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“La finestra nella vita di Roma”

This week I went to the Tavola Italiana at UT Austin. Tavola is a weekly informal meeting in which students, assistant instructors, teaching assistants, and professors (such as Antonella Olson, the founder of the Tavola, and Irene Alvisi) and anyone from the Italian community can come together to not only practice speaking Italian, but also discuss Italian culture at the historic Cactus Café on campus.

I had the opportunity to talk to the ITL 611 students this time, and the hot topic that everyone was discussing was ITAL’s new Module 4 - “Raccontami Una Storia di Roma”. I sat down with some of them to hear their thoughts on the new module. I was very excited to talk to them because I was also a 611 student when I first learned about ITAL a couple of years ago, and I remember watching the modules and falling in love with the stories!

The main feedback that I received while interviewing the students is that they loved how interactive the new module is. Ramiro Rodriguez noted that this new module is “una finestra nella vita quotidiana di Roma”, or a window into the daily life of Rome. It allows one to be able to see Rome past the typical tourist places and visit “la vera Roma” (the real Rome) through the map. Even Vanessa Fanelli, a PhD Italian student at UT Austin from Milan, notes that this module is just as exciting for a native Italian as it is for Americans. She explains how the module gives her the opportunity to get to know Rome from an authentic perspective just through the great places the map presents digitally. Vanessa explained to me that she can’t wait to go there and see in person all of the little things she is discovering through the stories on the map.

While talking to the 611 students, they shared with me what some of their favorite places are on the map so far. When I asked Seth Cope which one was his favorite, he couldn’t help but laugh when he thought about how “interessante, buffo e strano” one of the stories was. The story uses comedy to give a unique perspective on the influence that America has on some Italians. To see Seth’s favorite story, check out Story #30, “Giorgio sotto l’incantesimo Americano”.

I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of the students I interviewed stated that their favorite story was “i cani”. There are two stories on the map that talk about dogs in Italy and I would encourage you to check them out! In them Romina talks to her cousin Simona about the differences between owning a dog in Rome vs. Austin. If you’re a dog lover like me and want to know more about what having a dog in Rome is like, check out Story #23, “Owning a dog in Rome”, and Story #24, “You have to know your dog”.

Elisa Valentini, another PhD student at UT, noted that the module is also great for giving the students practice with listening, because the stories on the map are accompanied by videos with native Italians speaking in them. She states that it encourages the students to be “more attentive, active, and independent listeners”.

After leaving the Tavola, I concluded that the reason why students love how interactive the new module is must be because it gives them the opportunity to relate and connect with Rome on a much more personal level, beyond just the tourist perspective. With Romina and Sergio giving personal anecdotes accompanied with short videos, there are over 50 stories the students have the opportunity to connect with. It makes the students’ task of creating videos in response to the module questions much easier, because there is something everyone can relate to. Vanessa emphasized to me that what makes ITAL different is that it presents the students with a completely new and unique way of learning about Italy, through “la possibilità di interagire”. It’s more than just a text but rather something that enables the students to practice hands on what they are learning.

I would like to conclude this blog post by personally inviting you to ITAL’s May 9th event, in which the top videos that the ITL 611 students create will be presented to a panel of judges and a winner will be chosen! Several people from the Italian community in Austin will be there, so stay tuned for more information. We hope to see you there.

Lastly, if you are interested in practicing your Italian, learning about Italian culture, or simply meeting other Italians and Italian students from the UT Austin community, come to the Tavola Italiana! It’s every Friday from 3 – 4 pm at the historic Cactus Café in the Texas Union.

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