The university’s Tuscan campus offers exciting opportunities for immersive language learning

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Students who take an Italian course on the campus of the University of Prato, Italy, regularly take advantage of the many unique experiences that the location of the campus offers them to learn the language.

November 10, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Left to right: Emily Kelliher ’24, Carly Brow ’23, Piero Ianniello, MA, Sean Flatley ’23 and Fransheli Ventura ’23 at Mokha.

Carly Brow ’23 recently had dinner with her classmates and her teacher, engaging in a heated discussion about their recent travels and experiences. Their conversation took place entirely in Italian, over a meal in an Italian restaurant in the heart of Tuscany.

Brow spent the Fall 2022 semester on the campus of the University of Prato, Italy, where students from a variety of disciplines study Italian and have myriad opportunities to apply what they learn in Italian every day. class. Once a month, Brow and his Italian 102 class meet at a restaurant, practicing their Italian with each other, with their teacher and their servers. Students say it’s a perfect – and unique – way to learn the language.

“It’s really fun,” said Brow, a psychology student. “It’s tough, and it’s something different. It’s cool to go to dinner in class with our teacher, and it’s great to learn in a more intimate setting in a restaurant.

“A relaxed environment”
Fransheli Ventura '23 shows her dessert in Mokha.
Fransheli Ventura ’23 shows her dessert in Mokha.

The four students in the class met their teacher, Piero Ianniello, MA, at Mokha, a popular restaurant on the student meal plan that is a short walk from campus. Professor Ianniello guides the conversation, giving students a different prompt each time they meet. The students then take turns answering and asking each other questions.

During a particular class meeting, students were encouraged to describe a time when they were afraid. They then shared their stories in Italian. One student, for example, described encountering a bear in the woods while in the United States.

“It forces us to use our Italian,” said Fransheli Ventura ’23, a criminal justice major. “It’s great because we immerse ourselves in the culture, and living in Italy makes it easier. Even if you don’t understand everything someone says, you improve your vocabulary and you learn.

This is what Professor Ianniello, who has taught on the University of Prato campus since its creation ten years ago, hopes. He describes his teaching as “non-traditional” and likes to find new ways to keep learning while having fun.

“I want to engage my students and make the lessons lively,” said Professor Ianniello, who teaches Italian language and culture. “I like to create a relaxed environment in the classroom because students do their best in an environment like that.”

“It is particularly valuable”

Professor Iannello kept the conversation going while helping students improve their grammar. They extended the conversation to the decor of the restaurant, going over Italian words for objects they saw around them and Italian culture. Professor Ianniello hopes these courses will enrich students’ experience abroad, both inside and outside the classroom.

“I love communicating with students,” said Professor Ianniello, an award-winning writer who has published several novels. “I learn to understand the personality of each student and I can meet them where they are. When they are abroad, they are looking for a reliable and trustworthy adult, and it is important to me that I play this important role for them.

The students enjoyed the opportunity to have classes in Mokha, laughing together over dinner while conversing in Italian. They say it’s a great way to learn a new language and a unique opportunity while studying abroad.

“It’s especially valuable in a city like Prato,” said Brow, the psychology major. “It’s a less English-speaking city and a great place to learn.”

Fransheli Ventura '23 and Emily Kelliher '24 (front) in class.
Fransheli Ventura ’23 and Emily Kelliher ’24 (front) in class.
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