Having a GANZO Family in Florence: An Interview with Eileen Klawitter

Mar 23, 2017 5:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring2017_From Danya Carithers - Square.jpgDanya Carithers is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A marketing major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.

In this week's post, Danya interviews her roommate Eileen on CAPA's GANZO program.


Integrating oneself in a host country’s culture is something every student abroad strives and plans to do.  But once we get here, we find it difficult with language barriers, time restrictions, and just pushing ourselves even further out of our comfort zones. However CAPA has a new program called GANZO that they just began last year, which has helped a handful of students learn about real Italian culture in a fun, interactive way. This program teams a student up with an Italian family with whom they can eat dinner and spend time. I decided to ask my roommate, Eileen, about her experience so far with her GANZO family and what she has gained from it.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring2017_From Danya Carithers GANZO 1.png

DANYA CARITHERS: So, Tell me about yourself.
My name is Eileen Klawitter.  I’m a sophomore at University of Colorado Boulder majoring in International Affairs and minoring in Leadership Studies. I grew up in Colorado and decided to study here in Florence because I wanted a change from my environment. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy since I was really young and I came abroad to meet new people who share the same interests that I did. But overall, I wanted to experience a new culture and take advantage of an opportunity to travel. 

DC: How did you find out and get involved in the GANZO family program? 
CAPA told us about the opportunity to get a GANZO family during orientation and I was able to sign up at the volunteer fair the next day. It was really easy to get involved; all I had to do was sign up!

DC: Why did you want to get involved?
I wanted to sign up because I didn’t have a homestay and I wanted a way to visit places that Italian locals go that I wouldn’t necessarily know about because I’m a tourist.

DC: Who is your GANZO family? 
I feel really lucky that I got the family I did. The father’s name is Giorgio; he’s a professor at the New York University campus in Florence so he teaches other study abroad students like me. He teaches Macro Economics and speaks English very well, which is helpful for me. His wife, Sylvia, is an editor and speaks some English, but not as much as Giorgio. They have two daughters, Sophia and Alice, one is 12 years old and one is 10 years old. They are very introverted, but it was really cool that we found a lot of things in common which helped them come out of their shell. The older girl, Sophia, plays violin and I played the violin for 13 years. Alice plays tennis and does ballet while my whole family plays tennis and I went to an art high school, so a lot of my friends were dancers. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring2017_From Danya Carithers GANZO 3.png
Photo: provided by Eileen

DC: What do you do with your GANZO family?
I’ve been over to their house three times so far. They live a 15-minute walk away from me so it’s great to get away from the city center for a little bit. They are always super welcoming and invite me to their house for dinner. I go over at 6 p.m., but the parents don’t get off of work until around 7 or 8 p.m., so I hang out with the daughters for that time. I show them pictures of Colorado and other places I’ve been in the U.S, like New York City because they really want to go there. We also break out the translator app (haha) and help each other with our languages. Then, the parents come home and start preparing dinner. 

DC: What is dinner like?  What do you talk about?
They do a very traditional Italian dinner. Giorgio makes food from southern Italy. For example, we made pizza with buffalo mozzarella and a pasta dish with chickpeas. We always get into really interesting conversations  One time we talked a long time about gun laws and the death penalty in the U.S. It’s enlightening to hear other people’s opinions and point of views from outside of our country.  

DC: What else have you done with your GANZO family?
 One time we went to the orchestra, which I loved. We all went out to dinner beforehand. That’s something I wouldn't have been able to do had it not been for GANZO, I just wouldn’t have thought to do it. We also went to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie at the theater. Turns out it was dubbed over in Italian with no subtitles, but at least I knew the plot!

CAPAStudyAbroad_Florence_Spring2017_From Danya Carithers GANZO 2.jpg
Photo: provided by Eileen

DC: Would you recommend participating in the GANZO program? Why?
Absolutely! There are so many things I’ve gotten to do that I wouldn’t have ever done otherwise and it's great seeing how a real family in Italy lives. It’s interesting to see how their lives differ from ours, with the later time schedules and learning the differences between northern and southern Italy. Also, I really appreciate that this program has forced me to be more extroverted. Its easier and less awkward to get along than it seems, since there is already a slight language barrier anyways. They have been so welcoming and have really made me feel like I’m a part of a family- I’m so glad that I am doing this.

Thanks Danya!

Danya's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned!

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Topics: Interviews, Florence, Italy, Volunteering Abroad