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COMM Returns to Italy

By Garrett Page

Group of students stand together inside the Pantheon in Rome

During the Rome field trip, students visited the Pantheon. Photo courtesy of Meredith Colelli.


As travel begins to open back up, so does the opportunity for students to study abroad. In Spring 2023, Department of Communication students are scheduled to finally make their return to Italy in the town of Siena. The last COMM to Italy trip was cut short by COVID-19 in Spring 2020.

Students can register through the Education Abroad website by the September 1 priority deadline. Nancy Parish, instructional assistant professor, said only 15 spots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students will take COMM 335, Intercultural Communication; COMM 350, Theories of Mediated Communication; COMM 480, Religious Communication; and COMM 446, Communication, Organizations and Society. Each course takes place over an intensive, three- or six-week period depending on the course, explained Parish.


COMM to Italy Students pose in front of the Roman Colosseum

COMM to Italy students stand in front of the Roman Colosseum during their field trip to Rome. Photo courtesy of Meredith Colelli.

Mi dispiace, ma non parlo bene l’italiano

Students take communication classes relating to parts of the Italian culture surrounding them. Parish will teach Religious Communication, which explores religious communication through the Catholic Church tradition. Associate Professor Anna Wolfe will teach Organizations and Society, which takes an in-depth look at the organizations within the city of Siena through field studies and observation to see how these organizations build Siena’s culture.

“This is especially interesting in Siena because they’ve got this system where basically the city is divided into wards,” said Wolfe. “And every ward sort of grew up around particular crafts.”

Associate Professor Cara Wallis noted students will live in apartments during their time in Siena, Italy. In addition to cultural immersion, Wallis said living independently allows students to interact with locals while shopping for groceries and learning to cook Italian dishes.

“I think Siena will naturally open up those kinds of opportunities for them,” explained Wallis, “which, of course, might be challenging at first. Within a few weeks or so, they’ll get the hang of it.”

To bridge the language barrier, students going on the trip take a 10-hour “survival” Italian course to learn common phrases mainly to help when shopping or taking public transport, explained Wallis.

Students pose together on the Spanish steps in Rome

Students visited the Spanish Steps while in Rome. Photo courtesy of Meredith Colelli.

È stato un piacere conoscerla

Students who have studied abroad describe the experience as life-changing, Wallis said. Being immersed in a culture and learning through experience can challenge and help students grow by sharing those experiences with a small group of students. Sometimes, it develops into lifelong friendships, added Wallis.

“Actually going there and living there and experiencing a different culture, different language – I think you can’t help but grow as a person,” said Wallis.

Meredith Colelli graduated in Spring ‘21 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She was on the 2020 COMM to Italy trip when students returned early because of the pandemic. Colelli described the experience as life-changing even if it lasted only a month. She added that she made some of her closest college friends during on the trip.

“I am so grateful for this experience as a whole, even with it getting cut short,” said Colelli. “I really hope to go back sometime soon.”

Colelli spent her time in Italy taking classes, meeting new people who would eventually become close friends, and traveling around Italy, taking in the new sights and places. Each day started at 9 a.m. with school, recalled Colelli, with occasional cappuccino breaks until lunch when they joined the architecture students. Study resumed after lunch till 5 p.m., followed by field trips in the city and occasional day trips to cities such as Florence, Orvieto and Sezze. Mealtimes with other students marked some of her favorite memories from the trip, said Colelli.

“Each night, we would sit next to new people in our group and got to know each other while eating incredible food,” said Colelli.

Overview of the city of florence

A birds-eye view of Florence by students in Spring 2020. Photo courtesy of Meredith Colelli.

Buona giornata

Parish said she studied abroad in the past and enjoyed experiencing new cultures during her time in London. Parish interned while studying abroad and noted the  experience gave her a unique perspective on public relations since business in London differs from that in the United States with shorter work weeks and no overtime. She added that houses and cars in London were typically smaller than in the U.S.

Many employers like to see study abroad on a resume, and Parish encourages students to take the opportunity. She noted her study abroad allowed her to speak about what she learned in multiple job interviews and about adapting to a new culture. It also helped her adjust to new situations in a work environment.

“I did that when I went to England,” said Parish. “And when you study abroad, you’re thrown in a different world. And you’ve got to figure it out, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to grow.”

Wolfe said she studied international relations at Oxford University as a junior, focusing on countries’ ethical obligations to statecraft. Wolfe described the experience as life-changing after growing up in a small, rural town. The trip was her first time leaving the U.S. The opportunity to travel to different countries in Europe while at Oxford played a significant part in her decision to pursue a doctorate, said Wolfe.

“I had $11 left in my pocket and a whole lot of experience,” said Wolfe. “And it was totally life-changing because I came to understand the world as, yes, a big and exciting place, but also as accessible in a way I had never experienced before.”

Wolfe, Parish and Wallis emphasize how studying abroad can positively affect individual students. COMM to Italy offers communication students the chance to explore new cultures and broaden personal horizons.


Glossary of Terms

Bentornato – Welcome back.

Mi dispiace, ma non parlo bene l’italiano – I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian very well.

È stato un piacere conoscerla – It was nice to meet you.

Buona giornata – Have a nice day.