and General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. Nielsen’s focus is immigration policies, a currently very heated area given Europe’s on-going immigration crisis.

Nielsen presented the immigration policies that have sprouted from the EU’s current crisis, and the many issues arising. Nielsen informed the students of the degrading conditions of the Hotspots claiming this to be one of the pressing concerns. Hotspots are locations where the asylum-seekers remain before they are legally transferred into another European country for refuge. In her conference, Nielsen claimed “some have given up, some have asked for voluntary return to their country of origin. Which is why we are seeing very low number of crossings”.

The morning meetings were followed by lunch with Walter Parrs who is a Programs and Exchanges officer at the US Mission to the EU. Parrs had much to say regarding the manner with which the United States is perceived abroad. He re-assured many students that the GOP has not swayed the EU’s willingness to work with the United States, yet that many were left stunned after the elections.

Parrs also touched on his personal experience, explaining how he conceived the position he currently holds.

After lunch, NYU Students had two more presentations to attend, both taking place inside the European Commission building. The European Commission is occupied by what some would call the EU’s ‘government’ as it is the governmental entity in charge of proposing new policies.

At the European Commission, we were greeted by Alexandra Kiel. Ms. Kiel forms part of the Unit Inter-institutional Relations and Citizenship, Directorate- General Migration and Home Affairs.

Kiel’s session focused on European immigration policies and enumerated some of the objectives the European Commission is attempting to achieve, amongst them: “the abolition of people smuggling networks, and emergency relocation proposals”.

To conclude our day, we had Mr. Pascal Delisle walk us through the main characteristics of the Paris Agreement. Delisle went through all the major threats that are direct effects of global warming and emphasized the need of a treaty such as The Paris Agreement.

All conferences were equally valuable, and presented the students with unfathomable opportunities such as visiting these typically off-limits institutions and highly influential officials. When asked about the trip, the NYU Florence Student body agreed on the trip’s effectivity in widening the student’s understanding of the European Union and its institutions.

 

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

EU in Focus Day 2: Acting, Museums, and Waffles

Museums, role playing, waffles, chocolate, without a doubt Day 2 in Brussels was filled to the brim with back-to-back activities that kept us on our feet 24/7.

Thankfully, we all got a good night’s sleep since our adventures were only scheduled to start at 10 am. So right after a nostalgic and finger-licking-good American breakfast, we all meet in the hotel lobby to begin our walk to the Parlamentarium.

The European Union’s Parlamentarium is the visitors’ center of the European Parliament. The attraction is not only educational, but also extremely engaging. Its main objective is to lead visitors through the creation of the European Union and the ins and outs of the European Parliament.

We started off our visit with an interactive role playing game. The simulation had us pretending we were Ministers of the European Parliament. It even divided us into different political parties and gave us objectives on which we had to reach a consensus.

The process undergone by proposals before becoming directives was the entire basis of the game. We experienced how ministers of parliament work within the Committees, the European Parliament itself, and even inside the party’s offices.

“To see what they go through, not only on a day-to-day basis, but also how the laws are passed. It’s hard to compromise. For me personally, I would have preferred being in a different political party that disagreed more with my own personal views. I definitely agree that it gave me a better understanding of how the European Union works, which is why I wanted to come here” NYU Florence student Isabel Schmieta kindly gave her opinion on the stimulating experience.

And the day did not stop there. Two museums came into play after our lunch at the Parliamentarium’s café. We first visited the Parliamentarium’s own museum. The exhibit was organized in such a way that as you walked through the institution, you were going through a timeline of the European Union. Videos, complimentary audio recordings, and interactive displays all led you through the European Union’s way of coming into being and the various challenges its even facing today.

By the time we exit the building, it is 3 pm and we are ready to move on to our next activity: the Magritte Museum. The Magritte was a 20-minute walk from the Parliamentarium—a great excuse to see some of Brussels’ tourist attractions and insane architecture. The name kinda hints at what the museum focuses on: surrealist Belgian artist René Magritte.

Trust me, you know who René Magritte is. Ever heard of the picture of the pipe with the footnote: “ceci n’est pas un pipe”.

The Treachery of Images by René Magritte

If you haven’t, now you have. That’s the guy.

The museum held an extensive collection of his works. Including student Matilda Mahne’s favorite: Treasure Island. Take a look.

“Treasure Island” 1942, Renè Magritte.

We wrapped up the evening with a dinner at ‘Le Cercle des Voyageurs’ composed of a 3-course meal, salmon and all. Can’t remember when was the last time I ate at that level ever since I went into college.

But the best is yet to come. Tomorrow, Monday October 29th, we will be meeting with political administrators and general secretariats at the European Commission. Stay tuned.

 

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

EU in Focus: An Insight into European Politics Day 1

Let’s start from the very beginning. Which, and I am definitely not complaining, would be incredibly early in the day. 4:45 am to be exact. You know they do flights around these hours so people end up missing them. You just know it.

The first batch of students, Antonio Di Meglio, Dylan Liang, Brian Wang, WanChen Zhao, Jordin Tafoya, and me, Oriana De Angelis, were the lucky winners of Lufthansa’s 6 am morning flight to Frankfurt. From there, we would catch a second plane to Brussels.

Yet, you know what was beautiful? The fact that despite it being 4:45 am, the time when Ana Dicu—the head coordinator—requested we meet up and ride together to the airport, everyone was up on that bus, radiating smiles and 110 percent ready to take on this journey. We had been waiting for this ever since that first EU in Focus session with the distinguished NYU Florence Professor, Nicolò Conti.

Fast forward to 2 pm when we arrive to the hotel—I slept through most of the flights, sorry kids. We drop off our bags, then instantly set out in search for food and do a little sightseeing around the city, waiting for the next set of students to reach Brussels.

 
A brief description of Brussels: aligning the streets are christmast-townish looking homes, the after-math of the city’s Art Noveau oriented design. The skies are cloudy, and the temperature slightly chilly, Brussel’s climatic characteristics.

It was 3 pm when the rest of the students arrived. Around an hour after they joined us, we were taken to the House of European History by our lovely coordinator. It was an astonishing museum, with tablets guiding you through their exhibits and narrating the history behind every piece on display.

NYU Florence student Syanne Rios gave her opinion on the museum, saying how “the way everything was displayed was very contemporary. It presented very interactive and engaging exhibitions.”

Isabel Giacomozzi, a NYU junior stuyding abroad in Florence as well, expressed a positive experience too, describing the museum as “wonderfully self-aware of all the flaws and triumphs underlying Europe’s history”.


The museum’s appeal was evident, large credit goes to the wide variety of artifacts that put emphasis on every historical event, giving Europe’s history a strong feel of realness, even to non-Europeans (most of the NYU student body).

Afterwards, we all walked back to the hotel, where we had dinner with another of NYU Florence’s star professors, Gian Luca Sgueo. Professor Sgueo provided students  with a brief overview of his work in the European Parliament Research service. Sgueo described his work as a policy analyst, claiming that the institution “takes requests from European Institutions to conduct research on certain policies, particularly European citizen’s rights, lobbying, and democracy”.

The professor answered several questions from the students as well, creating an immersive dialogue and providing us all with an ever more extensive understanding of the European Union’s values and tasks.

And this was just day one. Can’t wait to see what else Ana has in store for us!

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

LPD Semester in Review


During the first week of the semester, new NYU Florence students were jet lagged, struggling to unpack, meeting new faces at orientation week, discovering Conad, and marvelling at the Duomo. Some of us needed to adjust to the nonchalant staring of local Italians, and some of us continually failed to bring our own bags to the grocery store. We fell in love with Za Za, Gusta Pizza, and Edoardo’s gelato. It took a lot of time management to juggle booking flights, travelling, academics, and connecting to people back home. Regina Onorato, an NYU Washington Square senior, reflects that studying abroad has “made me more aware of my identity. Trying to adjust to a new language and culture is tough, but rewarding.” While studying abroad, students often undergo a lot of self-exploration and are challenged to rethink their established beliefs and perspective. This is the spirit of LPD – to encourage a deeper exploration of important issues and topics in the humanist tradition of Florence.
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Empowering Women in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

On Monday night, NYU Florence students Yana Chala and Alice Huang kept the ball rolling on student led dialogues with their conversation, “Empowering Women in STEM”. The event brought together a panel of three women in tech: Caroline Dahl, Patrizia Guitani, and Svetlana Videnova. The panelists were of varying ages, from different countries across Europe, working in different fields and companies. Yet, it was remarkable to see these three women who had never met before share their common experiences and challenges of being a female minority in the tech field.

Alice Huang kickstarted the event with the dichotomy between Nichelle Nichols’ progressive idea of science, and the continuing reality of female underrepresentation in science that seems to lag behind Nichols’ aspirations for the field.

“Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going.” – Nichelle Nichols (former NASA Ambassador and actress)

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Don’t Miss ‘Empowering Women in STEM’!

April 24th, 6:00 p.m. at Villa Sassetti, Via Bolognese, 120, 50139 Firenze

Abstract: The dialogue “Empowering Women in STEM” is a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and locally engaged initiative, designed to promote diversity and female presence in the STEM fields in Italy and Europe. The movement to increase female presence in the STEM fields has grown over the past several decades. However, the issue still remains and is underestimated. The stereotypes in today’s society make it hard for minorities to prove their qualification for jobs, having to agree to lower pay and even face sexual harassment at the workplace. Breaking stereotypes and holding truthful conversations is crucial in the process of raising awareness in society. The goal of “Empowering women in STEM” Dialogue in Florence is to step away from stereotypical images of the scientist, initiate a diverse and inclusive discussion, and share ways of getting involved in the movement. Respect and inclusion are the keys to fighting the problem of female underrepresentation in STEM. Read more

We The Students

«Istruitevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra intelligenza. Agitatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutto il nostro entusiasmo. Organizzatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra forza.»

“Instruct yourselves, because we will need all our intelligence. Stir yourselves up, because we will need all our enthusiasm. Organize yourselves, because we will need all our strength.”

(Antonio Gramsci, the first issue of L’Ordine Nuovo, May 1 1919)

On the evening of Wednesday, April 13th, over thirty NYU Florence students gathered around a banquet table in Villa Sassetti to participate in a discussion around the mobilization of identity and revolutionary activism. Among the students sat two great political activists and scholars: Angela Davis and Gina Dent.  “We the Students” created by Wendy Koranteng was the first student-organized La Pietra Dialogue of the semester.

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Middle East Now: Initial Reactions

A crowd of people were already overflowing onto Via Camillo Cavour from the packed Cinema La Compagnia when I arrived. It was strange to see the area so lively, especially on a Tuesday night. April 4th was the opening of this year’s Middle East Now film festival in Florence. Marked by a musical performance by Bachar Mar-Khalife and a screening of Last Men in Aleppo by Firas Fayyad (the winner the Sundance film festival), the festival had drawn in Florence and all of the seats in the cinema were filled from 9pm to midnight. I could go on for hours about the rollercoaster of emotions Last Men in Aleppo put me through, but I think it is better for everyone to watch it for themselves. Read more

Civil Society Activism and Democracy: Risks and Promises

“Civil Society Activism and Democracy: Risks and Promises” will analyze non-governmental organizations, think tanks, foundations, universities and activists that act as agents of participatory democracy at both the national and global levels. The dialogue was organized by NYU Florence professor Gianluca Sgueo and will take place on May 2 at 6 p.m. in Villa Sassetti. It will feature journalist and activist Angela Gennaro, scholars Jamal Shahin and Vigjilenca Abazi, and lawyer Giulio Carini.

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