Reggio Calabria, Italy: Language and Culture (Summer)
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Ally Mastrangelo

Major: Labor and Employment Relations, Psychology
Minor: Italian
Hometown: Saunderstown, RI

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this study abroad experience during my first semester at Penn State through my Italian professor. For many years, he's ran this program in his hometown of Reggio Calabria, Italy and often promoted this trip in our class. Once he found out about my Southern Italian heritage he knew this was the program for me!

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

This was a six week summer program that began in Catania, Sicily. We spent a week there learning about Sicilian culture and exploring the surrounding cities. We even hiked Mount Etna, an active volcano! Next, we traveled by boat to Reggio Calabria, Italy. We stayed there for a month and took two classes at the local university: Italian language and Italian culture. Not many Southern Italians speak English so we were forced to practice our Italian daily. Although the language barrier was frustrating at times, my Italian speaking greatly improved! The hard work we put in was definitely worth it. At the end of the program, we spent a few days in Rome, exploring ancient ruins and the Vatican. This was an amazing opportunity to see the differences between Northern and Southern Italy firsthand. I'm beyond grateful for this program as it gave me not only an insight into Italian culture but also the chance to make new friends and grow as a student.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Because of my two majors, I didn't think I'd be able to take on any minors during my time at Penn State. However, this study abroad experience gave me the opportunity to get ahead on Italian credits and complete an Italian minor before my senior year. I'm now able to learn about my family's heritage in more depth and continue my Italian speaking skills throughout the rest of my college career.

The world has so much to offer us, and I'm now greatly interested in working outside of the U.S after law school.

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

After graduation, I plan to attend law school and pursue a career in employment law. I'm specifically interested in combating workforce discrimination and eliminating wage theft and human trafficking as well. My study abroad experience gave me a more global perspective on this goal. Why limit myself to the U.S for my career? The world has so much to offer us, and I'm now greatly interested in working outside of the U.S after law school. The language barrier in Italy was scary at first, but I was able to conquer my fears and work hard to improve my communication skills. Whether I end up in Italy or in another country I now know that I have the ability to study or work anywhere in the world.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students. Participating in a six week program was a great way to get ahead with credits and have an amazing summer all at once. This faculty-run program also gave me the chance to get to know my Italian professors, which is a great resource to have now that I'm back on campus.

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

The Paterno Fellows Program has consistently pushed me to be my best self both in and outside of the classroom. Throughout my time in Italy, I strived to communicate with local Italians as much as possible and learn as much about their culture as I could. The Paterno Fellows Program also motivated me to take on an Italian minor so I can continue learning about this amazing culture here at University Park. This program gave me the drive to challenge myself while abroad and continue to strive for excellence at home.

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