Ciao from London

Hi there, I’m Tori and welcome to my blog! Right now, I’m at home in London, England, enjoying time with my family, friends and cats before I head off to Orvieto next week! A little bit about me: I was born in New York, to a South African dad and a British mum and, living in London, I have friends from all around and have met people from lots of different cultures.

Buckingham Palace earlier this week to celebrate achieving my Duke of Edinburgh Award

I began my journey with Italian last year as a freshman, when I decided to learn a new language rather than continuing with French or Spanish (both of which I have over 5 years experience of learning) and what a fun journey it’s been! I’ve moved from Beginning Italian 1, Fall 2021, to Modern Literature and Culture, this past semester. Last summer, I spent five weeks in Sorrento, studying abroad at the Sant’Anna Institute, which gave me an incredible opportunity to speak Italian everyday: going to the supermarket, exploring churches, eating out, and watching an opera in an arena. This summer, I’m hoping to take this even further by adding ‘speaking to co-workers’ to my list of opportunities for Italian development, whilst learning about a new, different region and its culture.

Thanks to my previous time in Italy, I feel generally comfortable with the idea of exploring Italy and navigating interactions with the locals. However, seeing as I will be working there instead of taking classes, I won’t have the security net of having the other college students there with me. With this in mind, I wanted to set myself goals to develop my intercultural competency to accomodate this new challenge whilst building upon the progress I made last summer. I hope to build more significant connections by pushing past any discomfort I might feel about asking questions about new cultural phenomena, as well as not being afraid to ask about any words I don’t know in conversation.

I am very excited about the research I’ll be doing whilst I’m there: working in a lab on research into how plants are affected by climate change. Before this summer, I have been in various science labs, but have never had to do science in Italian. This is another new challenge, but another one that I’m looking forward to take on as it will really help develop my vocabulary as well as give me an opportunity to speak Italian in a more formal environment than I have before. This will be great practice for later in life when I hope to work on an international scale, so will need to be able to speak Italian more formally.

With all these new experiences ahead of me, all that’s left is to pack and head to the airport!

Pre-Departure Post

¡Buenas! My name is Reid, and I am a rising Sophomore at ND! I am a Spanish and Pre-Health student with intentions on going to Med School. This summer I have the wonderful opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with the generosity and guidance of the CSLC. There I will be participating in a Foreign Language Internship. Working with the Praxis Center in Costa Rica, my internship will be located in a primary clinic where I will be able to experience the day-to-day interactions among patients, doctors, and administrators.

These past few weeks the various cohorts for the different Foreign Language Internships have been completing various reflection exercises. I have found them very valuable in their ability to challenge me to look deeper inside myself to see why I truly want to participate in this experience and how I hope to grow my intercultural mind as a participant. We did various activities to reflect like the IDI analysis. But the most recent reflection was an intercultural goals sheet. I discovered that my two goals for this summer are adaptability and collaboration. The first goal revolves around my desire to challenge myself in a new environment. For most of my life, I have lived in a state of comfort as a member of a dominant group. Either at home in Tennessee or at Notre Dame, I have never felt like an outsider. In Costa Rica, I will be relatively new and different from the cultural practices. I want to learn to appreciate the customs I encounter but also to appreciate the ones I have already developed. I feel adaptability comes to encompass the ability to change to appreciate and understand the various things we encounter. For collaboration, I want to focus on my introverted self. I have grown up relatively shy. Although I have taken immersive Spanish classes for the past six+ years, I sometimes lack confidence in my communication. I want to go out of my way to connect with others and to work with them in understanding each other on various levels.

I’d be lying if I said I am not nervous. I have never been away from the States for so long. But I am so excited to see where this journey takes me and the people I will meet along the way!

Post 1: Pre-Departure

My 10 weeks of Portuguese glory are beginning today and I couldn’t be more excited. Besides from the simple fact that I’ve just never been to Portugal, actually working in a foreign country for two months is something few get the opportunity to do. Growing up in an American-Brasilian, bilingual household, I do feel like I’ve been exposed to a variety of cultures and my identity is sort of a hodge-podge of them all. I try to take the best parts from each culture and background I’m exposed to and leave the parts that don’t quite fit in with my values or goals.

I think it goes without saying that my most serious goal is to perfect my Portuguese. Though I grew up speaking Brazilian Portuguese, it was tainted by the 4 years of advanced/AP Spanish I took in high school. Spanish too is a wonderful language but I’m excited to be spending the summer in one of the two major countries of the world that speak Portuguese as their primary language. From what I’ve heard, Lisbon is full of tourists, so employees here will often just begin speaking English with whoever looks like they’re from out of the country. If this is the case, it would be easy for me to default to the language I’m most comfortable with and speak little of the language I came to Portugal to improve. To combat this, I’m going to try to respond to their English greeting with a Portuguese one, to show them that I’m fairly comfortable speaking the language and I want to try to get my point across using that. I also want to make a point of trying to make small talk with employees at cafes or stores, asking them just a question or two that’s not related to what I need (how’s your day going? what’s your favorite part of Lisbon?)

When I come back from this 10-week period, I hope to have shown myself that I can make it on my own in a foreign country. I can buy groceries, travel on the metro, cook, work, and explore using my wits and smarts. I think that would be empowering for me.

Blog Post #1 – Pre-Departure Expectations

Buongiorno! My name is Marissa, and I am a rising junior at Notre Dame double-majoring in Biochemistry and Italian Studies! This summer, I’m embarking on the interdisciplinary venture of a lifetime, traveling to Milan, Italy to conduct research at Università degli Studi di Milano (UniMi) in organic synthesis, organic chemistry, and biochemistry under Dr. Daniele Passarella! My work may be studying organic and bioorganic synthesis, but my day-to-day life will be completely immersed in Italian city life and culture! As the child of a primarily Italian-American family (with other cultural influences from central and Western Europe), I am looking forward to living in a country where I can immerse myself in a new academic and social culture. The Foreign Language Internship program (FLI) at Notre Dame provides a student like me—who has a love for cross-disciplinary study—to challenge myself in both of my areas of academic interest.

Before departure, my FLI cohort underwent the IDI analysis which identified our perception of culture versus our actual level of cultural awareness, which allowed us to objectively look at where we were at versus where we would like to be in our cultural perception by the end of our FLI experiences. The IDI helped me more innately understand my role in a more multicultural environment, and moving forward towards my summer in Milan, my added awareness not only of my strengths in cultural appreciation but also areas I could improve will help immensely with my adjustment to life in Italy. My summer experience will place me in Milan for ten weeks—plenty of time to get a taste of Italian culture and learn about the differences between my life in South Bend, Indiana (and my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri) versus Milan. As a personal goal, I want to embrace asking questions and not shying away from admitting when things are unfamiliar to me. Being intentional in acknowledging my weaknesses in cultural awareness will help me get the most out of this experience.

At the end of the summer, I hope to reflect on this experience and how it has changed my cultural perception; I look forward to the challenges of living abroad pushing me to improve my Italian fluency! Because this cohort of FLI interns has two other Italian students, I am eager to discuss our individual experiences and learn even more from them about the cultural differences between the United States and Italy that we observe, as well as compare regional differences in Italian culture. With my departure date a little over one week away, my excitement is being redirected to productivity—packing for this summer, and for finishing my finals! It’s shaping up to be an amazing ten weeks, and I can’t wait to share this journey!

Pre-Departure Post

I am writing this as I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas Airport. Crazy to think that the day has finally arrived for me to start making my way across the sea and over to this side of the world. I feel all sorts of things: nerves, excitement, fear, and happiness. 

My parents and grandparents are waiting for me in Venice and we will take a week-long trip around Italy together. Then, on June 1st I will be taking a flight from Rome to Lisbon and begin my journey in Portugal for the Summer. 

I just got off my first flight: Quito, Madrid and I got what I can unfortunately call one of the worst spots you can get on a 10-hour flight: middle seat, middle column, row 52 (out of 53). There I sat, middle seat near the bathroom in the back of the plane for probably the longest flight I have ever been on. The excitement, nostalgia, and nerves that I had felt the day before hadn’t allowed me to get a good last night’s sleep at home and so I was already tired. I was definitely not excited for the 10 hours ahead of me. 

As I was getting settled into my seat a lovely couple sat down next to me and that’s when I heard it… a sign? I don’t know what it meant but a smile flushed through my face. The language I began to learn to love a year ago sprang at full speed from this young couple’s mouths as they coordinated the logistics of their own 10-hour flight experience. The words were familiar, the accent not so much. Although, it did sound a lot like the Cristiano Ronaldo interview we had heard in class… It’s Portuguese! I get little butterflies in my stomach, the nerves begin to show as this interaction marks the beginning of my two-month adventure. I turn towards the couple on my left and without much thought go “Olá! Vocês são de Portugal?”. I quickly regret it, ‘did I sound like a rookie? Of course I had to say that! Was that stupid? Is that how you say it?’ They both turn to look at me with big smiles on their faces and say “Sim! Tu?…” Immediately, what felt like a 3-hour (but was probably more like 10-minute) conversation started. They were from Lisbon Portugal, they had come to my home country for their honeymoon and they were just now returning home from what they thought was an amazing vacation. I told them about my internship, how I was learning Portuguese, and how I would be spending my next two months in Lisbon attempting to continue to grow and expand my abilities. They told me that sounded great, that they hope we see each other again in Lisbon, and wished me the best of luck. I ended the conversation by saying “Obrigada! Parabéns pelo Casamento!”. I don’t know if I spoke Portuguese, Spanish, English, or Portuñol. I don’t know if half the stuff I said during that interaction was correct or not. However, what I did know was that this is going to be a summer filled with a lot of growth and that I already did love Portugal and its people!

As my adrenaline rush from the conversation settled in I plugged my earphones to the built-in tv on the back of the seat in front of me. I always like to play a movie for me to sleep with background noise on during the flight. I picked the first movie that caught my attention “Eat, Pray, Love”. I had never seen it, never read the book, and never really heard much of it but 2 hours and 10 minutes later I was in tears and had slept for exactly 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds. I think this might be my new favorite movie. I’m not sure if it was the actors, the plot, or the way the movie seemed to have been written for me at that moment but I felt a new sense of inspiration for my nearing future. 

The movie is about an American woman who changes the course of her regular boring life by exploring the world and learning to “Eat, pray and love”. At one point she says “Sometimes, you have to leave behind everything you know, every comfort zone you’ve built, and step into the unknown. It’s in those moments that you truly begin to learn and grow, for every interaction becomes an opportunity for discovery and self-evolution”. It is with this thought that I end my first blog post. I am leaving behind the comfort of my summer at home, my friends, and my family to go do something I’ve never done before at a place I’ve never been to before in a language that is relatively unknown to me but I find peace in thinking about all the growth I will undergo in the next couple of months. I consider these two small, yet meaningful, interactions I had on my 10-hour flight, my first opportunities for “discovery and self-evaluation” as part of my journey in Portugal this summer of 2023.