Current Issue

DU students Bologna bound

DU students take classes alongside Italian students at the University of Bologna. Photo: Javier Torre

Students at the University of Denver, the oldest private university in the Rocky Mountain region, have the opportunity to study at a place with a bit more history — the oldest university in Europe.

Founded in 1088, Italy’s University of Bologna hosts a faculty-led DU study-abroad program each spring and fall term. Although the program attracts mostly Italian majors and minors, non-Italian speakers also are welcome. On average, 16 students participate each year.

Assistant Professor of Italian Roberta Waldbaum will lead the program in its seventh year. DU students will take classes alongside Italian students at the University of Bologna and will live in the school’s residenza along with other international students. Their Bologna curriculum will include Waldbaum’s Core class — Italian Cityscapes: Old Models, New Vision.

The program also includes a service-learning component — via the DU-Bologna International Center for Civic Engagement — in which students can volunteer with a variety of organizations, augmenting classroom learning with exposure to the community.

Meredith Heestand, a senior molecular biology major who went to Bologna in the fall quarter of 2006, chose to spend six hours a week at a foster home for kids with troubled backgrounds.

“It pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she says. None of the kids spoke English, so Heestand, with only a year of Italian under her belt, had to learn along the way.

Heestand found ways “to relate to them on some level even though we don’t share a language or the same background at all,” she says. She and another volunteer “hung out” with the 10- to 18-year-olds, helping with English homework, listening to music and playing sports.

Senior biology major Emily Stewart says the communication lessons she learned in Italy are relevant to her planned career path in medicine. The challenges of cross-cultural and linguistic communication are similar “to a doctor trying to communicate to a patient exactly what is wrong with them,” she says. “I learned to communicate in really different ways than I would have here.”

Stewart had never left the United States prior to her fall 2007 trip, so “it was helpful to have a DU community so far away,” she says.

DU’s Italian department recently received a $1.5 million gift from the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation, which also established the Anna Maglione-Sie Endowed Chair in Italian Culture. Waldbaum holds the first Maglione-Sie Professorship.

Among other things, the award “gives us opportunities to develop exciting programming in Italian universities and a more extensive relationship with Italian faculty and students,” Waldbaum says.

Although she has been to Italy countless times, Waldbaum says she loves going back again with a new group of students because of their “excitement of seeing things for the first time.”

“When the students walk into major squares, markets and buildings full of life and people, their awe and amazement is overwhelming,” says Waldbaum. She hopes students continue to nourish this excitement when they return to DU.

Many do. “I went there with an interest in Italian and I came out with a passion for the language and culture,” Heestand says.


Comments are closed.