To Rome with love
Alexa Ball ’15 came to the University of Rochester for its academic programs and its reputation as a major science school. As a biology major, Ball was thoroughly engaged in the University’s rigorous science curriculum, yet she longed for a course that would use a different part of her brain. That’s when she decided to enroll in her first Italian class.
Taking Italian sparked something in her, a curiosity and a new passion for language. It led her to Italy, too, for a four-week long, faculty-led language immersion program in Rome during the summer of 2012.
“My first trip to Rome set everything off for me,” she says. “This is when I fell in love with the city and with traveling, and I found myself capable of being able to do more than I ever though—from grasping the language to taking the train to finding my way around the city.”
She went back to Rome for the full spring semester of 2014, through an exchange program with the Institute for the International Education of Students. The experience opened her eyes in numerous ways.
“I took a class on Italian fascism, which was taught by a professor who lived through it. Many of the Italian students had grandparents who lived through it, too. Listening to them gave me a first-hand encounter with history and it provided an opportunity to learn how to engage in cross-cultural communication.”
Inspired by her time abroad, Ball decided to go back to Italy after she graduated, where she taught English for three months. “I really wanted to experience what it was like on the other side of learning. This provided a way for me to do the teaching.”
Ball is now a first-year student in New York University’s master’s program in international education. “I am where I am today because of my study abroad experiences through the University of Rochester.” In the future, she hopes to develop programs and advise students in the education abroad office at a college or university.
“Education abroad should be on every student’s radar. No matter where you go or what you study, as long as you go outside of your comfort zone, the experience will radiate through every aspect of your life. It did for me. It will give you cultural sensitivity and international competence to perform in any field.”
—Kristine Thompson, May 2017