Italian Cultural Exchange: From the Students’ Perspectives


We want our students to have a global view in their work, one which draws on cultural, social, and economic interconnections to create a context for design. As part of the FIU Interior Architecture’s Cruise Ship & Super Yacht Design Certificate’s Italian cultural exchange program, naval architecture students from the Università degli Studi di Genova study for a week at FIU, working in teams with FIU Interior Architecture students, and then FIU students travel to La Spezia, Italy to work with the same students at the Promostudi La Spezia, Polo Universitario G. Marconi campus. Each group of students thus has the opportunity to travel abroad to examine a different perspective on boat design.

Below are two recollections written by Katrina Best (FIU Master of Interior Architecture student) and Riccardo Menin (Bachelor’s in Industrial Design – Curriculum Yacht Design and Master Degree in Ship and Cruising Vessel Design student).


Katrina Best, FIU Interior Architecture

Our time spent at the Polo G. Marconi Campus of the University of Genova in La Spezia was edifying in many ways. It was an unparalleled learning experience, on both an educational and personal level.

During the week spent working with the students from Italy, we were able to gain a greater appreciation for the technical elements that need to be considered when designing the interior of a yacht. However, aside from learning about the technical elements of yacht design, one of the great takeaways from the exchange was being exposed to a different design methodology.

We were challenged to understand the Italians’ process and find a way to bridge cultural variances in order to create a successful interior space. This also helped us to hone our skills in effective listening and communication. In the face of globalization and the changing landscape of design, this was undoubtedly an invaluable life lesson.

Another important cultural lesson learned was the importance of a work-life balance. The school life in La Spezia is considerably different from that in Miami. In Miami, we often take advantage of and for granted FIU’s 24-hour architecture studio access. The campus in La Spezia closes promptly at 7pm daily and the students make “la cena” a priority. Many times the members of our class forgo dinner to work on assignments. It was a good reminder that taking time for yourself does not mean that you have to sacrifice the quality of work that can be produced.

Lastly, but by no means least, the cultural exchange was invaluable simply because of the relationships we formed with the Italian students. The chemistry between the two classes, for such a large group, was extraordinary. Everyone seemed to gel, and this connection showed in the quality of projects produced by each team. Certainly some lasting friendships evolved as a result of the exchange.

Riccardo Menin, Università degli Studi di Genova

The international exchange with Università degli Studi di Genova and Florida International University played an important role in our growth.

Future jobs in the design industry presuppose the need for a hardworking disposition and perfect synergy within a team. The intensive team experiences facilitated by the cultural exchange workshops definitely allowed for the realization of this kind of training.

The comparison method, the hard work, and the exchange with the FIU students was a significant opportunity and an important part of our development. Though our method of working was different that the American method, we had a similar work ethic, and this combination created projects that have made both parties very proud.

Working for long hours, day and night, for a week in the classrooms of FIU’s campus was so different from the European standards, but it was a great experience and a great honor for us.

Having worked closely with students from a different continent and with a different background has enriched our experience and has contributed to our growth. It has given us a fantastic opportunity to meet not just people, but friends.

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