Alumni Spotlight: Melanie Biano


Melanie, 23, participated in the History of Art and Italian Studies in Siena, Italy program with CET for the fall semester of 2010. She’s originally from Northern Virginia, but spent middle school through college in Charlottesville, VA, where she attended the University of Virginia studying history. She has just finished an internship with CET and is gearing up to move to Richmond, VA this summer where she plans to work in marketing and event planning.

Why did you decide to study abroad with CET?

Melanie: I chose the CET Siena program for a variety of reasons. I could receive direct credit from the program and I was able to complete two semesters worth of Italian language credit in one semester abroad, a nod to the academic rigor of CET programs. This enabled me to focus more on my major courses upon my return. Included in the program were many outside activities – we traveled to Rome and Catania, Sicily and were able to take part in other excursions such as biking in the clay hills in Tuscany. We lived with Italian students in apartments, which, coupled with living in a smaller city where many people don’t speak English, enabled us to learn the language.

What made this experience unique and special?

Melanie: I think the most important thing that made this study abroad experience unique and special was the fact that this program is very small. The semester that I went abroad, there were 12 students on the program. This allowed us to really get to know each other and enabled us as students to speak with our professors one-on-one on a regular basis.

Larger programs only hurt one’s ability to integrate and immerse in the culture; inevitably, you just get lost in the mix of things and it can be difficult to get the attention and help you may need. The size of the program combined with everything else I’ve mentioned make CET stand out in study abroad providers.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Melanie: I think that students who study abroad have a higher marketability, especially when it comes to employment and furthering their academic pursuits. Since returning from studying abroad, I worked for CET as a Campus Ambassador to promote study abroad at my university, specifically my program; because of my work as a CETCA, I was able to travel back to Italy.

After graduating from college, I began working for CET once again as an intern. I have learned about international program administration, processed student application and visa materials, updated marketing materials, and planned events for staff and clients. My various experiences with CET have undoubtedly impacted my future and make me stand out.

What is one piece of advice you'd give future CET students?

Melanie: Make a budget before you go and stick to it, but do be sure to have “emergency money” just in case. You never know what could happen, so be prepared for the unexpected, especially when it comes to travel arrangements. Be responsible with yourself and your money, but make sure to enjoy your surroundings and experience all that you can while you’re there!