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FIU Course Gives Students A Visitor's View Of Miami - For Class Credit

For a decade, Florida International University art professor John Bailly has watched his students discover other countries.

Bailly leads the FIU Honors College study abroad program, and spends a few months of each year showing students around Europe.

“In Italy, I take students to Cinque Terre. It’s on the Ligurian Coast. It’s beautiful, crystal clear waters,” Bailly said. “And I had a student that had grown up in Miami. The first time he ever snorkeled was with me in Cinque Terre.

“I thought, ‘why don’t we do Miami?’”

This semester, Bailly is teaching a new course, designed to let students explore Miami like tourists. Many of them are seeing the place where they grew up in a whole new way.

“In a sense, the place that we know the least is our home,” he said.

The class of 20 students is planning to canoe out to Chicken Key — owned by the Deering Estate, where Bailly is an artist in residence — for some local snorkeling. They’ll also fill their boats with trash that washes up there from nearby beaches.

The group is going to hike in the Everglades and visit a burial ground of the now-extinct Tequesta Native American tribe. They’ll see a private art collection in Wynwood.

“Honestly, I haven’t even heard of most of the places that Bailly’s going to be taking us,” said Gabriela Lastra, a senior criminal justice major. She’s from Cuba and has lived in Miami for about a decade.

Her friend Blanca Alcaraz is also a senior, majoring in finance. She was born in Colombia and has lived most of her life in Miami. What she’s most looking forward to about the yearlong class is what they’ll eat.

“I’m honestly excited about the food. The culture of the food,” Alcaraz said.

“Oh yeah!” Lastra joined in, excitedly. “Finding the perfect croqueta!”

“Usually, all that we eat are the chain food restaurants that we see around our area,” Alcaraz said.

During a recent class, the group hopped on and off the Miami Metrorail, visiting the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum in Coral Gables, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Coconut Grove and other locations along the train’s route.

For lunch, Bailly and his students stopped at Jackson Soul Food in Overtown. The family business was founded in 1946.

Lastra and Alcaraz both ordered barbecue ribs, and they purposefully chose different sides, so they could try as many as possible.

After a long day of walking in the sun, the meal was “worth the heat and the sweat and everything,” Lastra said.

“So good.”

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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