Senior’s Summer Study Abroad in Italy Strengthens Language, Family Ties

Published: Jul 16, 2014
After seven weeks this summer, Salvatore DeGaetano’s language has improved remarkably, but what impacted him even more was the Florentine culture.
After seven weeks this summer, Salvatore DeGaetano’s language has improved remarkably, but what impacted him even more was the Florentine culture.

Growing up in Salvatore DeGaetano’s Italian-American family meant big family gatherings, lots of food and nearly everyone speaking Italian.

“On my dad’s side of the family I’m the only one who isn’t fluent in Italian,” said DeGaetano ’15. “All my family members had to switch to English to talk with me, and that bothered me.”

When the opportunity presented itself to study abroad this summer in Florence, Italy, DeGaetano didn’t have to think twice.

“I’ve always been intrigued by Italian culture, and this was a great chance to experience it,” he said. “I knew the only way for me to learn the language was to be forced to use it on a daily basis.”

After seven weeks this summer, DeGaetano’s language has improved remarkably, but what impacted him even more was the Florentine culture.

“For a month and a half, Florence felt like my new home,” said DeGaetano, of Long Island, NY. “Florence made such an amazing impression on me that I'm already planning my trip back next year to stay with family.”

DeGaetano studied Italian language as well as wine culture and exploration at the Florence University of the Arts. As a SAI Programs scholarship recipient, he posted several blog entries as the company’s student blogger during his experience.

DeGaetano wanted to be fluent to strengthen his family ties and to make him a well-rounded individual. A criminology major with a minor in business administration, he returned home to a job as a research analyst for white collar crimes with a private investigation firm in New York. In 2013 DeGaetano interned with the same company and proposed adding a sports investigation department, which he hopes to make a reality with a full-time position after he graduates from UT.

“I’m very observant; puzzles come naturally to me,” he said. “I like to find the niches and put the story together.”

In addition to his coursework, DeGaetano is the treasurer of Theta Chi and has played varsity lacrosse the last two years. He recently founded a nonprofit organization called “Sal’s Soldiers,” which raises funds and awareness to help those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that took his father in December 2013.

DeGaetano ended his study abroad experience by spending a week visiting with family living in Italy.

“Where I come from we have a strong respect and value for family,” he said, adding that what’s great about his generation — in what he’s learned from his UT friends — is that while they have their own culture, they are more aware of the global community.

“My experience in Italy exceeded my expectations for sure,” he said.

 

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