Gastelum, Andrew

Name: Andrew Gastelum
Location of Study: Rome, Italy
Program of Study: Summer School Sapienza (at Sapienza University of Rome)
Sponsors: Mimi Ravarino & Stacey Yusko


A brief personal bio:

I am a sophomore majoring in Film, Television, and Theatre and Italian, with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. I live in Los Angeles and I am a huge sports fan, especially soccer. At Notre Dame, I am the president of the Italian club and I also write for The Observer.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

Being a major in Italian Studies, this program is crucial to my intellectual development of the Italian culture. The language courses will help me to develop my Italian in a place where it is the language spoken in the city by everyone. This exposure to the language will give me tools that I cannot develop at Notre Dame (where I leave the classroom and go back to speaking English). In Rome, I will speak Italian and the classroom and nothing would change after leaving the classroom, as I will have to communicate in Italian with others. This immersion will develop my ability to speak Italian and give me a cultural context to apply it to.

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

I hope to achieve a better understanding of the Italian culture and language. It is one thing to read about a country’s history and culture in a classroom here at Notre Dame, but actually experiencing this history and culture first-hand is on a whole different level. I hope to come back with a good knowledge of the Italian culture in a way that can help to advance my studies in Italian. Due to these classes, I already have solid base to build on with cultural experiences and an understanding of the way of life.

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

  1. By the end of the summer, I will be able to know my way around the city of Rome as a native would.
  2. By the end of the summer, I will be able to describe differences and subtleties in Italian art and architecture.
  3. By the end of the summer, I will be able to read more proficiently in Italian

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

The beauty of this program is that the community engagement is built into the curriculum. This program has over 30 hours of guided tours in Italian scheduled throughout the four weeks. For example, one tour includes a trip to the Roman Forum and the Roman Colosseum with a guided tour in Italian. In addition to all these tours, I will be living in the city (not on the university campus). This will enable me to speak more Italian whether it is at the grocery store or on the metro on my way to school in order to be able to communicate with people around me. The program also has separate, optional weekend programs, such as concerts, additional tours, and shows conducted in Italian. I am sure to take advantage of these additional opportunities because my goal is to come back to the Notre Dame a better speaker and a more cultured individual by making the most out of my time in Rome.  I also plan on taking several field trips around Italy.

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Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

As far as cultural differences go, I have always thought it best to push your own tendencies to the side and experience things as a native would. If you don’t, you won’t be able to truly experience what it is like to not only live somewhere different, but live in a different culture. I have definitely met my goals that I expressed before the program, but it takes a lot of determination to do so. You have to push yourself and really keep on top of everything you are doing if you want to improve at a language. It may be tough at first but it will really benefit you later on in your development.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

Europe in general is just an entirely different lifestyle than the United States, more so than one would originally think. When you get back, you see that you take the good things from your experience and use it to make yourself better. I would tell future SLA Grant students to go into their program with a clean slate. Accept the lifestyle and don’t do things the way you would do them in the United States. You can only benefit from that.

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

l will always use the language, even if it isn’t as much as when I was at my program. It could only help when it comes to finding a job or traveling.