Meet the Students!

Choosing to study abroad is a life changing decision that is hardly taken lightly and effects each student differently.  Within their first week abroad, the Sant’Anna spring semester students reflected on their initial reactions to their new surroundings and lives abroad.  Having a new group of friends, homes, language, town, and school all in one semester is a lot to take in!  The individual stories behind their immediate culture shock, struggles, and memories are inspirational.

Sarah Clark, Berea College talks about her home stay experience.

Sarah Clark, Berea College talks about her home stay experience.

Even students, like Nitsa Ioannides of Plymouth State University, that are used to living in a dorm or student apartment had their concerns over the chemistry of the new group of classmates they would meet.  But, as Ioannides and others were happy to report, the group of students in Sorrento this semester get along famously. Home stay students, like Courtney Fields (depicted) of University of Minnesota, express their joy in having a new home away from home with an authentic Italian host family while internship students, like Derek Wolfer of Alfred State College, share their expectations for working internationally.

Discussing everything from the delicious Italian cuisine to celebrating milestones abroad, each student speaks of their own personal experiences and how excited they are to enjoy their time here!


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Meet the Spring 2014 Sant’Anna Institute Study Abroad Students!

Scavi Di Oplanti – Excursion to Villa Poppaea

Located between Pompeii and Sorrento is Villa Poppaea known to Sant’Anna archaeology students as “Oplontis”. Now in the modern town of Torre Annunziata, the villa is the only excavated portion of the ancient Roman city of Oplontis and the location of one the many excursions the class requires.  Descending past the almost ten meters of volcanic matter below the modern ground level, the group entered the villa from what would have been a vast and luxurious garden.  Their instructor, Ilaria Tartaglia, educates them on the immense wealth that lay below that lay below the land owned by her ancestors.

Cities of Fire/Archaeology Students poolside in Oplontis!

Cities of Fire/Archaeology Students poolside in Oplontis!

Showing the group through the various quarters of the large villa, Tartaglia points out the graffiti and other evidence suggesting the home was owned by the Roman Emperor Nero to be used by his beautiful and adored wife, Poppaea Sabina.  Exploring the gently restored rooms, taking in the rich frescos, and admiring the larger-than-olympic sized pool truly gave the students a look into the history of southern Italy; its ancient architecture and the overwhelming feeling of being a guest in the home of an emperor.

Museobottega della Tarsialignea

Just a few slender cobblestone streets away from Sant’Anna Institute, lies the gem that is the Museobottega della Tarsialignea, Sorrento’s one and only inlaid wood museum.  A local craft, the art of beautiful and intricate inlaid woodwork is a practice that has been a Tarsialignea passion for generations.

Professor Jeff Johnston and owner Fabio Fiorentino.

Professor Jeff Johnston and owner Fabio Fiorentino.

Architecture teacher, Professor Jeff Johnson, arranged a personal tour for Alfred State study abroad students lead by the museum’s owner and founder Fabio Fiorentino.  While there was no photography allowed in the historical building Fiorentino purchased to display his collection, the students will forever cherish the sheer beauty of the treasures it held.

The museum proudly preserves and displays collections that allow the visitor to relive the era of the Grand Tour, a time when Sorrento was a meeting point for leading representatives of nobility and international culture.  In each room of the large building there are unique pieces of history with explanatory documentation detailing their origin and authenticity.

Alfred State study abroad students from Sant'Anna Institute outside of Museobottega della Tarsialignea.

Alfred State study abroad students from Sant’Anna Institute outside of Museobottega della Tarsialignea.

Dating back several centuries, Fiorentino personally escorted the group through the floors of artwork, furniture, and other precious collectables that make up the exhibit.  Passionate about his work, Fiorentino bluntly speaks about the lack of art in imported and mass produced replicas of classic inlaid works of woodwork art.  Carrying on their family tradition, he proudly discussed his children and their roles in the design and production of art in the museum.

With plans for collaboration on a model of the local marina, his dedication to the establishment and its history, and the knowledge he shared, the students thank Fabio and his family for allowing them to experience more of Sorrento’s vast culture.

What is Sorrento Italy like to a study abroad student?

“Paradise. Utopia.  These are words that I do not often use nor do I traditionally use to explain a place I have chosen to study.  But these are words that I have wisely chosen to explain Sorrento and especially the study abroad experience at Sant’Anna Institute.

The city of Sorrento comes alive in the summer.  It is vibrant with the hustle of people, both the locals and tourists.  The smell of the oranges that grow on trees lining the streets mixes with the fresh salty air blowing off the Mediterranean.  It is truly a magical place.

7. have fun in the amalfi coast

Students having fun on one of the many beaches on the Amalfi Coast

The ability to study abroad in such a place is, in itself, a gift.  When added in the experience that Sant’Anna contributes, it would seem daft to go anywhere else.  The staff at Sant’Anna make the time spent in the classroom well worth it, and then the excursions truly bring the experience together.

On top of this are the locals. They are so open and excited to share their city and culture that it is difficult not to become fast friends and soon enough you will be introduced to things you didn’t know existed, such as a favorite swimming spot or the best place for a late night snack.

Spending a summer in Sorrrento was the best collegiate decision that I ever made.  As soon as I got back to the US, I noticed that the sun was not as bright and the air not as sweet. I can not wait for the next time I am in Sorrento.”

One of the local Sant'Anna Swimming Spots

One of the local Sant’Anna Swimming Spots

Cheese makers for a day! At Caseificio Michelangelo.

In nearby Piano di Sorrento, a one stop train ride brought Sant’Anna students to a destination of unique and wholesome flavor.  At the Caseificio Michelangelo, a mozzarella factory, the students received a guided tour of the care and time consuming process of making fresh and delicious cheeses and more!  Suited in their protective aprons, hair nets, and shoe covers the group began by learning about the machinery utilized by the small factory and the process of separating the Whey and cheese curds made in enormous vats from fresh cow milk.

Large vats of fresh cheese curds and Whey.

Large vats of fresh cheese curds and Whey.

The cheese is cut into bricks and then sits for several hours as it comes to the correct level of acidity. Using new age technology to incorporate boiling water to the fresh curds, the process has become much faster than the old school way of working the cheese by hand.  After making the various shapes and sizes, the final product is set in cold water, so it will keep its shape, before it is set to age or be smoked.

Production at Caseificio Michelangelo has steadily increased since its humble beginnings and use of technology has allowed them to meet customer demand.  While this technology allows them to compete in today’s marketplace, there are still many processes the factory does by hand.

Rebecca Shae practices braiding fresh mozzarella !

Rebecca Shae practices braiding fresh mozzarella !

The students ended their tour by practicing this newly learned knowledge and braiding their own hand-worked mass of fresh mozzarella and sitting down for a plate of sample cheeses ranging in age and flavors.  The tasteful and educational experience is one these students won’t soon forget!

Ready to eat! After the tour, the students sit down to try the freshest cheese of their lives!

Ready to eat! After the tour, the students sit down to try the freshest cheese of their lives!


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Excursion to Pompeii by Caroline McCarry

Pompeii is a place that many people only read about in textbooks and don’t truly understand. It was a tragedy, certainly, but it also lead to many discoveries that aided the world in understanding the realities of life during the Roman Empire. Through SASL and our proximity to the site of the ruins, we, as archaeology students, had the unique opportunity to visit this historic site with our knowledgeable professor and tour guide for the day, Ilaria Tartiglia (below).

Sant'Anna Institute Cities of Fire Professor, Ilaria Tartaglia, speaks to students providing information behind the story of life in Pompeii

Sant’Anna Institute Cities of Fire Professor, Ilaria Tartaglia, speaks to students providing information behind the story of life in Pompeii


The ruins of Pompeii are one the many things in Italy that can only be explained by the ambiguous term ”indescribable.” Upon catching sight of the ancient city, all of the students gasped and raised their cameras, in full tourist mode. Professoressa Tariglia explained that the walls of the city used to border the coastline of Italy, and we were standing by the ancient port where the Pompeiians would dock their ships. After the eruption of 79 A.D., the coastline was altered by several miles due to the volcanic debris left by Vesuvius, making the decimated Pompeii an inland city.

After a walk around the city walls, which were discovered by the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli, we entered the city through the gladiator’s practice area. It is hard to imagine today the hundreds of slaves that practiced fighting one another in order to prepare for potentially deadly battles for the amusement of the people. Professoressa Tartiglia, however, pointed out the ways in which people have not changed very much throughout the ages; in Pompeii there were a lot of graffiti with statements like “I love this gladiator, he is very handsome,” or “I want to be a gladiator when I grow up.”

Next we came upon the two smaller amphitheaters. The smallest amphitheater was used for singing performances, while the larger was used mainly for drama performances. In the larger amphitheater, the group came together to test the acoustics of the stage by singing a rousing rendition of the song “Pompeii” by the band Bastille.

After the amphitheaters, we walked up the road, encountering an enormous house, several ancient “speed bumps” in the form of huge stepping-stones, and several of the Thermopolium of ancient Pompeii, which were the equivalent of a fast food restaurant of the time. The houses in Pompeii had a very specific structure with a public portion near the front and a garden in the middle, around which the family of the house slept.

Students Derek Wolfer, Nick Galatioto, and Jill Cannon walking the streets of Pompeii

Students Derek Wolfer, Nick Galatioto, and Jill Cannon walking the streets of Pompeii


We finished off the afternoon with a trip to the Roman baths, where all of the citizens could go to socialize and bathe, and the brothel, a legal and important part of ancient Pompeiian society, before ending in the Forum, where school, government, and trading all took place.

The trip was fascinating and educational, and gave the students a more tangible look at society during the Roman Empire.


Follow more of Caroline’s experiences on her personal student blog:

Not your traditional Valentine’s Day, Sorrento’s St. Antonino’s Festival!

February 14th has always held a certain stigma for our students while living in the United States.  The students at Sant’Anna Institute, since speedily becoming friends, have traded stories of Valentine’s past and their significance back home.  From a very … Continue reading