Academics Blog

Archive for the Category Italian *



Name: Michelle Gulino

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Area of Study: Political Science, Romance Languages, Italian

The Amalfi Coast

In middle school, I was known as ‘The Gladiator’ for my ability in Latin, the only foreign language my school offered from fourth to eighth grade. One could argue whether or not Latin actually is a foreign language— let alone a language— for hours on end, but regardless, that little taste of something that wasn’t English did get me started on my language acquisition quest. In high school, I was excited when a new world of languages was opened to me: two were offered! I opted for French over Spanish, but not even thoughts of crêpes and freshly baked baguettes could quell my anxieties about the language; indeed, I thought the Listening Exams were harrowing enough until I reached my first Economics course at Hopkins. Today, Romance Languages is my second major (in the end, I couldn’t actually abandon French, and my summer stay in Paris did reinforce my initial attraction to the language) and a wonderful complement to my primary Political Science major, but it is clear to all those who know me that my heart belongs to the Italian Department at Hopkins and the language itself.

I grew up in a homey neighborhood in Brooklyn, heavily populated by Italians, or perhaps more appropriately— Sicilians, my brethren (my mother likes to remind me that Italians and Sicilians are not entirely one and the same). The holiday season brought with it delightfully tawdry green and white mistletoe and snowflake decorations hanging from one lamppost to another all along the entirety of Court Street. At the hair salon or the butcher’s shop, I’d hear second-generation Italian slang and learned some words which, as I would only find out fifteen years later, were not even remotely close to properly spoken Italian.

In Pisa

I began Italian studies my sophomore year of college, and it was love at first lesson. The language came so much more naturally to me than French had, and while I thought both languages were so beautiful, Italian had a natural allure to it. The fall of my junior year, I was fortunate enough to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., where I took a six-person Intermediate Italian class at the acclaimed School of Advanced International Studies and was the youngest of my peers by about eight years. Undoubtedly, I was extremely intimidated the first day of class, especially having heard that nearly all of the graduate students had already spent a year in Bologna, but by the end of the semester, I was the only student who was asked to take the Language Proficiency exam, which I passed, even above my level. Then junior spring, I took advantage of Hopkins’ opportunities to study abroad, went to Rome, and fell in love with the city, all of Italy, and its people and culture, specifically the language, which I was now taking at the Advanced level.

I am, admittedly, a die-hard New Yorker, but I must say that I met its match when I arrived in Rome. I had been to Rome once before, only for a week on a school trip my freshman year of high school. This time, though, being equipped with the ability to converse with Italians, after only one year of college Italian, I desired to seek adventure everywhere, to follow the advice of the words ‘vivi davvero’ and live for real, and I did just that. In addition to opting to live in a home stay, I even had an internship at La Croce Rossa Italiana (Italian Red Cross) that was conducted entirely in Italian, and in the summer, I was an au pair in Tuscany for one month, living with three Italian children and speaking only in Italian. Being in Italy, I experienced a rebirth, a very fitting renaissance; I had imagined Rome would be an enticing femme fatale, a city which I would lasso into my throng of other beloved cities around the world. When I arrived in New York at the end of my seven months abroad, I hesitantly went through the doors at the airport; I was oddly back in the U.S.A., and very much out of place.

Thankfully though, upon returning to Hopkins, I did everything I could to get my fix of Italian and satisfy my thirst to speak the language, by taking three courses in Italian, one of which inspired the subject of my independent study, and getting information on guest lectures offered in Italian. A great benefit of studying Italian at Hopkins is that the Italian Department is small, providing for close one-on-one interaction with professors who know everyone by name and can offer their full attention. The program requires completion of language courses through the Intermediate level and eight courses thereafter— many of which can be completed abroad— in the Italian Civilization and Italian Literature series. An independent study can also be used to satisfy a requirement, and it does not have to be solely language or literature-based; my independent study, for instance, explores gender relations in Italy, particularly focusing on the ways in which women and their corporal images are portrayed in the media and what societal notions on the composition and production of feminine beauty in Italy dictate.

Being able to write a final paper entirely in Italian and having your professor compliment you on your “outstanding Italian” that is “clear, articulate, and of the highest level” is a wonderful feeling. These days, I miss everything about Italy, and I would even take the dreadfully unreliable Italian postal system at this point, if it meant just one extra day there. For now, though, I at least have the comfort of the Italian Department at Hopkins to offer me additional learning tools whenever I desire them.

Cari saluti!

Michelle Gulino


Click here to access more information about the Italian Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Italian question thread.


Name: Megan Wilson

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Fredon, NJ

Major: International Studies

Minor: Italian, Economics


Ciao tutti, e benvenuti al dipartimento Italiano all’università Johns Hopkins!

How many language courses did you take in high school that had you doing endless exercises in grammar workbooks that left you perfect at conjugating verb tenses but useless at applying them in everyday conversations?

Well let me tell you, the Italian department at Hopkins is a breath of fresh air in comparison.  In the Italian classes here, you are immersed in the language from the very start, and are encouraged to speak and learn only in the language from the moment you first step foot into Italian Elements 1.  You will still learn Italian grammar through the program, but in a way that has you interacting directly with your peers to understand conjugations, rather than interacting with workbook pages.

Program Requirements

Whether you are a novice or a native speaker, there is a wide range of courses that you can take to fill the requirements for whichever program you are interested in.  I did not speak a word of Italian before I arrived at Hopkins, and now I am taking Italian literature and film classes taught entirely in the language.  The Italian Major and Minor requirements are very flexible, allowing you to combine your Italian studies with those across various departments and disciplines.  You are required to complete the language courses up through the Intermediate level, and then must complete 8 additional courses for the major and 6 courses for the minor.  This may sound like a lot at first, but by the time I got back from studying abroad, I realized I only needed one more course to complete the minor!

With course options ranging from film studies to Dante to Galileo, it is easy to find fun and interesting ways to fulfill these requirements.  My favorite course so far was the Corso di Perfezionamento, which was an intensive and personalized language study course.  The first day of class, the professor had us list what skills we needed the most work on, and we got to vote on which of these aspects would be covered in the course!

Since the department is small, classes like this are not unique.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find any class in the department with more than 15 students.  The department has 4 full-time faculty, but incorporate a wide range of associated faculty in different departments within Hopkins as well as visiting faculty from esteemed universities to provide a well-rounded and exciting experience for each Italian major or minor.

Studying Abroad

As an incoming college freshman, I was unsure about what I wanted out of my college experience, as I am sure a lot of you are.  For me, there was only one thing that I was positive that I was going to do: study abroad in Italy.  I can honestly say that regardless of everything that I have gained throughout my time in college, this decision led to one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of my life.

Really, what is there not to like about Italy? I challenge you to find a place that has better food, art, culture, wine, clothing designers, or a more beautiful language anywhere in the world.  Whether you study in Rome, as I did, or in Florence, Milan, Venice, Palermo-the list goes on and on- you are guaranteed an experience rich with culture, history, beautiful vistas, and even more beautiful people! Just on my walk to my school each day, I passed by the Colloseum, the Roman Forum, the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (the wedding cake) and Castel Sant’Angelo.  Johns Hopkins even has a campus of its School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, which offers a yearlong undergraduate immersion program for the especially ambitious.

The Italian department is very flexible with accepting the credits you earn while you study abroad in Italy, as you are encouraged to do so during your study at Hopkins.  There is no better way to become fluent in a language than to surround yourself with it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

And no matter what your future career or studies may be, not only is fluency in a foreign language résumé gold, but it is also a useful skill that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.

In bocca al lupo!




Click here to access more information about the Italian Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Italian question thread.