Staff Spotlight: Emily Schiavone

Center Director, CEA Florence
From northeast Ohio, Emily majored in Art History at Carleton College and earned an MA in Italian Renaissance Art at Syracuse University. Her interest in art and her Italian roots brought her to Italy to study once, twice… three times… and then she never left!

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Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

Emily: Before I came to Florence for my first Study Abroad experience, I spent my summer studying Italian. I knew that if I went abroad without knowing enough Italian to feel comfortable conversing even minimally meant that I would miss out on most of the opportunities I would encounter.

That summer of intense study paid off: I was able to converse with my host family nightly at the dinner table; feel confident in my daily experiences with locals, strike up friendships; travel without worry. My language skills offered me a window onto life in Italy, the lives that Italians lead, Italian culture.

True cultural immersion for me would have been impossible without language, yet both language learning and cultural immersion are essential to my understanding, appreciation and acceptance of my adopted country and what makes it tick.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

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Emily: I have worn several hats since joining CEA in 2008. Moving from position to position has enabled me to learn many important skills that serve me not only in my professional life but also in my personal life. A lot of my work requires communication with local companies, colleagues and professionals in Italian, and so my Italian reading, writing, and comprehension (and speed) have improved.

I have also learned the immense value of great colleagues—the satisfaction of working in sync with others and reaching or exceeding goals is so rewarding. As well, I have learned how to handle difficult situations. While not every situation is the same and new things come up all the time, experience helps you confront challenges with a calmer demeanor and seasoned approach.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

Emily: So far, my favorite traveling experience was my short honeymoon to Malta. We spent only 4 days on the main island, but my husband and I went to all towns and sites on our must-see list using the public buses—which are a trip themselves! Each bus is painted essentially the same (two shades of orange), but they’re all old recycled charter or school buses.

This means that no two buses are the same. Our destinations were many on the little island, but we toured prehistoric sites and dined in ultra-modern restaurants. It’s incredible if you think about the range of time that such a small island has lived, how many peoples it has hosted, and how its rich history has made it the amazing, tiny and often overlooked country it is today.

What does the future hold for CEA - any exciting new programs to share?

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Emily: This summer (2015) will be the first time that we offer programs with specific academic foci in Florence. Our June program is dedicated to art and beauty, and the courses offered are “Photography in Florence” and “The Great Masters: Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael”. Our July program instead focuses on the “Made in Italy” concept. The courses offered present students the chance to study one or two different areas of specialty beneath this important label: Fashion and Food & Wine.

Italian language will be offered during both sessions. By changing our program titles and making each summer session unique, our hope is to attract students who are unable to leave their home campus for as long as a semester, but are still interested in a concentrated study of some of Florence and Italy’s most important contributions to the world.