Ciao from ACLE!

When my Italian adventure began, I didn’t know just how closely I would follow the GLI theme “Culture and Politics”. The appeal of ACLE, or Associazione Culturale Linguistica Educational, was the chance to see Italy in a unique way and to teach a group of students that were similar to American children (but much more boisterous and fond of the song Baby Shark). I knew I would have fun teaching English to these kids and that it would be a valuable experience for everyone to share in each others’ cultures, but I didn’t know how powerful ACLE’s curriculum and a little passion could be.

Exchanging language and life experience with someone from a different culture enriches perspective, sure, but my abroad experience brought even more to the table. ACLE’s model is centered around creating bonds with the Italian students and sharing your piece of the world with them. One of our afternoon themed activities is “Culture Day” in which each tutor has their own workshop based on their country or state. These workshops include games, crafts, songs, and general silliness. A fellow tutor from Canada brought maple syrup for her students to try and taught them the Canadian National Anthem. I prepared a mini-lesson about the Salish tribe and conducted a Native American Art Workshop. More than anything, ACLE wants to promote a global community because, in general, Italians tend to have a rigid mindset about the rest of the world. Most citizens never move away from their home country, and 99% of Italy’s population is native. Arrigo Speziali, the founder of ACLE, told us that it doesn’t matter if the students learn a single word of English; what matters is that they become inspired about the rest of the world and start considering themselves to be global citizens.

In addition to broadening Italian students’ perspectives, ACLE has started to implement an environmental agenda to their curriculum this year. Students learn about keeping the oceans clean, deforestation in the Amazon, and acid rain alongside grammar lessons. While Italy is bellisima, there is a lot of trash in this country. Reusable water bottles are nowhere to be seen (ACLE gave the tutors new metal water bottles this year to try to counteract this trend) and everything is made of disposable plastic. Right now, I am watching an Italian woman dump bottle after bottle of water into a pot to make tea even though the Rome tap water is perfectly fine to drink, and, to top it off, threw the plastic bottles into the “organic waste” bin instead of the “plastic” recycling bin. At camp, we encourage environmentalism by having the students brainstorm how we can help keep Italy beautiful, sustainable, and clean. The ACLE curriculum calls for crafts, like turning a water bottle into a planter, and science experiments, like carving “monuments” out of sidewalk chalk and pouring vinegar over it to represent the effects of acid rain. The creativity of this environmental-minded curriculum has a huge influence on the students. And the best part is that they have so much fun doing these activities that they don’t even realize they are learning!

Italy’s culture has many differences from our own. In my classroom, the students were very passionate and easily distracted, which I took to mean that I wasn’t doing my job correctly. Actually, that’s just how these children are, and a classroom of excitable students is much better than students asleep at their desks. People kiss you on the cheek, and you have to learn which direction they go for first in order to avoid an awkward maneuver. They barely eat any vegetables and your diet consists almost entirely of carbs. You WILL eat pizza every day. The biggest cultural changes were, for me, jarring because I’ve never been outside of the United States before. After a while I adjusted. The key is to jump in and consider everything an adventure rather than a struggle (and call your mom twice a day when you’re exasperated).

My perspective on global community changed this summer because it is one matter to discuss what “global community” means while you’re sitting in a UM classroom but quite another to tell a 12-year-old boy named Matteo what Native Americans are for the first time. In our current political climate, it is more important than ever to learn appreciation and empathy for those in different cultures than our own.

This experience developed my leadership skills tremendously. The first (rather silly) growth spurt was the trip itself. I call this abroad experience my trip of Firsts: first time on a plane, first time out of the country, first time being away from home for several months, first time trying to navigate public transportation in a foreign language, etc. There were no baby steps involved in this process, and I am proud that I accomplished those things and lived to tell the tale. Another way that this abroad experience made me a better leader is everything ACLE asks of their tutors. Every day, I would lead a group of 15 to 80 students in songs, games, crafts, and lessons. I conducted my own classroom, the first opportunity I’ve had to do so as an Education major. I’ve collaborated with colleagues and ACLE staff to make each camp the best that it can possibly be, and I’ve evolved a lot through this process. My newly acquired leadership skills were born out of necessity to do my job well and to not get lost in Europe, but I’m grateful for every uncomfortable growth opportunity I’ve stumbled upon along the way.

This experience has brought about one big question: will this generation of students change the world because of our influence? The adult population of Italy doesn’t see climate change or global community as priorities, but it is my dearest hope that the students I’ve had in my classrooms will change that mentality. It has never been more important to be good stewards of our planet.

Italy embraces you the second you step off the plane (and I’m not just talking about the humidity). During my time here, I have known nothing but welcome from everyone I meet. This trip has taught me that human beings are fundamentally the same everywhere: children are crazy and playful, everyone loves to laugh, being good at charades helps surpass any language barrier, and family is everything. People here live passionately, and I hope that I have adopted some of that zeal for life. I will always be grateful to the many host families who have taken me in and the friends I’ve made among the tutors and Italian ACLE staff.

To anyone considering going to Italy, know that Italy will love you back just as hard as you love it. Say yes to every adventure, get to know people who speak broken English on the bus, and try every flavor of gelato under the Tuscan sun. I will come back to the USA with a suitcase full of souvenirs and a bigger heart, because Italy has taught me that the best thing we can do with our short time on Earth is to love every moment as much as we possibly can. Thank you, ACLE, for helping me grow as an educator and a human being and thank you, GLI, for making that growth possible.

A Semester n Torino

My name is Delaney Slade, I’m a Management Information Systems major and this past semester I got the opportunity to live in the beautiful city of Torino, Italy. This once capital of Italy is a melting pot of cultures, art, architecture, history, amazing food, as well as being a gateway to France and Switzerland. I studied business while also taking a communications class for my GLI global theme, Culture & Politics.

The school I attended was an international business school so, in addition to the students being from all over the world, the professors were as well which enhanced my time studying in addition to the course material. My GLI focused class, Intercultural Communication ended up being the class I enjoyed the most and felt I gained the most from. We focused on how collectivistic vs individualistic cultures differ and how that affects everything from family, relationships, jobs, the past, and the future. Being able to look at other places and people in this light has provided me an outlook of understanding rather than judging for being different than the bubble I grew up in. The focus on how much ethnocentrism can affect our everyday lives and inhibit travel and growth opened my eyes in this course.

Another great opportunity I had because of this class was taking a field trip to Brussels, Belgium and visiting the European Union headquarters. The timing of this was so interesting because it was in the midst of Brexit and we were able to actually watch a live debate between two government officials from the United Kingdom. We also were able to speak to people about what they thought about the United States government and their perspective on the current political climate.

The EU Parliament

These experiences and also the city I lived in allowed me to come face to face with a diverse range of issues and situations that honestly made me very uncomfortable at times and forced me to grow. While Torino is amazing and it has a huge place in my heart now, the first couple of weeks I was there were quite challenging. In most other places in Italy that are more traveled by tourists (Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Tuscany region), almost everyone in the hospitality industry speaks some English. In Torino this was not the case, it was very overwhelming and isolating at times to be completely unable to speak with someone when trying to accomplish basic tasks. This actually ended up being one of my favorite parts of Torino, once I learned some Italian it was amazing to interact with locals and experience the most authentic Italy I could. Many cities are heavily frequented by study abroad students, there were only 55 Americans in Torino (it’s Italy’s 4thlargest city, about one million people).  Locals were slightly confused but mostly intruiged and enthusiastic that we had chosen their city to travel to.

The amount I have learned about myself and also the world over the last 5 months astounds me. But as I’m sure how many people feel after traveling, the more places you visit the more you realize how little you know and the more traveling you feel you must do to see it all. Overall, I could not have asked for a better experience. I got to see so much of Europe and also learn about myself and cultures all around the world. We truly do learn the most when we are out of our comfort zones and pushing our own personal limits.

Un semestre muy chévere

My name is Danika and I am a senior at UM with a double major in Psychology and Spanish. I spent the spring semester living in Cali, Colombia where I took classes with native speakers on all sorts of topics including sociology and economics in order to improve my Spanish skills and discover Latin American culture. My Global Theme and Challenge were related to Culture and Politics.

I lived with a host family and 10 other exchange students, something that gave me comfort in my first time living away from my family. Being in a culture far different from my own tested my patience (Colombians aren’t much for timeliness and fast pace) and increased my understanding of the different life experiences around the world. I was met with the utmost kindness and respect from my classmates and professors who always made sure to check in and see how I was doing.

I came to Colombia thinking I was fluent in Spanish, but learned quickly that I was intermediate at best. After a couple trying weeks, I began to pick up on the accent and different words used by the Caleños and my language ability increased tremendously. I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and not be afraid to make mistakes in order to improve and be able to communicate with the people around me.

My experience taught me to go after my dreams and goals without fear of failure and embarrassment. I was able to visit Machu Picchu during spring break (a bucket list item), hold a baby crocodile in Panama, and explore some of the immense, incredible country that I was fortunate enough to call home for five months. Te amo para siempre, Colombia!

A Semester in the Lion City

My name is Abby Borden and I am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. While the sun is shining and the Clark Fork is flowing, I am currently in my summer semester, five thousand miles away from the garden city in a small city in Germany called Braunschweig.

Things I learned from living in Germany for five months:

• It doesn’t matter what people think about you, as long as they remember you as being kind.
Anywhere you go there will be excitement or drama or personal sacrifice. Changing your environment truly tests how well you can adapt to adversity. Even in the toughest times, if you can manage to be kind to others, you will never regret your actions (or at least make it more difficult to regret).

Panel of the Berliner Mauer that translates to “You have learned what freedom means and never forget that”

• You can make friends with anyone.
And you should because sometimes you’ll meet people who will challenge to be so much better than you thought you could be in just five months of your life.

• Statistically- if you are from the United States, you are the most likely to the worst cook in the room.
Yeah, so it turns my range of cooking abilities is pretty limited. Pretty much the only thing that impressed my friends was my homemade banana-walnut pancakes, which seemed pretty granola next to the traditional Italian, Indian, Chinese, Pakistani, Spanish, and German cuisine of my friends.

Löwenwall 16.7.2019- Braunschweig is known as the Lion City so in almost every park you can find a lion statue

• If you want to feel simultaneously more confident and more skeptical of where your from and your values- move to a different country.
Especially being from the United States, where our politics are so highly publicized, everyone has an opinion. Whether they are for or against he things that are very comfortable to you about the US, discussions about world affairs really invoke a fierce jolt of self reflection.

• If you want to feel confident in yourself- take classes in a foreign language because anything you learn will be personally progress, as well as a great story later.
Nothing is a better boost to your ego than leaning a second language as an adult. It’s difficult and rare- so learning a fundamental form of communication while learning something like chemistry or architecture and succeeding will let you know that anything is possible. You just have to try.

• If you give up hope that your bus is coming, it will 100% come around the corner the moment you turn back to walk home instead.
Public transportation is amazing, but is also the number one source of my heartbreak that I experienced in Europe.

Nationalpark Hochharz, Brocken 1.6.2019- Brocken peak is the highest point in Lower Saxony, it’s no match for Glacier National Park but it has a wild history of witches and alchemy

• There will always be someone to help you, you just have to ask.
I remember being in Italy on my summer class break and I missed so many trains and even a flight and on top of it I had lost my credit card- my brain was just not in the right place. I was so fortunate, however, to have made som amazing friends who lent me some money and took me out for gelato to cheer me up. A week later they even checked up on me to make sure I had gotten back to school safely. Traveling somewhere new can be both the most amazing. Experience and the most frightening, but there are always going to be people who believe in you and will be there to give you an extra push when you need it. About 95% of the time while traveling, I experienced so much kindness from people I had never met: women on train platforms, people with spare chains when you’re short a few euros, fellow travelers who also know what is like to be alone. But you’ll never be alone for long.