Alumni Association Travels to Italy
It was, by any measure, a huge success: the “maiden voyage” of the Sacred Heart University Alumni Association. Eleven participants, led by Alumni Relations Director Kristy Cioffi, who is herself a member of the Class of 2002, journeyed to northern and central Italy to feast on a virtual banquet of culture and art and history – not to mention the food!
Matthew Telvi ‘09, a Political Science/Business Economics graduate, was on his second international tour – this one, quite different from his trek across Australia five years ago. Now a staffing coordinator, he has stayed active in alumni affairs. Still, when he signed on initially, he was not aware of any of his friends who would be on the journey. By the time everyone assembled at JFK, he knew a number of familiar faces would be on board and, “once we all met in the airport, I knew we would all mesh together very nicely.”
For Patrycja Joczyn, who grew up in Wroclaw, Poland, this was a kind of homecoming. “I wanted to go back to Venice where I had spent my summers as a teenager. I was also looking forward to learning more about history, culture and art of Florence and Rome,” she recalls. Although she didn’t know any of her fellow travelers beforehand, she feels it was great to reconnect with the SHU’s staff and alumni. “I would like to be more involved in SHU alumni affairs going forward,” she said. And she is hoping the association will consider future forays to distant spots – like South Africa and Egypt. Patrycja is a 2001 alumna in Finance and International Business with an MBA in Strategic Management.
According to Kristy Cioffi, the SHU party traveled with several other groups. The first night out, the Pioneers gathered for a nightcap to discuss the day’s big events and plan for the excursions to come. “Over the course of the journey, those evening socials became a kind of magnet for the others, and by the end of the tour, everyone knew where to go for good fun and companionship.”
Matt Telvi had very particular ideas of what he wanted to get out of the trip. “I wanted to get my first taste of Europe and having an Italian background, I was very excited to start in Italy. There were two major things that I wanted to do while there. One was to visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Doing this was breathtaking and astonishing. I could not believe the art work in both Saint Peter’s Basilica as well as the Sistine Chapel. The artistic design and knowledge of history of the Catholic tradition just made the journey complete.
“And the second major thing was to visit ancient Rome: one of the most powerful dynasties and empires ever. As a Political Science alum, I found it fascinating to walk the same cobblestone streets and ancient buildings like the Coliseum as Julius Caesar, Augustus, Constantine the Great and gladiators like Spartacus. With the trip coming to a close in Rome and Vatican City, it truly made the trip a great success for me personally.”
SHU’s tour leader, Kristy Cioffi, had an even more personal connection with the Rome adventure. Her maiden name of Pacelli was still on her passport, and Roman officials would immediately recognize it as the family name of Pope Pius XII, who is her blood relative. It was an impressive calling card.
But that warm welcome seemed to be extended to the SHU travelers wherever they went. As Patrycja Joczyn puts it, the group was made up of “laid-back, kind, adventurous and open-minded people with a great sense of humor!” Part of the journey’s success was due to thoughtful planning as well. This inaugural tour took place slightly off-season in November. That meant much lower rates and far less waiting in line and jostling with crowds. The group finagled a great group rate in sunny Venice, for instance, and packed a gondola that during the summer would have been crowded and more expensive. And in the Sistine Chapel, they were at their leisure to drink in Michelangelo’s wonders.
The SHU itinerary included must-see locations in northern and central Italy such as Florence, Venice and Rome – and it snuck in a few memorable extras like visiting Assisi and the tombs of St. Francis and St. Clare, as well as Lake Lugano in Switzerland. It successfully illustrated that a Sacred Heart education doesn’t need to end at graduation and that “Pioneers for Life” can continue to grow and learn together and strengthen friendships over a lifetime.
The program is off to such a successful start that a second adventure is planned for alumni and friends from July 11-21 visiting the Imperial Cities of Europe: Prague, Vienna and Budapest. As with this outing, most all the details will be accounted for ahead of time, so all that is needed in a spirit of adventure and a desire to learn. For further information, consult the Alumni Relations by clicking here.