University of Florence
When Simona was six her mom brought home a magazine titled The English Junior. Since that afternoon on her mom would bring home a new edition of the same magazine weekly. With this she opened a new door, as her daughter fell in love with the English language. Simona remembers that she would spend long hours and various days flipping through the magazine's pages, trying to learn the meaning of those English words in her native language, Italian.
At the age of ten she started to study English at school. Her love for the English language along with the appealing images of the United States that would often appear in the T.V., made Simona to think about the day her dream would come true and she would visit the United States.
Time passed and Simona entered the University of Florence. After starting to study Spanish at the age of 18, she took a course in Latin American literature, which inspired her to study why people's culture and language change, as it did in the U.S. It was this class that inspired Simona to study linguistics and socio-cultural perspectives on Spanglish in the creation of the Mexican-American identity.
A year after completing her undergraduate education, Simona had opportunity to continue her studies abroad and to fulfill her dream of coming to the U.S. This opportunity was presented through the American Studies Diploma Program wich Smith College offers in association with the University of Florence. Simona applied and was accepted to come to the U.S to improve her English and to experience a new culture.
"Simona, welcome! We are so happy to have you here from Italy!" Simona was surprised when she heard the screams of the enthusiastic AMS staff, welcoming her to the pre-orientation for international students. Simona states, "I was surprise to see how cheerful, welcoming, and friendly these people were to me, a total stranger." She was also shocked when during her fist day of class her professors showed interest in getting to know their students, and asked them to introduce themselves. Simona describes this as "something that would never happen in Italy. Over there the students are almost 'anonymous' to the professors."
This experience has changed Simona's life. She says, "Now, I am alone. My family is far away and I have to be responsible and to learn to rely on myself. This experience has helped me become a stronger person."
Simona recognizes that Smith's academic environment is challenging, but she especially emphasizes how the staff and different programs on campus, like the Jacobson Center, are really helpful and dedicated to helping the students succeed.
In the other AMS students she has found a second family. Although they come from different parts of the world, "we have a lot in common," she states. She remembers how fun it is to have dinner with all of them while making fun of each other's accents. With the other AMS students she found support adapting to a new country and a new educational system. In them she also found friendships that allow her to find relief during stressful times.
While at Smith, Simona is pursuing her research about Mexican-American culture, in order to understand how Chicanas utilize code switching to claim their feminism. She also hopes to improve her teaching skills, as she currently is a tutor in the Italian Department. After her year at Smith, she plans to go back to Italy and work as an English or Italian teacher at an international school.
By Marichuy Gomez '14, Global STRIDE Fellow
As part of the Global STRIDE fellowship, the fellows interviewed and profiled international students in the college's graduate program in American Studies, to help familiarize them with people who have made cultural transitions.