Alumni Spotlight: Cassie Zito


Cassie Zito traveled abroad for 4 months between the months of February and May 2013 during her junior year spring semester. She is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, is 22 years old and is currently in her senior year at Penn State University.

Describe your program socially and academically.

Cassie: Academically, IES was great in that they offered a variety of courses for students to not only learn about European and Italian history but also to go and experience it firsthand. Many of the courses offered have field studies built into the curriculum which is the best because the professors take you to museums, monuments and historical sites that you would not be able to visit on your own, whether they are in the heart of the city of Rome or just outside the center.

The professors are all great and enthusiastic because they all love what they teach. The program socially is good because your living placement is close to other students in the program. IES also coordinates events with students so there are many opportunities to make friends. The ISCs are also a great way to bond with the locals!

Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?

Cassie: My most meaningful souvenir was definitely the gold cornice necklace that I finally bought on my last weekend trip to Capri. I knew I wanted to buy one before I left but I hadn’t seen them in many places that I visited beforehand. A cornice is a little horn and it is an Italian symbol for good luck and I now wear it all the time. It makes me feel connected to my roots in Italy!

How has this experience impacted your future?

Cassie: Even before going abroad I knew that I wanted to travel whether it was with my future job or on my own personal time and studying abroad basically confirmed that for me. Every job or interview that I have so far been in since coming home I have made sure to ask about opportunities for global rotations in Italy of course but in other countries as well. I got to visit a lot of places in Europe while I was abroad but there is still so much of the world that I have not yet experienced and I am eager to visit them all!

Describe a goal you set and how you went about accomplishing it.

Cassie: My goal for myself for while I was abroad was to come back fluent in the Italian language. When we arrived in Rome on one of the first days of school we had to take an oral Italian assessment with the professors to determine which level of Italian you would be placed in. After the assessment my professor told me I could either be in level 3 or 4 which was the highest level possible. Although most of my friends chose level 3 and it would have been fun to be in class with them, I chose the highest level because I knew my goal was to become fluent and that that class would help me to achieve that. I also met some great new friends in class too!

Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?

Cassie: I definitely think that I got to see the city from a local’s perspective. It can be very easy to get lost in the group of Americans that you live with and go to school with but you have to put yourself in different situations to be able to see the city from a local’s perspective.

I had an ISC as one of my roommates and I think that helped because she could take us to the local places to hangout and we got to meet her friends. It is completely acceptable to go sit in Villa Borghese with friends to have a picnic or go grab pizza “al taglio” or “un panino” to eat while sitting in a piazza. Take advantage of all the experiences you can that you wouldn’t normally get while at home.