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MIT Italy program is a hit with students

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The coordinators of the MIT Italy Program will lead an orientation in the West Lounge of the Student Center on September 19 from 6-8pm. Last year's participants will talk about their experiences working and living in Italy.

A recent addition to the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), the MIT Italy Program was launched in 1999 following Prime Minister Massimo d'Alema's visit to campus. The program is sponsored by a grant from the Council on Italy and the US, as well as by a consortium of member companies including FIAT, FIAMM, Pirelli and Telecom.

Professor Richard Locke, Serenella Sferza and Sigrid Berka, program coordinators, will introduce the former participants and discuss the application process.

Describing the MIT Italy Program, Professor Locke, the Alvin J. Siteman Professor of Entrepreneurship and Political Science in the Sloan School, said, "It is an extremely innovative program, combining classroom study of Italian language, history, culture and politics with real-world experiences in the country. Italian companies are delighted to host our students and, based on our experience last year, MIT students seem to benefit tremendously from the program as well."

At the orientation, all aspects and requirements of the new program will be discussed. Refreshments will be provided. Interested students should bring their resume and should fill out an application form on line or e-mail Dr. Sferza at

MIT students participating in the first year of the MIT Italy Program were placed in Italian companies, academic institutions and non-profits.

Bev Thurber, a junior majoring in math and humanities with a concentration in archeology, and Rebecca Hwang, a sophomore in brain and cognitive sciences, did their own big dig this summer with the Footsteps of Man Cooperative. Ms. Thurber and Ms. Hwang set out to find new engraved rocks, trace the art and catalogue figures.

Kim Luu, who received her master's degree in environmental engineering in May, will spend four months on "How to Save the Venice Lagoon," a project established by Professor Paola Rizzoli of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Ms. Luu works at the Council of National Research running a numerical sediment transport model of the lagoon to determine waste water pollution.

Commenting by e-mail from Venice, Ms. Luu wrote, "I came to Italy specifically because I fell in love with the country when I studied abroad here during undergrad. Also, I wanted to improve my Italian. I like the pace of life here and the little things, like bakeries and stopping by the vegetable boat on my walk home from work, instead of buying food to last weeks at a time at Star Market. I feel really lucky to be able to live here. I would definitely recommend international work experience."

The MIT Italy Program also supported the dissertation work of some graduate students in a variety of departments.

Tito Bianchi, a graduate student in urban planning, is pursuing his dissertation research in conjunction with the ISFORT research institute in Rome. Mr. Bianchi studies the transportation costs incurred by small enterprises in the nascent industrial districts of the Italian South. He will be in Italy for one year.

To prepare its interns, the MIT Italy Program sponsors a variety of language and culture courses, in particular, Italian I and II taught by Professor Daniele Benati.

Directed by Professor Suzanne Berger of MIT's Department of Political Science, MISTI already has highly successful internship programs in China, Germany, India and Japan, and next year will add France to the list.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 2000.

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