When I came to William and Mary I never imagined that by the time of my senior year I would be completing a research paper in Italian. I took only the bare minimum required by my high school, and as a result was required to complete 4 semesters at the College. At first, it was rough; I’ll never forget my first day of class freshman year when I walked into the room and Professor Angelone addressed everyone in lively Italian- I couldn’t tell you what she said, naturally. At the completion of my required study, I was at a crossroads- could I let those two challenging and rewarding years be for naught? I had come to respect and love the language, and enjoy studying the culture. At the beginning of my junior year, I made the decision to embark on an internship in Florence through Global Experiences the following summer, and to spend the year further improving my Italian.
Last May, I departed from Buffalo, New York for Rome. After the flight, I took a train to my apartment in Florence. I am a small-town girl, so thankfully my roommate from the program was a street-savvy college student from New York City. After a tumultuous few days of jet lag, getting lost, and other unfortunate incidents such as shattering our stovetop and searching for antibiotics, we began to adjust. I bought a bus pass, and my roommate bought a bike, and we learned the fastest routes to our friend’s apartments.
By the end of June I finished the language school and began my internship at an English-speaking newspaper. I edited articles, wrote advertisements, and transcribed news clips from Italian into English. It was an invaluable way to get to know the city in a short amount of time- I learned about popular restaurants and clubs, and even interviewed a couple of business owners in the city. The network of friends I made from the newspaper was diverse-from a professor, to a restaurant owner (for whom I helped transcribe a menu), and two wonderful young women, a German and an Armenian, who went out of their way to make sure I felt welcome.
The experiences that changed me the most, however, were the unplanned moments- bike riding through the campagna in search of a lake on a beautiful Sunday afternoon with my roommate and some Italian friends, nighttime Vespa rides through the sleeping city, hopping a train for Ferrara, discovering a beautiful church on the hill near Fiesole. Those were the moments that solidified my love for Italy. Some may say that my experience was skewed by the fact that I was a college student in Europe, but I can assure you that my feelings are deeper. I miss the vibrant appreciation of culture and beauty, and the slowness of the culture. Even when there were impending deadlines for the newspaper, we still took time for a long break with a glass of wine and some fruit. People walked slower, and when you ran into someone there wasn’t this itching need to wrap up the conversation so that you could continue checking off your to-do list. I also miss speaking another language every day- there’s something liberating about it, almost as if you can speak more freely if you don’t hear what is said in your mother tongue.
Though I had only been living there for 9 weeks, I had become accustomed to my life, and since coming back have missed it a great deal. I have begun genealogy research on my great-great grandfather, who immigrated from Caulonia, Italy via Naples to New York in 1907, to work in West Virginia. I am also completing a minor in Italian. I registered for an independent study with Professor Ferrarese, which is serving as a capstone to my experience. I have been researching musical culture during the Fascist period. So far, I have learned a great deal about how political changes affected the type of music that was popularized during that time. As a Music and Government Major, I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity to delve deeper into my third, unexpected passion, Italy.