Italian Students at SSC: “Forza ragazzi!”
By Dr. Anna Rocca, Department of Foreign Languages
“Forza ragazzi!” is an Italian expression that highlights success while emphasizing encouragement. In this case I will use it to recognize the value, effort and tenacity of our undergraduate students of Italian. The Italian minor, recently established thanks to the efforts of Dr. Elizabeth Blood, has really started to shine in the last academic year. For the first time, two upper-level courses ran: in Fall 2009, ITL 354, Italian Composition Through Film, and in Spring 2010, ITL 353, Readings in Italian. Both hybrids, they had an exceptional enrollment of thirteen and twelve students. We often wonder what makes a minor successful, and as is often the case, it is the result of a combination of people’s efforts and the right circumstances.
The first factor accounting for the success of the program comes from a newly established fellowship by the Italian Government. Now SSC students of Italian that are planning to become future teachers have the opportunity to spend three to eight months in Italy. Signed in October 2009, between Dr. Carlo Cipollone from the General Consulate of Italy in Boston and myself, the agreement will give one fellowship per year to our students, which includes: a monthly stipend of approximately $800 and the opportunity of attending Italian universities for free while learning teaching methodology in high schools of northern Italy. Two of our students, Tania Buonopane and Antonio Ciruolo, recently applied for a fellowship in January 2010.
A second major factor in our success is the devoted work, all too often under-recognized, of our part-time Italian professors: Richard Strager, Lisa Di Nanno, and Rayanne Menery. The success of lower-level courses is in fact the first step of our development! Other factors are no doubt initiatives such as movie nights, guest speakers, and the implementation of the affordable summer study program in Florence. Collaboration with the outside world has also been important. This semester, for example, Alex McNally, treasurer of the Italian Club, has been invited to the first Student Intercollegiate Italian Summit Boston meeting held at Harvard University, with the aim of connecting SSC students of Italian to the larger community of colleges in the Boston area.
Last but not least, the success of the Italian program comes thanks to the incredible variety, energy and enthusiasm of our often nontraditional students, bringing to class the flavor of their heritage.
The following are some of the comments made by some of our students about our program, about study abroad in Italy, and about what Italian means to them personally:
Tania Buonopane: “This past summer I traveled to Florence, Italy. As an Italian minor at SSC, I decided a great way to truly learn Italian was to immerse myself in the culture and language at La Università di Firenze. The city was beautiful and the classes were wonderful. Very educational, and fun at the same time. People from all over the world were studying there and I made lasting friendships. It was difficult at first to get used to the different culture, but SSC Study Abroad did a great job in preparing me, and Professor Rocca was just an e-mail away! I would highly recommend the Florence summer program as a study choice for Italian minors. A great city, a great school, and a great culture, Florence has it all!”
Alex McNally: “Firenze, Italia, is a destination of mine for this coming summer, where I will attend the Florence summer program. I have always wanted to study abroad in Italia, the origin of my family roots. My interest in the language and culture of Italy became inherent as a child, cooking with my aunts and mother. I believe that an immersion into the culture and language of Italy will offer me better communication skills and the ability to teach using first-hand experiences. During the Italian conference at Harvard I was given the advice to go abroad anytime I am able. I learned that there are many other students who share my same enthusiasm for the culture and language of Italy. Listening to the experiences of previous abroad studies I discovered that the opportunity to go should be fought for with passion and determination. To gain the ability to experience Italy within the schools on its soil would be an honor and privilege to be cherished. I hope to further my passion for Italy so I can fall in love with Italian, an expression given to the passion needed to teach Italian in its fullest.”
Gissette Polanco: “While I have happily forgotten most of the Latin I learned during that high school academic year, I still remember that twelve day Grand Tour of Italy by EF Tours most of the class participated in. The experience was more than worth-while. I could spend hours at art museums admiring works by Renaissance artists, eating Italian cuisine, and taking photos of beautiful buildings. Thanks to the two years of Italian I have taken at SSC, I have actually retained some of the information and the next time I go to Italy, I will actually be able to understand some of the language, partake in some conversations, and thereby improve my Italian. I will go abroad this summer and participate in the Italian Language Summer Program in Florence for various reasons, including my desire to improve my Italian language skills. If my Italian drastically improves, I may not struggle so much when I take the Italian MTEL this fall. If I am fortunate enough, I may even be able to lodge with an interesting Italian family to give me an insider’s guide to daily life in Italy. Next step? Become a future teacher of Italian in the US, of course.”
Robbin Crandall: “I love studying Italian. It’s my minor. I’m very excited to be able to go to Italy this summer to study at the University of Florence and I’m also entertaining the idea of teaching abroad as well. I love everything about Italy: its beauty, its people, and of course, its food!”
Chandra Sheehy: “In middle school and high school, I studied Spanish for six years, and to this day I still cannot speak even the most basic sentence. When I was a senior, I began to study Italian and found I had a facility for the language. I felt the language had such a wonderful cadence, I wanted to be fluent. Upon entering the Italian program at SSC, after more than a year off, I expected to struggle. However, my experience here has been a surprise. The professors make it easy to learn, the classes are fun, and ultimately you are encouraged to continue.”
Kayleen Rossio: “My motivation to study the Italian language and culture began in music. While studying opera I started to sing and learn about Italian art. I now hope to continue to pursue my interest in Italian and study and live abroad.”
Angela Calitri: “I’m an Italian minor and studied in Rome, Italy, during the spring semester of 2008. Studying abroad in another country was the best experience I have ever had. I lived right next to the Vatican City. Every day it was an adventure for me and every weekend I traveled to another country. It was a fantastic opportunity and if you have the chance, do it! I would not trade it for anything in the world.”
Cristina Paternò: “I’m an Italian minor and my family is from Sicily. In the past, I lived in Sicily for three years and it was an unforgettable experience. I became familiar with a completely different culture. In Sicily, they have a traditional lifestyle and they are very modest. People are friendlier and this is why I like to go there at least once a year.”
Lyndsey Frithsen: “Last year, I went to study in Florence at the Lorenzo de Medici School. I took classes of Italian literature. I wanted to go to Italy because I love the culture and the language and wanted to be completely exposed. Life in Italy is very different than here. They enjoy life and do everything slowly. I felt safe in the small city of Florence.”
Jillian McNamara: “I study Italian because I want to understand my heritage. Although no one ever believes me, I am half Italian. Through studying Italian at SSC I have felt more connected to my Italian family than ever. Italian is such a beautiful language and one day I hope to travel to Italy and be able to truly appreciate the culture.”