Italia in Ohio is more than a language opportunity,
it’s a way to connect with others traveling the same path.
I’ve always been a traveler and a lover of language. My early influences included grandparents from Poland and Germany. Growing up in Detroit, my mom never learned English until she was in the 4th grade. She continued to speak fluently with my aunts and grandmother but only used Polish in our home to delight us with a few words here and there or give us commands like “get going kid”. Far away places, foreign foods, customs, and people have always intrigued me. My travel bug hit early. At age 13, my parents put me on a train from Detroit to Chicago to visit relatives who lived there. I stayed with my grandmother’s sister and her husband, my uncle Gus. Uncle Gus and I spent a lot of time together and I learned about his journey from Russia to America and his struggle to learn English. He told me (with his thick Russian accent) that it was his goal to learn at least one new word each day.
The opportunity to explore countries, primarily in Europe, started in the late 90s when I attended a family wedding in Belfast, Ireland. In 2003 as a grad student at Capital University, I was asked to travel with undergrad students to Spain where we explored Madrid, Avila, Salamanca, and Toledo. I loved using my limited Spanish-speaking skills to connect with shop owners and waiters. It was the first time I realized that I didn’t necessarily need words to communicate or to develop a connection. A smile, “gracias”, “de nada”, or a small tip got me a nod of recognition and tapas. It was the first time I would experience what I call reverse recognition – receiving an extra tapa or aperitif from the waiter was their way of connecting with me. A thank you, possibly. Whenever this happens I feel honored.
In 2004, I got to experience reverse recognition again when I spent 2 months in Rome as part of my graduate studies for my concentrate, Healthcare Across Cultures. I fell in love with Rome, Italy, the people, the food, and all things Italian. As a transitional student at La Sapienza, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing professor, Julita Sansoni. At the time, Professoressa Sansoni was the only PhD in Rome. Since then, she’s worked tirelessly to develop nurse professionals. Many of them I’ve had the great pleasure to get to know while living there and have stayed in touch with over the years. I try to return to Italy ever 2 to 3 years to maintain connections. When I go to Rome, my friends make me feel like royalty and my circle of contacts continues to grow. I love and cherish each and every one of them.
My journey towards Italian language proficiency has been slow. Becoming good with any language takes daily practice and exposure. Italia in Ohio has provided me with ongoing exposure to the language, customs, food, and people. I’m thankful for the many friends and teachers I’ve met. They are more than fellow students or mentors. They support the traveler and lover of language in me, we connect through the our struggles, and we celebrate our successes. Grazie a tutti per il vostro continuo sostegno e la gentilezza!