A few months ago I was walking to my Italian culture class at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), I looked down at my phone to check the time and saw that I had a missed call from “the Washington DC Area.” With excitement, I called back the number and was told that I had received the Sant’Anna Institute-Sorrento Lingue (SASL) Scholarship from the Order of the Sons of Italy in America (OSIA). My Italian culture teacher had written one of my letters of recommendation for my scholarship application so I was able to share the joy immediately! That was the first step of this amazing experience.
I have been in Sorrento for just over a month now and cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. When I first found out about this opportunity through OSIA I looked at it from an academic standpoint instead of the life-changing, growing experience it has become. I study history and Italian at UCSB and it is my dream to learn, write and teach about Italian-American History. My time here at SASL has helped improve my ability to speak Italian astronomically and has also given me a new understanding of Italian culture in southern Italy. Previous to my arrival in Sorrento, I had traveled to northern Italy to visit my family in Tuscany numerous times, but I had little knowledge of the beauty that the region of Campania had to offer. Here at SASL, I have been able to visit Pompeii, Napoli, Vesuvius, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Ercolano, Ischia, Procida, Capri and my personal favorite, the Castle Reggia in Caserta. These excursions went above and beyond all my expectations. They have also been a great way to meet other students and real Italians.
Meeting new people has been the most enriching part of this experience. I live with my new Italian mamma, Maria, who won’t stop feeding me. Even now she is calling me to the kitchen for lunch, which will surely include four courses of pasta, meat, salad and fruit! In class, I have studied with people from Japan, Norway, Sweden, Austria, France, Finland, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Canada and Guatemala. There are also many students from all over the United States who come to take courses at SASL, ranging from beginning Italian language to Italian cinema and archeology. The teachers are all extremely energetic and motivated to teach, most of them have the ability to teach numerous disciplines. Together we make SASL a fun and exciting place to learn and grow.
Along with meeting new people, I have found myself. The young woman who received this scholarship before me wrote about her dilemma of being Italian-American and how when we are in the States we are the “Italian girl” but when we are in Italy we are the “American girl.” I have come to the same conclusion as her, we are neither Italian nor American but this special mixture of Italian-American that lets us enjoy and celebrate both cultures. I look forward to bringing back my language skills and experiences to Santa Barbara in the fall. I thank my parents, first and foremost, for instilling in me the importance of embracing my Italian heritage, as well as SASL, OSIA and everybody else who helped me receive this wonderful scholarship!