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Meet the ITAL Collaborators!

Updated: Feb 13, 2019






Raffaella Gullo, Senior, Majoring in Rhetoric and Writing with a double minor in Italian and CMS (Communications and Media Studies).  Why did you choose to study Italian and why do you think it's important to study Italian?

Choosing to study Italian was a more personal decision. Being a second generation American-Italian, my grandparents came from Palermo, Sicilia. Some of my fondest memories are of my uncle and grandparents speaking and cooking. However, when my family migrated to the U.S. and began living in New Orleans, LA speaking/teaching your children Italian was not something that was done. Neither of my parents speak, but my Uncle remembered the most. He believed that it was important for me to understand and appreciate our ancestry. So, while my father and mother could not speak the language, they did teach me as many of my grandmother and great-grandmother's recipes, their culture, our family history. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with that part of myself. I felt proud to be Italian. Then Transferring into UT community during my Junior year, from a smaller, sister school UT-Tyler. I went from having a large community of friends (Greek life) to a lonely Longhorn in a much, MUCH larger school.  Then the College of Liberal Arts told me that a foreign language was a requirement for my degree. There wasn't a second thought, I chose Italian immediately. It had always been a dream of mine to revisit Italy, to speak the language and truly immerse myself in this part of identity that had still been otherwise unknown. I wanted to connect. Before I knew it, the Italian department, the Rome Study Program, ITL courses and my peers became that community at Tyler that I felt, I'd lost. I think that it is important to study Italian because everything that I learned, from 601 to the upper divisions required of the minor, to the first-hand experiences in Rome. Italy and its history/culture is connected to much more facets of our world than we realize. I also believe that learning Italian or any foreign language is an enriching experience that all should strive for. There's something special about visiting a place and being able to speak the language and truly connect with the people around you. 

Tell us something about cool yourself that most folks may not necessarily know.

Something cool about myself that most people don't necessarily know....

I played violin for 9 years, I dabbled in some acting and modeling in high school and was originally an RTF major and still have a passion for writing, directing and editing film when I have free time.


ITAL Note: Raffaella was one of the winner of our Tran Tran Challenge contest last semester, check out the awesome video she co-created!



Olivia Salinas and I am double majoring in International Relations & Global Studies and Italian Studies.


Why did you choose to study Italian and why do you think it's important to study Italian?

I had the privilege of going to Italy two summers ago and absolutely fell in love with the Italian language, culture, art, food and just about everything else! After having had this unforgettable and invaluable experience, I decided to enroll in ITL 601 the spring of my freshman year. Since the very first day of class, my love for Italy and the Italian language has continued to grow exponentially. I hope to become fluent and study abroad in Rome next year. I believe it is important to study Italian because if one truly wants to get a better understanding of the Italian culture and be able to communicate and connect with its people on a deeper level, then learning the native language is essential. Learning Italian also creates more opportunities for one to work in the international realm. Whether these jobs be in state service, fashion, tourism, culinary arts, or architecture -- you name it, the possibilities are endless.

Tell us something about cool yourself that most folks may not necessarily know.

A fun fact about myself that most people may not know is that I jumped off a 30 foot cliff into a very cold lake in the Grand Teton National Park...twice.


Ariana Pleasure and Corporate Communications


Why did you choose to study Italian and why do you think it's important to study Italian?

I choose to study Italian Drama for my UGS class the fall semester of my freshman year with Professor Olson. I loved it and soon realized I did not want to stop studying the Italian culture and was eager to start learning the language. Now a year later, I have the pleasure of having Professor Olson as my Italian 611 professor. I believe it is very enlightening to learn a new language and the culture that surrounds it. Studying Italian gives students a new perspective on life and encourages them to branch out of their comfort zone.

Tell us something about cool yourself that most folks may not necessarily know. I danced all throughout my childhood. I took ballet, tap and jazz classes and loved every second of it!

Ariana is a returning collaborator, she conducted this great interview last year with an Austin based Italian music professional.


Emily Brustein. I’m a first-year majoring in Human Dimensions of Organization (an interdisciplinary major for business and psychology)


Why did you choose to study Italian and why do you think it's important to study Italian? After visiting Roma e Venezia e Pompeii, I learned some Italian phrases and realized how beautiful the language is. I believe studying Italian is important because it gives people greater insight into the Italian culture and way of life.

Tell us something about cool yourself that most folks may not necessarily know. I am a social entrepreneur and will be launching a start-up this semester to provide low-cost rides for non-emergent patients and the elderly to doctor’s offices, hospitals, and urgent care centers. This will be used to subsidize free rides for the homeless population, eliminating the transportation barrier and improving access to medical care.


Oksana Lyon, European Studies major


Why did you choose to study Italian and why do you think it's important to study Italian?

I chose Italian on a whim. I had previously taken courses in Spanish, French, and Russian, but I didn't enjoy any of them enough to continue. Having grown up in a community with a strong Italian-American presence and been exposed to the language through high school choir, it seemed like it would be a good fit. I haven't been proven wrong. Italian is an important language to study first because it will give you access to one of the coolest cultures in the world, and second because it's a good starting point for English speakers who want to learn other languages.

Tell us something about cool yourself that most folks may not necessarily know.

I was on a local TV game show when I was in the fifth grade. I didn't win the entire game, but I did walk away with a really nice laptop.



Grace Mescall, Senior, Majoring in Advertising with a double minor in Italian and Business.

Why did you choose to study Italian and why do you think it's important to study Italian? So I had originally signed up for a different language for my language requirement, but before the semester had started I decided I no longer wanted to study it. After realizing this, I had no idea what language I would choose. Luckily, one of my friends told me I should sign up for Italian because it was an exciting language. At the beginning I was still unsure if I had made the right choice, but as my first Italian class progressed my attitude began to change. Italian was not an easy class for me but the professors that I had were some of the most encouraging people I have ever met. They taught me so much more than just how to pass a test. Each day they strived to cultivate a community that was encouraging and pushed you out of your comfort zone and I am forever grateful for that. Studying Italian and learning about the culture of Italy can open the door to so many awesome adventures, especially if you're considering studying abroad. I think learning Italian has helped me gain a better understanding and perspective on how each culture brings something unique to the table. Tell us something about cool yourself that most folks may not necessarily know. I once hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and all the way back up.