Student Journals: AIFS in Rome, Italy

Jennifer Dionisio
Quinnipiac University
Richmond in Rome, Italy

Intership at Santa Dorotea

Studying abroad in Rome has proven to be one of the best experiences in my life.

I have learned so much about this eternal city and the Roman culture. The antiquities here far surpass anything I had ever expected. My internship at Santa Dorotea elementary school has helped to make this experience one I know I will never forget.

My field teacher Mimmo Gaeta took three American students into his classroom to assist him as he taught English to students ranging in age from five to twelve. We went to school every Monday morning from nine until one. Our responsibility was to assist Gaeta as he taught his students the English language. What would be thought of as an easy task proved to be somewhat challenging and all the while a new exciting experience each and every time I arrived into the classroom.

Although the school is funded by the state, Gaeta does not have a specific curriculum he is required to teach his students. Instead, he is granted the freedom to teach as he wishes. The entire Italian school system is extremely relaxed, and Gaeta uses creativity, critical thinking and analysis together to form his own teaching methods. The students are always extremely excited when he walks into the classroom, and he has a strong relationship with each and every one of his students. He wants the students to be in constant interaction with one another through his methods of singing, watching videos and full class participation. Instead of preaching lessons to his students, Gaeta involves his class, and they are intuitive and excited to learn from him.

I have learned a few new tasks in the Italian classroom that I would not have been able to experience had I not been able to participate in a program in a foreign country’school. First and foremost is the language barrier. I came to Italy knowing not one word of Italian, and had only participated in a three week language beginner program in Florence before arriving at Santa Dorotea. The students were excited for American teachers to be in their classroom and were constantly asking questions to figure out who we were and why we were in their school. It was difficult to not be able to answer their questions and teach them using their own language. However, I learned how to teach the students English through other ways. American music, stories, hand motions and facial expressions are some of the various ways of communicating to students who speak a different language. Another particular task that I learned here in Rome that I am confident of bringing back to my classroom in the United States is the use of singing as a teaching method. The students sing along to tape recordings of various topics. It is fun and interactive, allowing the students to think creatively in activities that may follow. I believe in this and plan on using it in own classroom one day.

The Italian school system is unlike anything I had previously encountered or expected. Santa Dorotea elementary school has allowed me to gain new insight into the world of education and it has taught me how different cultures hold different expectations for teaching. Overall, my field study experience has been something I will take with me for the rest of my life. I have been able to see the way another country teaches its students and how receptive the students are to the teachers. The methods I have observed here will come back to the United States, in turn creating an international teaching curriculum.

Richmond in Rome

Richmond Rome Internship Program