Undergraduate institution: College of Charleston
Undergraduate major and minor: Exercise Science/Italian Language
Graduate Studies (year, institution, degree):
2008-2010, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MA in Romance Languages
2010-2016, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, PhD in Romance Studies
What have you been up to since attending Umbra?
Upon my return to the United States, I knew that I wanted to get back to Italy as quickly as possible, and the best way to return seemed to be to pursue graduate school in Italian. My last year of college, I was the president of the Circolo Italiano at College of Charleston and worked very hard to keep improving my Italian and finish my minor in Italian language so that I could either study or teach in Italy. I have spent the past eight years on and off in graduate school, first for my MA in which I completed a thesis on Matteo Garrone’s film Gomorra and its similarities to Italian neorealist film of the post-WWII period. After completing my MA, I taught beginning Italian and ran the Italian film club at Istituto Lorenzo de’Medici in Florence on exchange from UNC for the 2010-2011 school year. I then returned to UNC to complete my PhD in Italian, but during the process was hired by my undergraduate alma mater, College of Charleston. For the past two years, I have taught Italian language and literature at College of Charleston while completing my doctoral dissertation that explored the presence of the Italian politician Aldo Moro in Italian film and how his portrayal in film has changed over the almost 40 years since his murder. In the summer of 2014, I was the recipient of the American Association of Teachers of Italian (AATI) Teacher Study Grant to further my language studies at Babilonia Institute in Taormina, Sicily.
How has studying abroad impacted your life both personally and professionally?
Studying abroad changed my life forever! I knew as soon as I was finished with my semester at Umbra that I wanted to pursue a career in Italian studies. My research that I have done for both my MA and PhD were inspired by courses that I took at Umbra, such as Prof. Peter Fischer’s History and Politics of Modern Italy, Prof. James Schwarten’s Modern Italy: Culture and Society, and of course my advanced Italian class with the wonderful Valentina. I have also had the opportunity over the years to teach courses on Italian for Travel for a private language school and have developed travel documents, useful vocabulary, and insider tips for traveling in Italy based on my experiences that started while studying at Umbra. I also advise many of my students on where they should study in Italy, and Umbra is always one of my first suggestions.
What are you doing now?
I am now teaching Italian language and culture courses at College of Charleston as well as the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC. I teach grammar courses of all levels (beginning-advanced), as well as a literature course I have developed on the Italian Detective Novel. I also got married during grad school and my husband and I are expecting our first son, to whom I hope to teach Italian when he is born.
Are you still in touch with the friends you made in Perugia?
I am still in touch with my roommates, as well as some classmates and friends I made at Umbra. I was the only person from my undergraduate institution at Umbra during my semester, so I had to make a lot of friends, but everyone was so kind and open. I have had a few reunions with my roommates and friends over the years, and some of us still talk on the phone about once or twice a year. I also ran into a friend from Umbra while I was teaching in Florence and he was in jewelry making school there and we were able to hang out a few times. I also went back to see Umbra once with some friends I made in Florence who had also studied at Umbra.
What is one piece of advice you would give to prospective students thinking of studying abroad?
Really think about what you want to get out of the experience. When I was trying to choose a program, I ended up at Umbra because I wanted to be in a smaller town where I could improve my Italian language skills, as well as immerse myself in the vita quotidiana (Italian daily life). Do you want to go to Italy to trace your family roots, learn more about the culture, pursue an internship, etc.? Lots of people just want to go to Italy because it looks pretty in pictures, but you should really consider what you want to get out of the experience of study abroad and how it will help you in the years to come.
What is one piece of advice you would give to students studying abroad (during or after their experience)?
Something I tell all of my students is that when studying abroad, really immerse yourself in the culture. The great thing about Umbra and Perugia in general was that Italian was the common language, not necessarily English, so I was really able to improve my speaking abilities through attending the Tandem exchanges and using my Italian with classmates as well as people in the community. Also, go outside your comfort zone! Don’t just go to the McDonald’s or the Chinese place to eat, try all types of delicious Italian cuisine, because you will never get such good food again. Order food from the butcher or baker. Use your Italian in every situation! The people of Perugia really appreciate it and will help you along.