Sara, a CAPA Florence alumna, shares some of the best ways you can make the most of your experience abroad in Italy. There are several options for you to meet and mix with locals, practice speaking Italian, and get well-versed with a new culture, so come check these opportunities out!
One of the best ways to practice Italian and be immersed into Florentine culture is to become involved in the community. In my opinion, the best way to achieve cultural competence is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and live like a local. CAPA offers a wide variety of programs that allow students to be culturally immersed and practice Italian.
Some of the center-based cultural immersion activities CAPA offers include Ganzo, Teaching English, Angeli del Bello, and Friendme. Ganzo is a program where students are paired with an Italian family and spend time with them weekly. The Teaching English program matches students with elementary schools and students assist the teacher in teaching English. Angeli del Bello is a program where students take care of public areas of the city with people in the community. Friendme is a program where high school students come to the CAPA center to practice English and CAPA students practice Italian with the high school students.
Fall 2018 CAPA students & Florentine high school student participating in the FriendMe program.
I decided to participate in Ganzo and Teaching English. I thought Ganzo would be a great way to practice Italian and observe Florentine family life. I wanted to participate in teaching English because I love working with children, and I thought it would be a very rewarding experience. Unfortunately, these programs were later cancelled because of the coronavirus. Despite these programs being cancelled, I was able to learn a lot from the experiences I had.
For Ganzo, I filled out a questionnaire about myself and CAPA paired me with a family. I was paired with a family that has two children, an eight-year-old daughter named Carmen and a six-year-old son named Salvatore. The father is an engineer and the mother works in emergency medicine. They are a super nice family. They invited me to visit their family in Naples with them and had me over for dinner. Meeting with my Ganzo family was a great way for me to practice Italian. They helped me practice speaking Italian and I helped them practice speaking English. I would teach the children different colors and how to count in English, and they really enjoyed it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture with my Ganzo family, but here’s one from a past student!
For Teaching English, my friend and I both taught English in the same elementary school. We were assigned to a first-grade classroom and assisted the teacher in teaching English. The students were very excited to learn English from American students. My friend and I placed signs of English words around the classroom and we would ask the students “where is the pencil” and they would all walk over to the sign with the word “pencil” on it. I had a lot of fun teaching English to the students and they were very enthusiastic to learn.
An Italian elementary school class.
Overall, I had great experiences participating in both programs. Ganzo and Teaching English allowed me to be culturally immersed and practice speaking Italian. At times, I had to step outside of my comfort zone and communicating was difficult because of the language barrier, but it is ultimately those experiences that allowed me to be culturally immersed.
Sara Shriber was an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Marketing major with an International Business certificate at the University of Pittsburgh, she studied abroad in Florence in the spring semester.
See more of Sarah's journey in Florence.