For as long as I can remember I wanted to study abroad. I have always loved to travel with my family and explore new places and learn about new cultures. At the University of South Carolina, studying abroad is highly encouraged and very easy to do. At the time I wanted to study abroad, I was majoring in Management and Finance. I wanted to study abroad for a semester, but I also wanted to change my major from Management to Operations and Supply Chain and I could not do both. Instead of studying abroad for a semester, I decided to study abroad for the summer. In the summer of 2022, I went to Sorrento Italy for 10 weeks, and it was the best decision I could have made.
I did Sorrento’s Summer III option with SAI which meant that I was in Italy for 10 weeks. Throughout my time, I met some of my best friends and discovered new places and cultures while I was there. As much as I just wanted to study abroad for the experience, there were also classes that I needed to take. At my home school of the University of South Carolina, I still needed to complete my language credit and my internationalization credits for my business degree. Because of that, I decided to take Italian 101: Introduction to Italian.
In high school, I took French and in college I still had not fulfilled my language credit, so I knew no Italian whatsoever when I first went to Italy. The only words I knew how to say were “grazie” and “ciao” which, as I learned very quickly, do not get you far. I had no issues in Sorrento with not knowing Italian, but once I started learning more in my class, I realized that knowing Italian made things a lot easier.
In class, we learned the very basics of Italian. We learned how to say our names, our favorite colors, and our ages. Once we learned those, we moved on to more complicated conjugations and being able to speak longer. We worked on our speaking and pronunciation in class. It was hard for me at first because I had learned French for seven years and the pronunciation of French and Italian is very different. In French, there are a lot of hidden letters, whereas in Italian you pronounce every letter. It was difficult for me to change my thinking regarding pronunciation, because even though I had not taken French in four years, it was what I grew up learning so there was a lot of French ingrained in my brain. On one of our oral tests, I even started speaking in French. Luckily my teacher thought it was funny and did not take off too many points.
As time went on in my Italian class, I started to become more comfortable learning and speaking in Italian. By no means was I fluent, but I could hold aa simple conversation. I started being able to recognize words on menus and signs and it was a lot easier for me to find things at the grocery store. I felt like I was more involved in Sorrento, and it started to feel more like I was at home than just visiting.
Around the time I was finishing my Italian class, my family came to Italy to visit for a week. We went out to dinner at a small restaurant called Ristorante L’Antica Trattoria. While we were eating there, we struck up a conversation with our waiter and he asked what we were doing in Sorrento. I explained that I was studying at Sant’Anna institute. He asked me what I was studying, and I said Italian. From that point on in the meal, if I wanted to order anything, he made me order in Italian and if I tried to order in English, he would pretend he did not understand.
Talking and ordering with the waiter was great practice for me, especially since my final exam was coming up. If there was a word I did not know or a phrase I was saying wrong, he would correct me and help me fix what I was doing incorrectly. He was very kind and seemed to enjoy my broken and very elementary Italian.
A few weeks after my family left, my friends and I decided to do a goodbye dinner at the same restaurant I had eaten at with my family. When we got there, I was shocked to discover that we had the same waiter, but I was not sure if he would remember me. When it came time for me to order, I started to order in English and he looked at me like he did not understand, even though he understood what everyone before me had said and told me I needed to say it in Italian. Everyone thought it was so funny and we all had a good laugh about it.
Learning Italian helped me in more ways than I can count, and it was the best class that I could have taken during my time abroad. It helped me make friends, understand many written things I would not have understood before, and communicate better with the people of Italy. I am so grateful for my time abroad for the knowledge I gained and experiences I had while I was there.
Lauren is a Summer 2022 SAI Student in Sorrento from University of South Carolina