Katherina Zdravkov

Katherina Zdravkov Headshot
Katherina Zdravkov, Class of 2023

E-mail: kzdravko@nd.edu
Language: Italian
Location of Study: Siena, Italy
Program of Study: Dante Alighieri School Summer Study Abroad
Sponsors: The Nanovic Institute for European Studies

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Hello, my name is Kat Zdravkov! Growing up in a bilingual household and having studied Spanish since the sixth grade, I am an avid learner of languages. I began studying Italian immediately upon coming to Notre Dame, excited to see how another Romance language related to Spanish and to expand my horizons into new ways of thinking and a better understanding of multiple cultures. I quickly came to appreciate how beautiful, powerful, and history-rich the Italian language is, and I want my knowledge of it to enhance my own life in the long-term.

I have been interested in pursuing a career in architecture since middle school, and years of drawing combined with the traditional architecture program at Notre Dame have solidified that. I have become increasingly curious about urban design in conjunction with architecture, and even more broadly, in conjunction with language and culture. I am curious about the intersection between the expression of culture through the built environment and the verbal expression of ideas, values, and desires through language.

As a result, the nine weeks I spent living in Italy last summer have fostered my desire to further immerse myself in Italian language and culture, and to simultaneously learn lessons from what I consider to be some of the most inspiring architecture and urbanism that will surround me this summer in Siena. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Siena for a day last summer, but that day alone convinced me that I had more to see and experience in the city.

The opportunity to live and study in Siena this summer will allow me to grow tremendously as a language enthusiast and as a design student, and I will better see how integral design and language are to human civilization. This program would also facilitate my transition to live in Italy later on as a professional architect and urban designer. I would be more comfortable as a speaker and resident. The Siena program would accustom me to the dense, walkable urbanism present in many Italian cities and heighten my understanding of it. I already admire the urbanism of Rome. But in Siena, as a pedestrian, I can become more well-versed in the strengths and weaknesses of Italian urbanism and allow it to inform my designs moving forward. I believe Italian architectural traditions are beautiful, sustainable, functional, rich in history and culture, and well-integrated with their surroundings. As an architecture student, I have been taught to express myself with drawings; however, in my heart I know that the Italian language must be incorporated into my life. I believe language and culture, architecture included, to be inseparable. Fluency in the language would not only make me a better designer, but would connect me to the culture in a way that would contribute to my long-term happiness.