Umbra Professor Antonella Valoroso went on Rai’s well-known Italian radio show Voci della Città (Voices of the City) recently. She spoke about The Umbra Institute’s very own “Progetto famiglia italiana,” which is an experiential learning project that allows Umbra students to make short, repeated visits to Italian households to provide material for cultural comparisons. By putting them in an environment with Italian peers and their parents, it allows them to more easily see the differences between Italian and American home life while both improving their spoken Italian and giving the host family an opportunity to practice their English.
The project has also given Prof. Valoroso a unique perspective into her own culture. She specifically cites a study done by New York Magazine in the showing that 85% of Italian men didn’t know how to use a washing machine, whereas the vast majority of American teenagers are all too familiar with them. This, according to Valoroso, is an enormously important part of the dynamic in home life, and one that derives entirely from the Italian mothers’ unwillingness to let go of this power by teaching their children how to wash their own clothes. This may be a possible reason for which the average Italian child doesn’t leave home until just after turning 30.
The Progetto famiglia italiana is an optional experiential learning component of Professor Valoroso’s normal course, Contemporary Italy: Culture, Society, and Trends. The project, which has been running for four years now, is one of The Umbra Institute’s many community engagement initiatives, which also include internships, service learning projects, and volunteer opportunities.