REVIEW OF Canadian College Italy BY Alum, Mat Dean
- Date of Review
February 28, 2023
- Grades (year)
Gr. 12 (2000 - 2001)
- University (major)
University of Waterloo (Religious Studies)
(5) Overall Experience
Attending CCI was transformative, it was the catalyst for emerging from the chrysalis of youth into something more, something greater. To be placed in a new environment, one steeped in history, tradition, and knowledge, and to experience all the monumental events of adolescence within this space, has an almost-mystical effect on the psyche. Even now, more than twenty years later, many memories shine golden in my mind, forever etched in the warm vibrant colors of a Kodachrome-like vision. Speaking practically; the small classes afforded great attention to individual students, the community of students became more like family, given that meals and all aspects of life were shared together, and the extra-curricular activities and weekend trips certainly exceeded what would be experienced back at home.
(5) School Leadership
Of course, like any school, there were instances in which students acted or behaved outside of the approved parameters, but given the mandate of the school; to foster a safe and nurturing environment for students to learn and grow during some of the most formative years of adolescence, far from home - I think that CCI excelled at the task. It is no small task to give enough space and freedom to students to allow for growth but to still maintain the boundaries expected of caregivers, and CCI balanced these forces harmoniously. There were formal processes in place for instances requiring disciplinary action, there was no shortage of people to ask for advice for instances requiring guidance, and the rules were fair, applied equally, and never appeared punitive, but were rather purposefully restorative.
While I do not think any staff from my time as a student would still be at CCI, I am glad to have learned from and experienced all the teachers that I did. More than any other teacher, I would think that the Italian teacher is the most memorable. She was more than just a teacher of the Italian language, though I do still retain a working knowledge of the language even now, she was an introduction to Italian history and culture. The history of Italy, and even of the town, of Lanciano, stretches back beyond the reach of written text, and the culture is rich and complex, and Professoressa Parente brought all of the culture and history into the classroom. The core subjects were all taught by teachers well steeped in the subjects, and the enthusiasm of the teachers was palpable; teaching at CCI is as much an adventure as being a student- everyone is happy to be there and this attitude is palpable.
I would imagine that certain aspects of the school will have changed, it was still a relatively young school when I attended. But, even then, CCI was sure to provide a comprehensive and high-quality learning environment. For chemistry, as an example, the school rented space in an actual chemistry lab nearby- and it remains the only time in which I have been in a professional chemistry lab. I would imagine that the process is different now, but the commitment to quality is certainly the same. The teachers worked hard to provide the best opportunity for learning. The students were, like any student body, varied in their response- but those that were set on learning, the studious ones, found ample support for their endeavors- with space and resources for study groups, and help from teachers when needed.
The extracurricular activities fall into two categories; school trips and daily groups/activities. The school trips offered the sort of experiences that truly set CCI apart- weekend trips to Florence, Rome, Venice, the Adriatic coast, and Naples/Pompeii offered a chance to see the art galleries, churches, and museums that hold some of the world's finest art, architecture and greatest works of Western civilization. The daily groups/activities ranged from horseback riding to chess club and included things like sports leagues, Italian culture club, yearbook committee, and more. Each group and activity was an opportunity to learn and experience new things and surely added to the growth of each student.
The student body at CCI was delightfully eclectic and complex in composition. While there is certainly a portion of students from upper-income families, many having attended one or several other prestigious private schools, there were also simply students from everywhere. Some students were Canadians with parents that worked overseas, others were just from far-flung parts of Canada or the US. Some had never left home, and others had been students at four or more boarding schools or lived in a half dozen countries prior to attending CCI. Some students spoke three or four languages. But, because the student body is not large, and because we share meals, and all other experiences, we quickly became something of a family. Friendships were deeper, and connections have lasted longer- I am still in regular contact with some classmates, all these years later. There was what Victor Turner calls 'communitas' - we shared an almost sacred bond, as a community sharing the CCI experience.
(5) School Life
There can be no group of people of the size that CCI was when I attended (approximately 100 students and perhaps a dozen faculty) that is wholly happy, passionate, and fully engaged. People are, put simply, diverse and complex. But, I think that the general atmosphere was a positive one. Many students and faculty were cognizant of the opportunity afforded them by being in Italy, and every day was a chance to learn, to experience, to live more fully. I think because CCI is not an overbearing institution with a larger-than-life 'part of the Establishment' history, students and staff do not carry the idea of being part of some legacy; and I say all of this in a positive manner. CCI is a new adventure- it is unbound by preconception. Student life was, put simply, an adventure- a chance to experience something new, nearly everyday.
Given the physical distance between parent and student, parents were not directly involved in the CCI community, though many parents visited at some point during the year. I have kept in touch with a lot of the other students, though certainly not all 100 of them, but given that we are more than twice the age we were as classmates, I think that it is commendable that we are still in contact. We share something unique, and that can never change. As for the town of Lanciano; of course, we interact with parts of the town on a daily basis, when we attend the local café for a pastry or gelato, or the delicious local restaurants, and the town has a warm affection for the school.
(5) School Location
The school is not exactly an island, but it is certainly distinct from the rest of the town, given the differences in language. But the school is nested right in the old quarter of the town, not at all sequestered or 'apart'. We passed through the streets of Lanciano to get from the school to the Allegria (the 'school restaurant' that provided us with all meals), a short walk away. Though you could stubbornly avoid interacting with Lanciano, and work hard to never learn any of the local language, customs, or meet people- this would take a concerted effort and would be to the benefit of no one. Encountering, and experiencing Lanciano is nearly inevitable and is highly recommended.
Admissions were not stressful. I think I spoke with someone from the school prior to attending, and the experience was pleasurable. I would not consider the admissions process to be the barrier to entry; what is the largest hurdle to overcome is the leap into the unknown required of a student, especially if they have not lived away from home (or abroad) before. I do not mean that CCI is nebulous in presentation and inherently unknowable, rather I mean that even with the excellent information provided and interactions between prospective students and faculty, to one day board a plane and leave home to become a student living *in Italy* is a big step. If you can take that step, the hurdle has been overcome. Admissions are supportive, not restrictive.
(5) University placement and counselling
Because of the small student body size, I definitely feel like I was provided with the resources and guidance to aid in the university admissions process. One-on-one meetings with the guidance counselor gave me a chance to explore all options and admissions processes were made easier because of their help. I was heard, my desires and ideas were fostered, and the process worked well. I was so sure at that point in the life of what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to attend university (not knowing, of course, that I would change my major, and my school, several times- and later change careers several times too- but we must forgive the confidence of youth and not confuse it with ignorance!) and the process was made easy for me.