Bursaries provide opportunity of a lifetime for two Lakehead students

Study Abroad recipients
(pictured from left) John Zussino, lecturer, and Dr. Isabelle Lemee, associate professor, from the Department of Languages, Michael Fayrick, Rhapsody Shepard, Mark Piovesana, president of the IISLU, and James Aldridge, Vice-Provost, International. 

April 25, 2024 - Thunder Bay, Ont.

Two Lakehead University students will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and learn in Italy this summer thanks to the Institute of Italian Studies at Lakehead University (IISLU).

Third-year political science student Michael Fayrick and second-year concurrent education student Rhapsody Shepard have each received a $2,000 bursary from the IISLU. This bursary will allow them to participate in a transformative four-week program in Siena, Italy in May, organized by the University for Foreigners of Siena in collaboration with Lakehead International.

The program offers students from diverse backgrounds a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in Italian language and culture through structured language study, extracurricular activities, and excursions.

For Fayrick, a third-generation Italian Canadian, this is the opportunity to discover more about his heritage and culture. “My mother’s side of the family came to Thunder Bay from Italy so having the opportunity to go abroad to learn about my culture and the language is going to be awesome.”

Learning how to read and speak Italian will also support two of his passion projects: research into the rise of early Fascism in Italy and the translation of his Nonno’s Second World War Italian Army service records.

“I wouldn’t have considered this opportunity without the support of the Italian Institute,” said Fayrick. “It’s incredible and I love the principle of why they are supporting a program like this – to promote Italian language and culture and ensure that it carries on across generations.”

Shepard always wanted to learn as many languages as possible. Initially quite shy, learning languages allowed her to feel like part of a community but also allowed her to keep a sense of independence.

“As the only one in my family who can speak more than one language (English), I see multilingualism as something of my own that I can make something of and decided to keep pursuing it in university,” she explained. “I think language is fun and I want to make it fun for others.”

“I’m excited about the experience and cultural aspects of studying abroad in Italy. While you can learn a language anywhere, truly understanding its depth requires immersing yourself in that culture and actively learning and hearing it over an extended period.”

Shepard believes this experience will greatly enhance her comprehension of Italian and support her ambitions of becoming a high school language teacher. “Grazie! I want to thank all the language professors at Lakehead, and the Italian Institute for their passion and for providing this opportunity. It motivates me to continue learning languages, knowing that these opportunities for development are possible.”

Mark Piovesana, president of the IISLU, said the Institute is pleased to partner with Lakehead International to offer this opportunity to students.

“Our mandate is to promote and preserve Italian language, culture and history in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario,” Piovesana said. “These bursaries are just the beginning, igniting interest and opportunities for Lakehead students eager to embrace Italian language and culture. We hope that this bursary will encourage other students, whether they are studying art or engineering, to enroll in language courses at Lakehead.”

According to James Aldridge, Vice-Provost, International, global mobility programs, such as the one in collaboration with the University for Foreigners of Siena, help students build critical global and intercultural competencies.

“As we continue to foster a culture of internationalization on our campuses, we are grateful to partners like the Institute of Italian Studies for supporting scholarship opportunities that allow our students to have language and cultural immersion opportunities where they not only learn new language skills, but hopefully gain the critical intercultural competencies that we know are important for job success and navigating the modern globalized world,” he said.

“Thank you to the Board of the IISLU because without this support we wouldn’t be able to offer this outstanding opportunity for students.”