Below are messages, advice, and well-wishings from alumni of the Department.
“As I’ve heard many other students reflect, joining the Italian Department was undoubtedly the best decision I made at Georgetown. It has offered me opportunities that I would never have imagined and will never forget.”
During my first year at Georgetown, I got many puzzled looks and doubtful responses from those with whom I shared my Major plans: “Why not just study French or Spanish instead?”, “Don’t they speak English in Italy anyway?”, “Oh, that’s so clever to study Italian as a résumé booster!”. Despite such skepticism, I never doubted for a second my plans to major in Italian at Georgetown. After years dedicated to studying Italian on an unstoppable mission to learn the nearly lost family language of my great-grandparents, grasp the phrases in the Salerno dialect used by my grandfather, and decode the nearly illegible notes on the back of old family photos, it was my high school Italian teacher (Grazie da cuore, Signora Sperl) who instilled in me the dedication to take my studies of the language all the way to Georgetown where the Italian Department quickly became my ‘home’ at the university level.
As I’ve heard many other students reflect, joining the Italian Department was undoubtedly the best decision I made at Georgetown. It has offered me opportunities that I would never have imagined and will never forget. The close-knit, rigorous class environments beginning with Professor Musti’s Advanced Italian II course my freshman fall all the way to Professor Cicali’s Dante seminar my senior spring challenged me academically and led me to meet some of my closest friends and faculty mentors. I learned the ins and outs of Italian-English translation—a skill that has always fascinated me—in a course with Professor Melucci, studied detailed concepts in Italian applied linguistics and sociolinguistics with Professor De Fina which informed my thesis and inspired additional curiosities in my Linguistics major, met weekly on Zoom with an Italian university student (who remains a close friend of mine to this day) in Professor Hipwell’s Teletandem course to practice our conversational skills and discuss hot topics in Italian and American popular culture, and studied the many complexities of Italian history, film, literature, and theater throughout a handful of fascinating courses with Professor Cicali.
Before the pandemic caused all study abroad programs in Spring 2020 to end, I was also very lucky to spend a full two months studying at L’Università di Bologna where I began taking courses on the history of the Italian language, translation theory, and language pedagogy alongside native Italian university students. With my program and with friends, I got to explore Bologna and visit other beautiful Italian cities like Verona, Napoli, Roma, Salerno, and even La Repubblica di San Marino. Although it was a short time abroad, these two months were my first time ever visiting Italy. Bologna had just begun to feel like a second home when I left, and I can’t wait to go back someday.
In addition to taking my last few classes for the Major, I spent my senior year in the Department researching and writing my Honors Thesis, which analyzes the attitudes and language ideologies expressed by Italian speakers via Twitter surrounding the use of feminine versions of job titles, such as avvocata or avvocatessa for avvocato (lawyer). Amongst the chaos of the pandemic, finishing this project seemed at times an impossible task, but I was proud to finally complete and defend my work this Spring. I owe endless thanks to Professor De Fina, Professor Pireddu, Professor Benedetti, and Professor Cicali for their tireless feedback, ideas, and encouragement throughout the project.
I graduated this Spring with a B.A. in Italian and Linguistics and will continue onto a fifth year of study at Georgetown to complete my M.S. in Applied Linguistics. Thanks to the rigorous coursework and thesis research that I was able to complete and the bonds created during my time in the Italian Department, I am grateful to have built a toolbox of knowledge and further curiosities in Italian linguistics that I will carry with me throughout my graduate studies and beyond. I can’t thank each and every faculty member and peer in the Italian Department enough for how important they have been in shaping my experiences at Georgetown.
Natalie Bazata, Major in Italian & Linguistics, COL ’21
“All these experiences have given me a well-rounded education and prepared me for my life after graduation… I know that I will remain in contact with my amazing professors, and I cannot wait to return to Italy one day.”
I didn’t feel Italian until I was twelve years old. Of course, I knew my last name was Italian and that my great-grandparents had immigrated from Italy. However, no one in my family continued speaking the language and I did not consider that aspect of my history to be a major part of my own identity. That completely changed in seventh grade, when I had to choose which foreign language to begin learning and was happily surprised to see Italian as an option at my middle school. Once I started studying the language and the culture, everything clicked for me and I completely fell in love. I felt more connected to my grandparents and their stories about their parents when they were still in Italy.
After those first few classes in middle school, I knew I would spend the rest of my life learning about all things Italy. I continued taking Italian courses through high school and wanted to continue in college. In fact, the first class I ever took at Georgetown was Advanced Italian with Professor Musti. Ever since that first day I knew I made the right decision to major in Italian, as well as pursue a second major in Economics. In the last four years, I have taken a diverse range of courses with almost every incredible professor in the Department. I got to read Renaissance poetry with Professor Benedetti, watch classic films like Paisà and Bicycle Thieves with Professor Cicali, and even translate a book from Italian to English with Professor Melucci.
Ever since I was twelve, I dreamed of finally going to Italy for myself and putting my studies to use. My professors helped me make the decision to spend my entire junior year studying abroad at the University of Bologna. Although my time there was cut short due to the pandemic, I made life-changing friendships and memories in Bologna and really felt like a true Italian living in the home city of cultural staples such as tortellini, lasagna, and Maserati.
After I came back from Bologna, I began writing my Senior Honors Thesis with the invaluable mentorship of Professor Cicali. Thanks to him, I was able to combine my interests in film, economics, and Italian culture by researching several Italian films from the 1950s and 1960s and analyzing their use of Milan as a setting to explore the effects of the Italian economic miracle. I never expected to have an opportunity to challenge myself like this and become immersed in a topic that incorporated all of my passions. I am so thankful to Professor Cicali for his help and to the entire Italian Department for supporting me for four years—even when I was on the other side of the world.
All these experiences have given me a well-rounded education and prepared me for my life after graduation where I will be working as a financial analyst in New York City. I know that I will remain in contact with my amazing professors, and I cannot wait to return to Italy one day. To any student considering taking a course in the Italian Department, I cannot recommend it highly enough. No matter your future career plans or whether you have family ties to Italy, studying Italian is such a positive experience that will enrich all aspects of your life.
Danielle Guida, Major in Italian & Economics, COL ’21
“Deciding to pursue a minor in Italian is one of the best decisions I made at Georgetown.”
When I took Advanced II with Professor Melucci my freshman spring, I knew I had found one of my favorite departments at Georgetown. What I did not know, however, was just how important the Italian Department would become to me. In that first class alone I met people that ended up becoming some of my best friends at Georgetown. Additionally, through my classes I have had the opportunity to learn about various elements of Italian culture, such Italian cinema, singer-songwriters, and points in history. I also love how the Italian Department creates a community among its students, and through Italian Department events I have had the opportunity to become close with professors and students that I have never taken classes with.
My sophomore year, I joined the board of Il Circolo Italiano, which has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my Georgetown career. Through my position as co-president, I have been able to work with professors from the Italian Department. I have enjoyed meeting students of all levels—from beginners to graduate students—at Chiacchiere e Caffè and bonding with them over our passion for Italian language and culture.
Deciding to pursue a minor in Italian is one of the best decisions I made at Georgetown. My classes have improved my ability to communicate with my Italian family members and helped me understand their culture. When I last went to Italy to study at Georgetown’s Villa Le Balze, I felt comfortable communicating with native speakers in Italian. I’d like to thank the Italian Department for expanding my understanding of the Italian language and culture!
Olivia Luongo, Major in Government, Minor in History & Italian, COL ’21
“Looking back, I can’t imagine my life without Italian, from the way it has helped me better connect with my family, to the way in which it has made learning languages like Spanish far easier.”
Given that both my maternal and paternal grandparents came from Italy, I have been fascinated with Italian culture for as long as I can remember. Whether it was visiting my grandmother while she stayed in her old home outside of Naples during the summers, or enjoying a plate of my mom’s impeccable cooking, I felt a strong connection to all things Italian. In my second year of high school, I finally had the ability to take an Italian class, and I absolutely loved it. This newfound interest in the Italian language drove me to self-study, enabling me to reach a new level of connection with my grandparents. Once I arrived at Georgetown, I began to prepare for the foreign language proficiency exam and was struck by the kindness of the Italian department’s professors. They would answer any question I had and helped me improve my speaking skills even though I was not enrolled in a class at that time. Now in my second semester, I have continued to feed my love of all things Italian by joining the Georgetown Circolo Italiano and taking a Business Italian class. Although I am unable to major in Italian due to my enrollment in the School of Foreign Service, I plan to continue to take courses in order to learn more about Italian literature and I am considering a study abroad at Università Bocconi in Milan. Looking back, I can’t imagine my life without Italian, from the way it has helped me better connect with my family, to the way in which it has made learning languages like Spanish far easier; I find it has become an integral part of who I am and I would like to further develop this passion in the years to come.
PHILIP SALANDRA (’16)
“I have learned a great deal, but there is still much to discover.”
“Panino,” my mother corrected me when I ordered the “caprese panini” at the deli. “It’s only ‘panini’ if there’s more than one.” It suddenly dawned on me that the “caprese panini” wasn’t just this thing (or more accurately, group of things) wrapped in wax paper that I liked to eat after dance class on Thursdays. It represented an entire culture, in which a “panino” was a part of daily life rather than just a “special” in an American restaurant. It was a sliver of a linguistic work of art that has been passed back and forth between millions of people for generations. And there it was, staring back at me from the chalkboard menu at the deli. Inspired, I started studying Italian as a freshman in high school. The language instantly consumed every spare minute of my time as I poured over my textbook, stayed up late watching Italian films like “La Vita è Bella” and “Il Postino”, and dreamed of tossing my own coin into the Trevi Fountain. Finally, at 16, I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy (and hope to return), where my love for Italian was reaffirmed as I strolled through the “piazze” of Venice, Rome, and Florence, determined to capture every greeting, shout, and whisper swirling around me. At Georgetown, I have had the pleasure of studying with professors Melucci and Hipwell in the advanced levels, where I am improving my conversation skills and studying the modern challenges Italy faces as a nation whose ethnic, political, and economic identity is rapidly evolving. I have learned a great deal, but there is still much to discover. Why do I study Italian? Simply, nothing gives me the same thrill as being able to go to a deli and order a “panino” even when the menu says “panini.”
LEAH BENZ (’15)
“Being a part of the Italian department and their program is the most fulfilling academic experience I’ve had in my life.”
Not only is the staff helpful, fun, and extremely capable of sharing their immense knowledge, but they also transmit their infectious enthusiasm for Italian culture. As part of the program, I recently spent the semester abroad in the lush hills of Tuscany. I attended courses at the University of Siena while meeting many Italians in all different contexts. I was able to truly live as an Italian and expose myself to a different academic environment. It was an irreplaceable experience. I knew that I improved my Italian skills the day I realized I was able to capture regional differences between Italian speakers. I managed to travel the country due to Tuscany’s central location; I tasted fresh pasta alla carbonarain the shade of the Colosseum and watched the sunset on St. Mark’s Square in Venice. I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to work with the department and choose coursework that suits my intellectual interests.
Che bella vita!
KEVIN REGAN (’14)
When looking at options for graduate school, I was immediately drawn to the Italian Studies M.A. program at Georgetown. It seemed like the perfect way to further my knowledge in Italian
literature and culture, while allowing me to cultivate my interests in less familiar aspects of the field, such as art history. I have yet to be disappointed. My semester abroad was of particular value. By choosing to study in Florence, I was able to immerse myself in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. Though my background in art history was weak, I had ample time for self-study, and as such, the city’s museums and churches became a sort of interactive study guide, and the artworks were my flashcards. The most remarkable aspect of my time abroad, however, was the ability to connect with both Italians and foreigners alike through the Italian language. Students from Sweden, Holland, Mexico, even Japan, all found common ground in the passion and admiration for one of the most melodic languages in the world. It was an extraordinary and unique experience. The food wasn’t too bad, either… I look forward to applying the invaluable skills I’ve acquired in the program to my future.
“By choosing to study in Florence, I was able to immerse myself in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art.”
RAQUEL SILVA (’14)
” I found myself working for the finance department of Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York City, wich oversees the various Guggenheim museums around the world. My Italian language skills came of great use as I helped to translate documents from the Peggy Guggenheim Collectioon in Venice and communicated easily in a multicultural office.”
Charlotte Lowrey (’09)
“Through contact with a Georgetown alumna, I joined Gucci’s Milan headquartes, where I currently work in public relations. I use Italian on a daily basis, whwther to analyze an editor’s review or to translate a press release. Above all, I approach my work with the cross-cultural perspective I gained through my studies at Georgetown.”
Nathaniel Lee (’09)