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Arcadia: Perugia, Umbra Institute
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Alicia Gencarelli

Major: English
Minor: Film Studies, Italian
Hometown: Pequannock, NJ
Paterno Fellow 

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I heard about this experience through Scott Runner from the Penn State Education Abroad office. I told him that I was interested in studying in Florence, but he referred me to the Umbra Institute instead because he felt that I would be more immersed in the Italian culture in Perugia. I also spoke with one of the members of the Italian Department faculty who told me that if I really wanted to learn about the Italian language and culture, then I should study in Perugia.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience thus far has been very positive. I came to Italy somewhat confident in my language skills and knowledge of the culture because my entire family comes from Italy. However, having been here for about three months, I can say that my language skills have improved tremendously. I interact with native Italian speakers everyday and have even become friends with many of the other kids who are from Perugia. The people here are friendly, and the atmosphere is welcoming. It was also a pleasant surprise coming here and seeing how helpful the people of Perugia are if you are having trouble with the language. They understand that there are many foreign students here, and they try their best to help us. Finally, Perugia is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. It has some of the most incredible panoramas in Italy, as the center is situated on top of a mountain.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Because I am an Italian minor, one of the main reasons I chose to study in Italy was to learn the language and become as fluent as possible. With still one more month left, I feel as though I will reach that goal. The Italian professors here work hard to improve our Italian by conducting each Italian class in Italian. No English is spoken during those class periods, which has been incredibly helpful. Furthermore, it's always easier learning a language from a native speaker, which are the professors here at Umbra Institute.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

As of now, I would like to become an editor for a publishing house someday. However, I know that in the near future I would like to come back to Italy to either work for a journal publication or teach English for a while because I have fallen in love with this country. This study abroad experience has given me the opportunity to improve my Italian language skills and to learn, hands-on, about the culture and the way of life in Italy. Therefore, I feel much more confident now about coming back and working here after college.

This study abroad experience has given me the opportunity to improve my Italian language skills and to learn, hands-on, about the culture and the way of life in Italy. 

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would certainly recommend a study abroad experience to every Liberal Arts student because although college itself is a time to become more independent, nothing compares to living alone in a different, non-English speaking country where communication is actually something that becomes a struggle. Being here, I feel like I have grown independently more in these three months than I have in 2 1/2 years of college. I learned to adapt to a lifestyle and a culture that I had never experienced before for this length of time and although it was difficult at first, I have never felt more accomplished. The world suddenly becomes a much more interesting place because you aren't in a country where you know the accepted behaviors, attitudes, and habits--those become things you must learn over time. In addition, my love for traveling and my fascination with other cultures have grown tremendously. I can't wait to experience and learn about different cultures because I have developed such an appreciation for the incredible diversity that inhabits our world. It's beautiful and humbling; and I believe that any student who wishes to become more educated should complete at least one study abroad experience, in order to truly understand what it means to live in a global community.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program has impacted this experience for me by challenging me to widen my boundaries and to pursue this study abroad program.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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