Post-Program Reflection

1. Language learning and acculturation

When I was thinking of my goals for my language learning during this program, I think that I set my expectations too high. I thought that I could become fluent, or nearly fluent, during these five weeks, but in reality I’ve only become proficiently conversational. I still have a long way to go before I can consider myself fluent in Italian, but I also know that it is possible and I know how to do it. My obstacle during this experience was that I let myself speak English too much. All my friends spoke English, and it was much easier to get my point across in English, so that’s what I did. If I were to do this again, I would choose to live in a home without another American student (at least not in the same room) and I would try to take advantage of more of the lectures and activities offered by the school that were solely in Italian. That’s not to say that I didn’t feel engaged in the Italian culture. I felt very immersed and accepted into the Italian culture, which encourages me to continue working toward fluency.

2. Overall SLA experience

If I had to name the one thing that changed the most about me due to this experience, I would say that it was my confidence. If any of my friends and family are reading this, they’re probably laughing right now–I’ve always seemed like an extremely confident person, but in reality I am only confident in situations that I am familiar with. This summer, I was in a foreign country trying to speak a language that I knew only through grammar exercises and 3-minute oral exams. Going into this experience, I was terrified to be so out of my comfort zone, but I assumed that if SLA was willing to invest in me, I could do it. Writing the application was the first step in my growing confidence, and that is my advice to any prospective applicants. Be confident in yourself, and the rest will follow. The Italians would default to speaking English with me until I spoke Italian with enough confidence to convince them that I knew what I was doing.

3. Moving forward

This experience has only solidified my desire to live and work in Italy post-graduation. To do this, I need to improve my language skills even more. So, I am planning on meeting with my fellow Notre Dame students from this SLA program weekly to practice our Italian. Also, I am looking into internships in Italy for next summer in my desired career field. While I did not form any relationships in Siena that I believe will provide me a job, I now have a familiarity with the country and contacts that can help me do the work of finding the correct place for me in Italy. Additionally, I know now that I want to study in Italy for a semester, so during that time I can do research and make connections with potential employers and friends then. This summer has pushed me to continue my studies in Italian because I have fallen in love with the culture, the people, and the country.