Italy: The *Study* in Study Abroad


I know I’ve written mostly about my experiences outside of the classroom, but now is the perfect time to put the STUDY in study abroad. When choosing my classes at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in the spring, I sought courses that would be relevant to my academic needs but also would supplement my understanding of Italy. Here are the classes I’ve been taking this semester.

Citizenship and Religion in a Multicultural Society: A New Clash of Identities in Italy and Europe?

One of the primary reasons I went to Milan was to understand how the migrant crisis has impacted a European urban landscape– 19% of Milan’s population has an immigrant background, which is twice the average of the general Italian population. Through this class, which is a mix of philosophy, European history, and sociology, I’ve gained a better understanding of the factors that have led to the rise of populist attitudes throughout Europe. My professor asks us open-ended questions about social issues during every class, and the debate that arises is particularly interesting because the class is composed of students from at least a dozen countries. I’ve come to understand cultural differences better through both the material and my conversations with other students.

The Discovery of Italy through its Culinary Traditions

This was the class I was looking forward to the most, and it certainly has not disappointed. The class meets once a week: once in a classroom, and once in the university’s main kitchen. Through our classroom work, I’ve learned about challenging topics such as sauce and pasta pairings (fact: real Italians would never eat Spaghetti Bolognese because a meat sauce must have a sturdier pasta) and how to choose the correct bottle of wine. In the kitchen, we work in small groups under the supervision of an Italian chef to make traditional recipes, from tiramisu to risotto. I’m ready to plan some amazing dinner parties once I come back to the U.S.!

Italian Language and Grammar

Because I’m minoring in Italian, I’m taking a language course. The other nine students are from five different countries, and my professor does not speak any Englishー my verbal skills have definitely improved! My grade in the class is based exclusively on the final exam, which is in some ways terrifying, but a huge part of learning a language is being brave enough to make mistakes and be corrected on them. My studying is largely composed of reading The Fault in Our Stars and watching Friends in Italian, so I can’t complain too much. 

International Relations and the Middle East: A Comparative European Perspective

I’ve taken classes that focused on the Middle East before, but I wanted to see how my former classes would compare to one taught by an Italian Middle East expert. The biggest difference in the class is the lesson formatー although it’s primarily lecture, all assignments are group projects. The chaos of scheduling group projects, especially when most members are gone on the weekends, can become frustrating, but it has truly been a lesson in international collaboration. Before the final, we’re doing a Model UN role-play activity to simulate what a peace conference among major actors in the Middle East might look like. Not only are we bringing the perspectives of what actors we’re representing, there’s also a broad range of nationalities represented among the students that provides a more diverse dialogue. 

Finals week is approaching, which is never fun, no matter what the class. However, I’m enjoying my classes and looking forward to applying what I learned here to my classes back home (and perhaps even my thesis!).

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