I do not look Italian. I’m blonde, blueish-greenish-eyed, and don’t like lasagna (go ahead and judge; I deserve it). Sure, a major percentage of my talking is done with my hands, but that can easily be attributed to years of musical theatre. So everyone is always a little surprised to meet my dad’s side of the family, the Comotto’s (or the DeLOUDio’s, as we’re lovingly called), because we’re about as stereotypically Italian as they come. I’m serious. We eat spaghetti before Thanksgiving dinner.
I fell in love with Italy through my great-grandmother’s stories, and visiting twice in middle school only made me more determined to become further connected to the country and culture that has shaped my life. (Enjoy the embarrassingly touristy Allison in all of the following photos.) I wanted to go everywhere, see everything, and meet as many people as humanly possible. When registering for my first semester of classes, Elements of Italian I was the first in my cart. The DeLOUDio’s were so proud.
But that certainly didn’t stop them from calling me crazy when I told them I was going to take Intermediate Italian I and II online over the summer. Admittedly, they frequently tell me I’m crazy for a slew of other reasons, but this time I got it. I really did. After two semesters of intense schoolwork, shouldn’t I be embracing my summer for all that it’s worth? I’m all too aware that summers are a precious and limited commodity that will soon become things of the past when the **gulp** real world kicks in. So why on earth did I commit myself to 4-5 hours of self-motivated, self-paced Italian a day?
Hence the accusations of insanity. A lot of students stay in Baltimore over the summer to get some major or distribution requirements out of the way, but very few take the interwebz route, simply because many classes don’t have the online alternative. Especially language classes. Yay guinea pigs?
Pursuing a language through the intermediate level is a Writing Seminars major requirement, and I’m minoring in Italian, so taking the class over the summer was a no-brainer. But the online factor gave me serious pause. Learning a foreign language, in a classroom, with a professor, is challenging in itself. The idea of taking a language class all on my own, with no in-person guidance or peers, had me doubting my decision until the start of first term. I couldn’t believe that I’d left the fate of my GPA in the hands of a whole year’s worth of Italian crammed into one summer, with only a dictionary for comfort.
But I can say, with only a few weeks left of Intermediate II, that all of my fears were unfounded. The class is definitely intensive and self-paced, but I could not feel less alone. My class (only five students, so I get a lot of individual attention) meets every week on Adobe Connect, and I have weekly one-on-one review sessions with a partner, so I always have the opportunity to ask questions. It’s hard, really hard, but I feel myself getting better with each daily assignment. My goal of graduating Hopkins with some hardcore Italian fluency under my belt doesn’t seem so impossible anymore. And I feel way more confident in my decision to study abroad.
Moral of the story: take a risk, academic or otherwise, over the summer! If I’d played it safe and stuck with taking Intermediate my sophomore year, I wouldn’t have had as much time to devote to just enjoying and learning the language. But, more importantly, I wouldn’t be on my way to fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was ten. So do something a little “crazy” with your time off, whether it be an exciting course, an out-of-your-comfort-zone internship, or…an impromptu trip to Italy? Sixth-grade Allison is already packed.