This may surprise people who know me, but studying Italian at William & Mary has been a joyful four-year-long leap out of my comfort zone. I came to William & Mary dreading the language requirement because it would cost me twelve to sixteen credits – time that I could otherwise spend studying something I was actually interested in, I thought. I still remember deciding to quit Latin after three years of taking it in high school and how my teacher told me it was a big mistake because I would have to take another language in college. “Have to.” She made it sound like such a chore, which left me regretting my decision after it was too late to turn around and register for Latin IV. Today, I’m so thankful I decided to quit – a sentence this perfectionist never thought she would hear herself say. Within the first week or two of taking Italian it dawned on me that I might have stumbled into something that I was going to end up loving. When I met with my pre-major advisor after I took Italian 102, she made it a point to remind me to finish my language requirement, and I still remember laughing and telling her that the requirement was the last thing driving me to take Italian. The fact that my expectations were blown away so powerfully pushed me to realize, at the very beginning of my freshman year when I was still a nervous eighteen year-old navigating the world of college that seemed way too big for me, that going into something with an open mind can reveal passions that you never may have thought you would develop. If you’re like me and are worried about a class you have to take that is outside of your comfort zone, remember that you never know whether or not you may end up loving it. You may even change your major or minor because of it!
I’m continuously challenged by the Italian courses here as well as by my peers, all of whom are some of the most intelligent and passionate people I’ve ever met. I think this is the benefit of a small program at a liberal arts school: we come from the most diverse variety of majors imaginable and are united by our mutual love of Italian. The broad range of majors and backgrounds in our tiny program means people’s reasons for studying Italian vary greatly. Some students are fascinated by the rise of fascism and the political trends of the 20th century, and they find themselves well at home in Professor Ferrarese’s classes on modern Italian history and politics. Others enjoy studying the linguistic patterns of Italy, which is rich with dialects and regional languages. Also among the students who study Italian are artists, chefs, musicians, architecture scholars, film lovers, polyglots, and passionate TAs, all of whom study Italian for different reasons and contribute new perspectives to the study of the language and culture.
Looking back on my four years of studying Italian at William & Mary, I realize that the diversity of ideas and interests within the program is one of the major reasons why I love it so much. I’ll forever be grateful that I decided to live in the Italian house because being surrounded by countless different perspectives on the Italian experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone and deepened my understanding of the culture. I’ve been introduced to music, cuisine, films, and ideas that I know I would have never considered if I hadn’t surrounded myself with the amazing Italian community at William & Mary. My passion for Italian is, before anything else, a passion for the language itself: the way it sounds, the logic of the grammar, and the excitement that I still feel when I realize I can now understand something that used to sound like gibberish to me. Making friends who know so much about the other aspects of Italian history and culture can feel intimidating at first, but I now realize that’s why our Italian program is so special because we continue to challenge each other even after four years. As I look toward graduation, I can’t help but fear the possibility of losing my Italian skills rather than continuing to improve them like I want to. But as I look around right now at all the incredible people I’ve met through William & Mary’s Italian program, I’m reassured that I’ll never be done with my study of this beautiful language and fascinating culture. For me, the study of Italian is a lifelong journey that I’ve only just begun.
– Katie McGhee, c/o 2016 (Psychology, Italian Studies minor)