Melina Korfonta ’25
The Italian Studies Program at Trinity College not only offers innovative courses about the language, culture, and civilization of Italy, but a unique experience through the Trinity College Rome Campus: The University Partners program.
The University Partners (UPs) program was created to aid students in forging strong connections with their Italian peers they meet from local universities while in Rome. As a core part of this program, each student is paired with an UP for the semester. Along with their UP, each student will spend between 20-30 hours off-campus. These hours are often spent discovering the city through Rome’s various landmarks and tourist spots. Students also spend this time absorbing the culture and hanging out with young Italians. UPs often take their students to local spots such as a café, an art exhibition, or a soccer match. Additionally creating a more personal experience, some UPs take students to spots where other university students typically hang out in Rome. This allows students to experience less touristy neighborhoods, events held by student associations, and even the best spots to eat. Past students of Trinity’s Rome Campus have expressed enjoyment of the experience, finding that their time with the UPs has allowed them to have a more immersive experience in Rome.
Even in Hartford, UPs use Zoom to help students studying the Italian language on Trinity’s campus improve their Italian and their understanding of the culture. With the options of one-on-one lessons or even group studies, UPs are there to help in every step of an Italian student’s journey. Though these lessons are part of a student’s grade, many students find them vital to their success in Italian courses here at Trinity. Kendall Dorsey ‘25, an Italian 102 student describes her time with the UPs: “I was originally pretty nervous about the UP sessions because I was not confident in my speaking ability at all, but that didn’t end up being a problem. My UP ended up being a really great resource for going over things I didn’t understand in class, and I was just continually shocked by how accommodating and understanding she was of my horrendous beginner Italian. I worked with one UP partner all semester, and it was really cool getting to know her over time. I think a lot of the UP partners are studying to eventually become teachers, and I have absolutely no doubt they’re going to be amazing at it!”
This program also goes beyond students visiting Rome. UPs themselves have expressed various ways this program has changed their experiences with their own education and beyond. Ludovica Mancini, currently studying for a master’s degree in languages and international relations at Roma Tre University, is an UP that came across the Trinity College Rome Campus’ internship last year through the university’s website. She was intrigued by the possibility of being able to teach and organize activities for foreign students as she has seen Trinity work with students from different departments at various universities in Rome, including her own. By becoming an UP, Mancini’s goal was to “inspire students to learn more about Italian culture and history by improving their language skills, as language is essential to accessing and understanding a community.” Even though she is able to help students learn her native language, her students have shown her “a different approach to my language and culture” that she finds “extremely fascinating.”
In Rome, Mancini describes her excitement every time an activity is organized by her and her UP peers, “These activities turn out to be very enriching for the students. I have been an exchange student myself, and I know how important these experiences are. My favorites are definitely the smaller things, like short alternative tours and cooking classes, because everyone has fun while learning.” Mancini also describes how meeting new students who are looking forward to discovering the city and the culture “is definitely a big part of why I decided to be an UP and why I am currently helping new semester UPs before leaving for an internship abroad myself.”
Here in Hartford, Mancini finds that from her experiences as a language learner that, even over Zoom, “talking to someone of the same age with whom you may have a lot in common is an opportunity I would recommend everyone to take, whether you are a casual language learner or an undergraduate in Italian. During conversations in Italian feel free to talk about anything that interests you, ask questions about the language but especially about any curiosities you might have while having a good chat.”