Student Abroad

By Heather Matley

Sophomore theatre performance major Melissa Marino on her semester abroad in Italy:

“I learned Italian over the past two years at our university, studying and practicing it. I have currently been in Italy for a little over two months now, and I can definitely say that knowing the language has greatly improved my experience.

Many of the students here – particularly Americans, I'm afraid – came here with very little to no knowledge of the language, and in my opinion their experience has suffered because of it. They hang out only with English speakers, only take international classes, and make no effort to learn the language or culture of this beautiful country.

Being able to speak a base level of Italian has helped me to meet real Italian students and live the lifestyle and culture of Ital.  For instance, instead of finding things I recognize in the supermarket, I know which Italian things would be good.  Often with friends, I get invited to Italian-style coffee after and while I admit I don't understand everything, simply speaking, listening, and making mistakes has helped me greatly improve my language ability.

It even helps me not be taken advantage of: many people will take advantage of English-speaking tourists, and I have actually been able to save money, help friends with doctors visits, and save international students from being scammed because of my knowledge of Italian.

My biggest piece of advice to a student going abroad would be to learn some of the language, even if it's only a class or two, practicing and just doing it will help you learn. I would also say don't be afraid to meet the people of your country. It's really easy to get caught up in the ‘international group’ of people who leave the country every weekend and only hang out with each other, and if that is what you know you want to do with your experience that’s fine. However, for me it's sad not to be able to really experience the country you're staying in other than the occasional meal and Instagram post.”

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