In the program I am in, the academics are actually quite a bit different than what I am used to at my home university. Forget busy work, and forget long-term projects. Here everything is all about hands-on, intimate learning. The classes are extremely small, which I find to be beneficial. It allows us to take field trips and get more out of the class than we would if there were many more students. For my International Business class as well as my Business in the European Union class, my professor organizes field trips and leads group discussions.
Just last week we visited a travel agency in Sorrento and we were able to interview two representatives of the company! This week we went on a class trip to my workplace, a “Limoncello” manufacturing company, and I had the pleasure of answering my fellow classmates’ questions with the help of my colleagues at work. In the past few weeks, we have also had some guest speakers come to my business classes to speak about topics such as Women in Business in Italy, the European Union, and the Economic Crisis. After every field trip and guest speaker visit, we must write an article on our experience and on what we have learned. It is a continuous process of hands-on learning followed by reinforcement through writing.
Typical classes usually involve doing research for homework and having class discussions rather than lecture. For my Italian Literature course, I read out loud and work with my professor to understand the meaning of the text, so it is also more of a discussion-based class. My archaeology course is lecture based, but we also go on many field trips to archaeological sites which helps reinforce what we have learned. This different style of teaching and learning is very effective and I find that I am remembering more because it is such an active learning process that it is hard not to pay attention!
The types of assignments, I find, are also more interesting. My Business in the EU class worked together to develop a SWOT analysis for the renovation of a busy marina in Sorrento. We took a class to visit the marina and observe the area and culture. Then we used what we observed to come up with a formal analysis complete with research. We presented our research findings to the architecture students, who are now using that information to design a new and improved marina to present to the Governor of Sorrento!
For my Italian class, I do not have many formal assignments. However, I am often asked to compare the literature I am reading to modern day songs, films, and the like. It is really interesting to see how similar Petrarch’s poems are, for example, to modern day movies. For archaeology, part of our assignment is to participate in the visits to archaeology sites. We visited Pompeii, and today we went to Torre Anunziata-Oplontis—which interestingly could be the former Villa of Emperor Nero’s second wife, Poppaea, hence its name Villa Poppaea. We had just discussed in class how differently the social classes lived in the Vesuvian population. However, I did not grasp the idea in its entirety until witnessing how big Villa Poppaea is compared to the common citizen’s home…and to think an emperor and his wife once lived there!
The grading is the same as the grading at my University. Although, in Italy they also have a letter grade E, which is slightly better than an F. Thankfully, I have not seen this letter on my own tests and papers. I have three professors. My business professor is American, and my Archaeology and Italian professors are Italian. My only class actually in Italian, however, is my Italian Literature class. I have found all of my professors to be laid back, while still maintaining enough structure to push their students to learn. What strikes me most is the excitement my professors bring to the class. They truly love teaching, and they truly love what they are teaching, and it shows. This means so much to me because as a student, I learn best in a fun and enthusiastic environment. Especially while being taught in a different language, it is best to laugh it off, and do better next time!
One more reason to go abroad is for this similar hands-on experience. When you are studying in a new country, within a new culture, you will learn so much more by taking what you learn in your new environment and applying it in your classes. It works both ways, and I hope all of you take the time to find out more about studying abroad. It is a priceless experience.
Two of the photos are courtesy of my Business Professor, Diane Tuzzolino.
Submitted by Caitlin, Abroad101 Global Ambassador in Sorrento, Italy