Silvia Minucci has a passion for languages, travel and students. She is a resident director for AHA International managing the AHA Siena Program in Siena, Italy. In this entry Silvia tells us about her life, and the life of students of this town in Tuscany.
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
During college, I studied Foreign Languages and Literature and specialized in literary translation. My dream was to work in the international field. I started working at AHA Siena in 1999 as an assistant, and since 2005 I have been the Resident Director. From day one, I fell in love with my job, and I have never stopped enjoying it.
What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Siena is set in the heart of Tuscany, surrounded by gorgeous landscapes, from Chianti vineyards and olive groves, to the chalk hills and cypress trees of the Val d’Orcia. Siena is an ideal town for a study abroad program, large enough to offer a wealth of opportunities to study arts, history, culture, tradition and Italian language; yet, small enough to be safe and user-friendly, manageable, not overwhelming, and packed with architectural and artistic treasures. Students can walk around Siena and really “live” what they are studying in class. Siena’s central location allows for easy travel opportunities: it’s just over an hour from Florence by bus, 3 hours from Rome, and 4 from Milan. Siena is considered a student town, as many Italian (particular from the South of Italy) and international students come here to attend the Universities.
What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
My first love in languages is Russian. I studied Russian and lived in Russia for a year. I even wore a Russian Princess-style, white-fur-trimmed dress at my wedding!
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
I love the social activities with the students. I love showing students things I know they have heard and read about for years and finally get to see. The reaction of students when they stand in front of the Michelangelo’s David for the first time is priceless.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
I feel very protective of my students, like an “Italian” mom!
What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
Homesickness. Many students don’t expect to be homesick, so it’s a big surprise to them when they are, and we need to help them to deal with it. However, the ones who are most homesick at the start usually end up having the best experience!
Having studied abroad myself in France, Great Britain, Ireland and Russia, I understand students’ adjustment difficulties as they adapt to living in Siena. Of course, studying abroad is a big challenge, starting from the moment you step off the plane, but it’s an experience that will change your life and one that you will never forget.
What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Be prepared to accept that things are different from America, but to see the differences in a positive way. For example, we don’t have Starbucks here, so we can’t get a tall pumpkin spice latte to go, but you can have a great cappuccino standing up at a bar with the locals!
What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Comfortable shoes! The streets here are made of large stones and there is a lot of walking to do when you are sightseeing.
What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Being able to see your own country from a “foreign” point of view, from a different perspective. You’ll find some things that you look at in a more critical way, and many things that you appreciate even more than before.
To find out more about going on Silvia’s program, follow this link!