UC Berkeley student Roberto Ulloa is no stranger to our Accent Florence Study Center. While completing his 2017 Spring semester with Accent, Roberto discovered his passion for Italian language and culture. Upon returning to the States, Roberto declared a second major in Italian Studies and is now completing his degree at the University of Bologna. Roberto drops in from time to time to visit our Florence staff and reminisce about where his Italian adventure started.
I used to joke with my family that the only reason I was attending college was because I wanted the opportunity to study abroad. Obviously that wasn’t the only reason, but it definitely was an experience that I knew I had to have before graduating. Along with every other college junior, I initially thought that choosing a program would be difficult, but I eventually set my sights on Italy. After evaluating my goals for my semester abroad, I realized that I really wanted to learn Italian and chose Florence because of their Intensive Language Program. To be honest, I was expecting to go abroad, have a great time, eat some amazing pasta, learn how to comfortably order a cup of gelato in Italian, and then be on my merry way back home. However, looking back I realize how naïve I was to believe that a city as magnificent as Florence wouldn’t have a more profound impact on my life.
The taxi ride from the Florence airport to my apartment was all I needed to understand that this was the perfect city for me. I arrived on January 3rd, 2017 and the Christmas lights around the city added an extra level of charm to buildings and plazas already bursting with grandeur. From my first bite of the panino lampredotto ( a typical Florentine sandwich with cow stomach) and my first cone of strawberry gelato from Gelateria della Passera, I understood that I would be in for an incredible semester.
Courses at the study center began a week later and I was placed in lecture with the amazing Italian Professor, Simona Baldacci. Attending lecture with Simona was an experience within itself. Every day, I arrived to an atmosphere full of “energia” and “positività.” As we progressed through the semester, she flawlessly went beyond the instruction of Italian grammar and opened our eyes to the complexity of Italian culture, literature, and life. By the end of the program, I had a taste of Italian Studies and knew that I wanted more. I like to say that I experienced my own personal renaissance in Florence. It sparked a flame I never thought could be lit and led me on a new intellectual journey. As a result, upon returning to Berkeley I headed to the Foreign Languages department and declared Italian Studies as my second major.
It has now been two years since I began my semester in Florence and I’m currently completing a year-long exchange program at the University of Bologna. After declaring Italian Studies, I felt a need to return to Italy—what better way than to study at an actual Italian university? I have to admit that when I first arrived in Bologna the thought of sharing a classroom with people whose mother tongue is Italian had me feeling a bit intimidated. However, those feelings quickly faded because I found it pretty easy to establish a new support system composed of classmates, professors, and housemates that lend a helping hand when needed. Not to mention that Florence is only a half-hour train ride away, so I can go any time and visit my friends at Accent who helped lead me on this unexpected journey. I have about six months left in Bologna and I’m not 100% sure what my next move is, but the one thing I’m certain about is that Italy is somewhere in my future.~Roberto Ulloa, University of California – Berkeley
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