Barron, Paul

Name: Paul Barron
Location of Study: Sorrento, Italy
Program of Study: Sorrento Lingue
Sponsor(s): Mimi Ravarino 

A brief personal bio:

I am from Detroit, Michigan where I attended Notre Dame Preparatory High school. In high school I studied mostly Spanish, and was fortunate enough to travel to Spain, France, and Italy for the first time on my class trip Freshman year. When I came to the University of Notre Dame I started taking Italian classes wanting to rediscover my family’s language and culture; which I hope to continue to do in my stay abroad this summer.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

My SLA grant is important to me because it is giving me the opportunity to have an integrative and immersive academic experience while also trying to realize some of my personal goals as well. While I am in Sorrento, I will be taking a class on the History of Italian Cinema, which has always been a passion of mine and I cannot wait to explore it further in the country from which it came. I will also be interning at a local Italian company, gaining valuable international job experience and perspective that I will be able to carry over to my career in the future. Finally, the grant will allow me to reconnect with my cultural heritage , and help me become proficient in a language that I care is relevant to my life.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

Overall, what I most want to get out of the grant is a greater sense of global perspective, and the ability to immerse myself into a foreign culture with no inhibitions, or prior prejudices. It is easy to go to a foreign country and be a tourist, see the sites, and eat their food, but it is more difficult to try to understand and participate in the culture that is not your own. Out of my experience this summer I hope to gain the expertise and courage to try new things, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, and come back with a better understanding of what it is to be a global citizen.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to proficiently speak and use Italian to effectively communicate in both social and work settings.
  2. At the end of the summer, I will better understand the dynamics of the Italian work environment and utilize this understanding in my future international business dealings.
  3. At the end of the summer, I will have a better grasp of what it is to be a global citizen, and how to immerse myself in other cultures, instead of just being a tourist.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

I intend to hit the ground running this summer by taking a proactive approach toward language acquisition. My goal is to experience as many social interactions in different contexts as possible, so that I will return with a diverse wealth of knowledge. This may mean putting myself in uncomfortable situations with native speakers who may have a difficult time understanding me at first. Nevertheless, I will try every day to go out of my comfort zone and try something new. I am confident that as the summer goes on, I will become more confident in my language and will be able to use it in a variety of important social contexts.

Reflective Journal Entry 1:

I have been in Sorrento for 4 days now, and I can already see my language proficiency improving. However, when I first arrived I sometimes found it difficult to communicate with the locals here. A lot of them assumed that I spoke English, so when I started speaking to them in Italian, they would respond in English. I would get discouraged pretty quickly. However, I regained my confidence by talking to our host mother and her daughter. They encouraged me to talk to them in Italian at the dinner table, and whenever when I was in the apartment. Now I have no problem talking to them in Italian all the time. I have discovered that the most important part in learning a new language and speaking it efficiently is having confidence. If you speak with confidence people will at least think you know what you are talking about, and will respond to you.

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

So it has been 2 and a half weeks here in Sorrento, and I have learned more than I could ever have expected. I am taking a conversation class here at the Sorrento Lingue school which has helped improve my proficiency a ton. I know only speak in italian with my host mom. Sometimes I have to ask her to go slower, but my comprehension has easily doubled. I have graduated from my host mother teaching me things in Italian, and now she has started teaching me some dialect.
Here in Sorrento, the majority of the natives speak Napolitano. This is a specifically hard dialect to understand, with a harsh accent and diverse pronunciations. To help me deal with natives better, my host mom has been teaching me Neopolitan words like ” ue guaglio” which means “Hey guys”, and “Statt Buon” which means “Take care”. Its definitely a slow process, but I think it will definitely help me a lot in the end.
It has already helped me make a local friend. When I was on the beach one day, a man approached me speaking italian, and I used some of the Napolitano that my host mom had taught me. He immediately became more friendly, and we talked on the beach for a while exchanging words in english and Italian. Sorrento being a small town, I now see my new friend around town all the time (his name is Gabrielle), and have another outlet with which to practice my Italian.
In sum, everything is going great!

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

This monday marked the start of my last two weeks here in Sorrento. This past weekend, trying to take advantage of the little time I have left, I met up with my cousins from Northern Italy, in Florence for the weekend. Two years ago we had hosted them in America for two months so they wanted to repay the favor by showing me around the city. Throughout the trip we conversed in mostly Italian, but some English as well, and the trip gave me insight into a different side of Italian culture than I had witnessed here in Sorrento.
First, and most noticeably, my cousins accents were a lot different than the harsh Neapolitan one I had been hearing down south. Being from the Veneto region, they spoke more slowly at some points, and I could understand them a lot easier. They also used different words to describe things. Instead of “bello” they used the word “figo”, and instead of saying “State attente” to say be careful, they said “ochio”. And these are just the linguistic differences.
I also noticed a sizeable difference in their demeanor. My cousins seemed more approachable, not only by me, but by the patrons of the stores we went into, or just any random person on the street. Here in Sorrento, I get the feeling a lot that the natives are very cliquish, and they are constantly weary of outsiders. This may just be because it is a tourist town, and they don’t expect people like me to speak Italian, but all the same it was nice to be in an environment where I could exercise my Italian with the help of my cousins.
Finally, the trip to Florence confirmed a growing suspicion I had about young Italians today. They are constantly influenced by American culture. Their TV shows are copies of ours, and a lot of the movies shown on TV are American films dubbed over in Italian. The young girl in the house I’m staying in loves Justin Bieber, and has high school musical paraphernalia everywhere. Even my cousins I visited in Florence admitted they like watching Jersey Shore, and never took the channel off MTV in the hotel room when I was there. If there is one thing I learned on the trip, it was that young Italians want to go to the United States and be part of our culture as much as we want to go to Italy and be part of theirs.

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

So this is my last week in Italy, and it has definitely been a journey. Although I really can’t say I am ready to leave, I definitely miss home. However, I have adjusted so much to italian society I feel that when I get back it is going to be difficult for me to get back into my daily routine. For example, here in Sorrento we walk everywhere. It is a small town and being able to walk everywhere gives you a certain degree of freedom. It also keeps us continually active throughout

the day. I can’t help but wonder that when i get back I will feel lazy taking my car everywhere instead of walking.
I also think that it will be an interesting process getting back into the American habit of eating. Hear in Sorrento I have a small breakfast of espresso and small biscuits, for lunch I have a sandwich, and for dinner we have two courses with a pasta and meat dish. The dinners are usually long and drawn out and last for over an hour sometimes. In America the meals are short, and quiet a bit larger.
It will definitely be an adjustment to get back into the swing of things, not to mention the jet lag. But overall I’ve loved experiencing the Italian lifestyle and the adventure it has brought.

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

So this is my second to last day in Sorrento, and I must say Im sad to the the time pass so quickly. But I’ve definitely had an unforgettable experience that i will never forget. This trip has given me a wealth of experiences that have taught me a lot.Just yesterday an Italian friend of mine here in Sorrento let me drive her Vespa to Positano (a town about 45 minutes away). I have a motorcycle of my own at home so I told her it would be no problem for me to drive her Vespa. To say the least, I didn’t really know what I was getting my self into.
It was exhilarating to get to drive along the amalfi coast and feel the breeze of the ocean as i whipped around the winding road to Positano, but it was also frickin scary. Italian drivers are nuts. Even at the fast pace i was going, kids my age were whipping around me on motorcycles almost hitting cars in the opposite lane. I was glad when we finally arrived in Positano and told my friend that she could drive on the way back. However scary it was, it was one of those experiences that has made Sorrento and unforgettable experience, and one of the stories that I will tell when I recount the awesome time that I had here.

Reflective Journal Entry 6:


Postcard(s) from Abroad:

Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:


Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:


How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: