”A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Marcus Garvey
When you choose to earn your degree abroad, you are embarking on an immense, culturally enriching journey; this means that the educational experience consists of every moment spent inside and outside the confines of the University. There is much to learn in the process of getting an education abroad: every action, from grocery shopping to taking public transportation, is different in a new country and therefore becomes a priceless secondary education. Having said that, consider the fact that when you do choose to study in another country, there will be many cultural aspects that you may never understand without proper research or explanation, and many barriers that without assistance could be difficult to penetrate. So what are the benefits of majoring or minoring in Italian Studies at John Cabot University?
- Learn, or perfect, a second language
One of the biggest differences of studying in Italy as opposed to any other country in the world is that the language barrier is Italian! Since Italy is the only country where Italian is the primary language, it’s not widely offered in primary public education. Italian, however, is beautiful: the language of artists, poets, musicians… and chefs! And as a language with Latin roots, you may discover that your understanding of other romance languages, and even English, may improve. JCU offers a broad range of Italian courses at different levels that satisfy the requirements for a major or minor in Italian Studies.
The difference between speaking or not speaking Italian while in Italy will undeniably alter your entire experience. It’s easy to distance yourself from your surroundings when you do not understand the language, but once you begin to understand it, you notice smaller details, you interact more, and you inevitably feel differently toward the country that is hosting you. When you are able to understand the staff at a restaurant and order in the local language it is an utterly gratifying action; similarly, being able to communicate with locals beyond the generic small talk of the weather will produce a collection of seemingly unnoteworthy interactions that will, in retrospect, in fact increase the value of your overall experience.
2. Contextualize your surroundings
Comparable to knowing a certain amount of history about your own country, understanding the historical background of your host country is essential to a meaningful experience abroad. In a country in which art and history are so deeply ingrained in society, it is especially important to put in the effort to learn about your host culture.
Rome, in particular, boasts an impressive abundance of art and history, practically on every corner! The Italian Studies minor offers not only courses in Italian language, but also in art history and classical history classes. The Eternal City is built on the foundation of an ancient civilization, literally, and this is visible throughout the course of an average day, with ancient Roman ruins on display next to the corner pizza place or a baroque-era fountain down the street from your apartment. It is nearly impossible to escape the underlying history that is waiting to be excavated during your time in Rome.
3. Become mindful of cultural differences
There are many obvious differences between the Italian culture and almost every other culture in the world. It is true that Italians are passionate and outspoken; however, perhaps not to the extent of their stereotypes. In the process of integrating yourself into a new culture, it is important to set aside the predispositions that have been sewn into your mind by stereotypes, and perhaps by Hollywood dramatizations, to embrace this new culture with an unbiased disposition. Accepting the fact that every culture and society functions in a particular way because that is what works for that set of people is essential in understanding and interpreting cultures and peoples.
It is one thing to enter a new society while maintaining your home country’s habits, traditions, language, and standards of what is normal and acceptable; but it is an entirely different thing (and essential, in my opinion) to strip away these views and approach a new culture with an open mind. A major or minor in Italian Studies will teach you not only the importance of culture, but also how to interpret the many sides of it.
Shelby Leigh Bradley
Class of 2016
Hometown: Clinton, New York, USA