One of the best experiences I’ve had studying in Temple Rome has been the opportunity to work with the Mamiani Project. It’s only the second year, but this program is a volunteer project that has allowed me to go to an Italian high school for a cultural exchange program. Once a week, I go to work with the students on their English skills by giving presentations on American culture and listening to their presentations as well. This is a great program that has really helped me to understand the average Italian life. As a study abroad student, I’m a little separated from Italians. My Italian is functional, but not fabulous and meeting people is always hard.
Italian high school is weirdly different and the same all at once. Italian high school is 5 years long, so students stay until they’re 19 rather than the typical 18 of the United States. But the way teenagers are is the same. My students complain about how school is not fair, about how their teachers don’t care about anything but their subjects or about making school an enjoyable experience, and that it’s hard to find other students with the same interests. Listening to them talk about their workloads and complain about teachers was like teleporting back to conversations between High School Beth and her friends.
One thing that Italian schools have that there is absolutely no comparable American phenomenon is the ‘occupazione’. It’s a form of student strike where the students take over their class buildings and don’t let anyone in. Classes are completely stopped until the occupazione is over. I still don’t really fully understand it, my class tried to explain it to me but it ended with the students and teacher disagreeing on the way some pretty crucial parts work, but suffice to say nothing even close to this happens in American high schools!
Through working with the students in my class I learned a lot about Italian life and culture! The students did presentations in English for me, so I learned all about Italian Christmas traditions, the roots of popular music, and of course Italian food! The students even brought in food they had made for me to try. It was delicious!
This project was a truly amazing way to get in touch with the lives of average Italian families. If you’re living in the Residence and not a home stay, it can be the only real connection you make with daily Italian life. Working with the students at the Mamiani school was a great experience for me, and definitely one of the best programs I participated in through Temple Rome. I highly recommend that any prospective students with a real interest in Italian life, or who just want to be part of a really cool community outreach program, participate in this program when they get here too!