Florence – MSc in Natural Resources Management, thoughts from a Kenyan graduate

Mr. Joshua Otinga is a Kenyan graduate of the MSc in Natural Resources Management for Tropical Rural Development offered by the School of Agriculture of the University of Florence, in partnership with the Agency. Joshua graduated on 28 October 2016, with honors. We gladly publish his reflections on his experience in Italy.

• The day was finally here: after planning, preparing, and anticipating, I was finally beginning my European journey. I boarded a plane to Florence, Italy, at JKIA Nairobi, with no clue as to what the next fifteen and half months would bring. I was nervous, anxious, and beyond excited. Overall, the experience was an absolute blast. I was worried about the culture shock of a new language, new location and new food. Finally I arrived in Florence, which is centrally located in Tuscany and one of the most beautiful places in the world. It also serves as an education hub for students from different corners of the world.

The MSc Programme was perfectly suitable with my ability, passion and interest in the field of environmental earth resource management. My academic journey started almost immediately after arrival in Italy. What stunned me was the mutual learning in our classes. Our tutors were so open minded and were more than willing to learn from students. This made our lessons more lively and interesting. In-class lectures were integrated by a number of field visits and guided tours. It is from these visits that I realized we had a lot of potential of renewable energy resources back in my home country (Kenya) from solid wastes that like many other developing countries is a big headache. I discovered that solid waste perceived as a burden was a great asset for green energy.

We were fortunate to have Italian classmates who were more than willing to take us through the ancient sites. The ancient sites were really spectacular, and it was hard to even grasp the time period in regard of our own lifespans. I found it hard to make sense of looking at a building completed 1900 years ago and thinking how it survived through such massive political, social, cultural and even atmospheric changes.

Florence was like a puzzle composed of thousands of pieces so many streets, alleys, nooks and crannies to explore. Over the course of our time there we visited half a dozen museums and churches and there was still another dozen we wanted to see that we never got a chance to see. Every day we would travel through different paths of the city center and every day we were rewarded with new shops, chapels and bridges to see. We spent our free time exploring and had a fully guided tour on the penultimate day of our stay.

We stayed at the Agency’s Training Center in Campo di Marte, overlooking the main Florentine stadium. We did not plan for it but our stay coincided with major events for instance the visit of Pope Francis in the stadium which brought things to a standstill. We felt so much excited seeing the pope live and opening of some church doors that open once a year and it will remain my biggest memory ever. In addition to this, we witnessed the epiphany procession at the Duomo which was as well a historic event.

We saw the most incredible fireworks we have ever seen over Arno River. Besides these we always enjoyed to walk along the beautiful cobblestone streets of Firenze to Mercato Centrale for the freshest fruits you will ever lay your hands on. Our trips to Tuscany made it clear why people make such a big deal about the region surrounding Florence. The landscape is amazing with views from every hilltop.  Piazza Michelangelo was one of the viewpoints to watch sun set while enjoying live band music. Above all, Vatican was pretty incredible. The art was amazing and massive cathedral was impressive. It felt great being in the famous Saint Peters square that served as wonderful place.

Today, as I traverse my town to attend to different matters, I always wish I could be walking along the Arno, the Duomo guiding me to wherever I need to be. I could get an iced coffee anywhere I turn to. I long for that delicious Italian cappuccino from the café near my former apartment. I learned so much about myself and grew up in ways I never would have imagined, and I made amazing friends and memories that can never be replaced.

It is truly a life-changing experience. I love and miss you more than you will ever know, Firenze. You will always hold a special place in my heart. For sure Italians are warm, welcoming people who love to relax, celebrate and socialise with family and friends. This celebration and relaxation usually take place around the table either at home or in a restaurant, where they can enjoy the traditions of the Italian cuisine.

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