Back to SummaryNick Rosellini - Student Profile
For me, studying in Florence was the chance to relive the greatest adventure of my life for a second time. In third grade my family (randomly) moved to Vicenza, Italy for a year while my dad did a year-long sabbatical at the NATO base there. My ever-sensitive parents promptly thrust my brother and me into Italian public school, with no knowledge of the Italian language and no desire to desert our thoroughly non-Italian lives in our suburb outside of Seattle. Terrified, I stood on the steps of my scuola elementare without a clue what to do. Eventually, I scampered up the steps and began my immersion into Italian life.
With the malleable brain of a nine-year old, I quickly absorbed the language, made friends and, most miraculously, passed third grade. To this day living in Vicenza stands as the most impactive experience of my life. While I could not picture myself speaking another language or identifying strongly with my funny-sounding last name, I would not recognize myself today without those qualities.
One of the things I knew I wanted to do upon arriving in Florence was teach. Within two days of asking Laura, one of the staff members there, if there were any opportunities to teach English, I had an appointment with a local English teacher in a school just a short train ride away. I initially thought I might go in once a week but it took me all of eight seconds to decided that I wanted to work as often as possible.
Though first-graders, on the whole, are an awfully cute bunch, Italian youngsters have a significant advantage. Like most other six-year olds, they haven’t fully mastered their motor skills and speak with whispers of speech impediments. However, the fiery personalities, flowery language and emotive hand motions that give more than several ounces of truth to Italian stereotypes apparently come out of the womb. They were fully developed in my students. Even just the chance to watch them was a joy. But when we interacted, I knew I was having the experience of a lifetime.
Almost every day I left with a tiny experience—a fleeting anecdote—that could have defined my entire time abroad. I once had my customary high-five for completed assignments met with an intentionally glue-covered hand, the delightfully diabolical scheme of a six-year old. Another day, after furiously whispering in the back of the classroom, two girls came up to me to expose their secret crushes for me but, halfway through, froze and scurried away in terror. After another teacher complimented me on my Italian language skills —“I had no idea you weren’t Italian! Complimenti!—one of the boys promptly interjected that my Italian sounded funny and snuck in a small grin just to make sure I knew that he had dissed me. When I recounted my story to a child on her last day before moving away, a smile roared through free-flowing tears that I would never, ever forget—my third-grade self had just smiled back at me.
The second thing I knew I wanted to do upon arriving in Florence was play soccer. I’m no good but I assumed there was no better way to meet some Italians my age. Once again the staff came through for me and set me up with an indoor team. As poor as my foot skills were and as out of shape as I was, I had no idea that those deficiencies would pail in comparison to my deficit in Italian locker room protocol. After my first practice, we returned to the locker room—20 guys in a box no bigger than your average Stanford dorm room. Exhausted, I put my head in my hands to catch my breath. When I lifted my head, I promptly leapt back. Every single person in the room besides me was stark naked, smoking a cigarette and cracking a fresh post-practice beer. By the end of it, I had inhaled more cigarette smoke and seen more naked men than I ever thought I could survive. Fortunately, I didn’t die and went back each week to play as one of the guys.
And those were just two things. I also befriended a local sandwich owner—the famous Pino—who shed a tear when we said goodbye. I saw the David. I stayed with a Sicilian family for a weekend at the behest of an acquaintance from Catania and learned a few words of Siciliano, which might as well be Mandarin. I played gladiators in The Coliseum. I struggled to explain what a “bison” was to my language partner, ultimately deciding to call it a “snowbull”. I walked to class each day across the Ponte Vecchio. I went back to visit my elementary school in Vicenza. I mastered the language. I made friends that I took back with me to Stanford that I know will last a lifetime. Oh, and I ate an ungodly amount incredible food.
Leaving Stanford can seem like a tough choice to make. The Farm is an incredible place in so many ways. That said, my Stanford experience would never have been complete without my time away. Something about living abroad opens your eyes like nothing else. As much as mine had been jolted open at nine, I realized I had started to doze off in the years since. After studying in Florence, they jolted open once more for me to enjoy La Dolce Vita—both there and here.