Comunita' degli Italiani - St Louis partners with SLU Italian Club and Italian Studies Program

Sep 18, 2018 2281

BY: Michael Cross

Jenna Sommer doesn't have an ounce of Italian blood. At face-value, she seems like a typical mid-western girl with blue eyes and dirty blonde hair. Yet on a hot summer's day at the Italian community's celebration of Ferragosto in St Louis, she's speaking Italian. Fluent Italian. And many more college students who have no ancestors from the old country are doing the same.

They are students from Saint Louis University's Italian Studies program directed by Prof. Simone Bregni who has been teaching at SLU for over 17 years and developed a course entitled Intensive Italian for Gamers. Imagine that. Learning Italian while gaming! Unconventional to say the least. To quote Bregni "I firmly believe that learning should be fun. The fact that it is fun doesn’t take away from the seriousness -- it’s just more effective!"

Saint Louis University has always had a diverse student body and learning a second language is almost becoming a norm for students who attend the oldest university west of the Mississippi. Not every student, however, thinks that studying Italian would enhance their future job opportunities. But most people also don't know that Italy is one of the top five economies in the world and that many employers seek people who speak both Italian and English. Moreover, an estimated 7,500 American companies do business with Italy and more than 1,000 U.S. firms have offices in Italy, including: IBM, General Electric, Motorola, Citibank, and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. 

In order to strengthen SLU's Italian Studies program and their Italian Club, the Comunita' degli Italiani - St Louis (Community of Italians in St Louis) has decided to partner with Saint Louis University. The hope is for the program to gain more traction among students already studying at SLU but also to highlight the program as one of the very best, not only in St Louis, but in the entire Midwest. SLU's Italian program has a lot to offer. Besides the courses themselves, the Tavola Italiana each week is a great way for Italian students to practice conversing in Italian. There are monthly Italian film screenings with round-table discussions. SLU also has five Italian study abroad programs: two in Rome, and one in Bologna, Sorrento, and Taormina. Living in Italy for a year, or even a semester, is an education in and of itself. According to UNESCO, over 60% of the world's art treasures are found in Italy. For SLU students to be able to learn the language before living in Italy and experiencing the culture firsthand, is an opportunity most college students are not lucky enough to receive. 

The mission of the Comunita' degli Italiani - St Louis in relation to the SLU Italian Club is to provide events in an Italian speaking setting as well as lectures and cultural opportunities held throughout the metropolitan area. Being planned in the coming month is a pizza party for the students at Eni's pizzeria, an authentic Italian pizzeria in south city which uses the finest ingredients and the proper wood fired oven to get a true Italian flavor. This won't be anything like St Louis style pizza. This will be a real taste of Italy. 

Throughout the years many Italians have studied at SLU but only in the past couple years have they become a part of the wider St Louis Italian community. SLU students such as Martina Marras, from Turin, who studies biomedical engineering and Agnese Ventrella, from Bari, who studies computer science, regularly attend events with the community. It gives them a sense of belonging and a "home away from home". Encountering Italian students at SLU also benefits the American students as they are able to interact with Italians of their own age. Experiencing modern Italian culture is educational for American students and even for Italian-American students who might have a radically different and, in some cases, stereotypical view of Italian culture. Today, around 1,500 native born Italians live in St Louis, mostly young professionals, students, and young families with children. This provides a great opportunity for a true cultural exchange and a way to share authentic Italian culture with the students who might not have the chance to travel abroad. 

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