"I remember my kind professors. My Italian professors were always so passionate about the subjects they were teaching and invested in their students. My Italian classes were usually very small and we spoke only in Italian, so you were always thinking and paying close attention."
Major(s) and Certificate(s): Italian and Communication Arts
Graduation Year: 2015
Current city: Chicago, IL
What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?
Since graduating, I’ve been working for Yelp in Chicago as an Account Executive.
What motivated you to study this/these languages?
I love Italian food and knew I wanted to study a Romance language.
How have these languages enriched your life?
I studied abroad in Italy for a summer, and when the program was over, I spent 10 days traveling through Italy alone. I learned a lot from making my way through a foreign country with no phone and a broken computer. It forced me to meet new people, make new connections, ask lots of questions and become a much better listener. It also made me a lot more confident. Learning Italian has opened my eyes to a new culture (and cuisine!) in a way that I probably wouldn’t understand as much without knowing the language itself.
What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?
I remember my kind of professors. My Italian professors were always so passionate about the subjects they were teaching and invested in their students. My Italian classes were usually very small and we spoke only in Italian, so you were always thinking and paying close attention.
How valuable were your out-of-classroom experiences?
Studying abroad was an incredible opportunity–I wish I had gotten a whole semester instead of just a 6-week summer course! I studied at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, which is a little hilltop university town in Central Italy. It’s also home to the University for Foreigners, so it’s full of young people from all over the world who come to learn about Italian Culture and language. Since it’s a small town, we got to know the locals fast and would participate in “tandem” language exchanges at local cafes. Everyone would wear a flag of their country of origin and you’d talk to people whose native language you wanted to learn. I would speak Italian to Italians, they would speak English to me and we’d help each other and correct each other.
At Madison, I was the communications intern for the Language Institute. While I didn’t use my Italian skills in this job per se, I certainly developed a much larger appreciation for language as a whole, and for the programs that UW Madison offers. I wish I had taken more language courses!
How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?
Every once in a while, I have a client that speaks Italian in my job, but Italian is a poetic language, not ideal for business, so we exchange pleasantries in Italian and then switch to English. To continue practicing, I use apps like Duolingo (where it quizzes you on vocabulary and grammar), and Tandem or HelloTalk (which pair you with a native speaker of the language you’re learning. That person is usually trying to learn or practice your language so you can help each other. It’s similar to the “tandems” I attended in Perugia, but with less espresso and vino). I am lucky to be in a big city like Chicago so apps like Meetup.com have several groups that meet in libraries, cafes, or Eataly to practice Italian. I’ve been to a few of these meetups as well.
What advice do you have for current language students?
Study abroad! And then take some time to see the country yourself. No better way to learn the language.
What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?
Gimmo, freghi! (Perugian dialect for “let’s go, guys”)