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Can’t go to Italy? Bring Italy to Pacific

Jul 24, 2020

The disappointment of having a summer study abroad program in Italy canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic was profound.

But a creative solution came quickly.

University of the Pacific students, community members and a professor could not make the trip to Assisi. So they pivoted to bring the Italian language program—virtually—to Pacific.

Susan Giraldez, assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, summed up the solution aptly:

“When life gives you lemons, you make limoncello.”

Pacific students have studied at the prestigious Accademia Lingua Italiana Assisi in summers since 2007. The program is especially crucial for voice students in Pacific’s Conservatory of Music because of Italian language graduation requirements.

“Near the end of February, we were just kind of waiting to see what would happen,” said Giraldez, who is a Spanish professor but has led the summer trip to Italy occasionally. “But the pandemic intensified and it just was not going to work.”

Then came an offer from the Accademia that was a pleasant surprise. “They contacted me and wanted to do a remote class,” Giraldez said.

Conservatory of Music students Paige Tucker and Nicole Ikeda were interested. Two community members who were enrolled in an Italian school took part in the class, as did two seminarians studying for the priesthood—one from Illinois, one from Virginia.

Tucker, in fact, needed the class to fulfill her Italian requirement to graduate. She had planned to travel to Assisi to complete her bachelor’s degree. The remote class was a great solution for her.

“Paige was a senior. She needed the class and she needed it now in order to graduate,” Giraldez said.

Ikeda’s interest in the course was completely different. She heard about the remote class and decided to take it to complete the requirement early. The junior-to-be liked the class so much that she has “been bitten by the Italian bug.” She hopes to travel to Italy if the trip is back on in 2021. She even asked Giraldez if they could have Italian refresher lessons during the upcoming school year.

“I really enjoyed the class and learning about Italy. It also was the most fast-paced language class I have taken,” said Ikeda, a music therapy major. “I definitely want to make a trip to Italy, and I actually would prefer going there already having some background in the language.”

The class studied Italian five days per week. Class members also had two hours each Tuesday morning with an Italian actress who gave them diction lessons.

“She would give us a sentence to repeat and 75 percent of the time she would tell Nicole ‘that was perfect.’ Nicole has that musical ear,” Giraldez said.

Giraldez said it took the efforts of many people to make the program work, even if for only two students.

“This is a College of the Pacific/Modern Language and Literature Department program but it runs through (Benerd College Extension Courses) so it took many to make this happen: Debbie Kinyon in COP plus a lot of people from Benerd College (Dean Patricia Campbell, Kyle Harkness, Matt Camino, Jen Maroney) plus Anabela Bettencourt in Student Accounts. In a moment of crazy stress everyone came together to make this happen,” she said.

The class ended on July 24, and that means one big change for Ikeda, who lives in Honolulu.

“I had to get up for the 5:30 class,” she said. “I will get to sleep some more now.”

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