It can't be said enough that time spent in an environment where a language is spoken is one of the best strategies, if not the best, for developing proficiency in a language. Chance Williams knows this essential truth from first-hand experience as the first UNC Charlotte recipient of the Italian Language at the Leonardo Da Vinci School scholarship, funded by the Casa della Cultura Italiana. The scholarship covered both room and board as well as tuition. Williams, a UNC Charlotte graduate student in Spanish with a focus on translation, spent five weeks in Italy, primarily in Milan during May-June 2017. He was recognized at a special ceremony at UNC Charlotte this Fall by the Board of the Casa della Cultura Italiana of North Carolina. The event included the Honorary Consul of Italy, Professor Claudio Carpano. During the event, Williams reported on his successful experience while in Milan to the Board, to Dr. Ann Gonzalez, Chair of the Department of Languages and Culture Studies, and to his teachers of Italian, Daniela dal Pra and Mariateresa Rains. The event was hosted by the Department and refreshments were provided by the UNC Charlotte Italian Club.
The program in Milan had a focus on fashion, design, and art history. While there, Williams took basic Italian language courses with students from around the world. Coursework was focused primarily on speaking, though listening, reading, and writing were also addressed. Upon arrival, he explained that he experienced culture shock that lasted longer than anticipated. Though he had visited Italy previously with UNC Charlotte's Spring Break trip led by Professor Daniela Dal Pra, this experience required greater self-reliance, which can be challenging and uncomfortable at times when learning a new language and a new culture. One great advantage of being in Milan was the expansive and very accessible public transportation system. While there, he took advantage of buses, the subway, and pedestrian-friendly streets to explore Milan as well as other major cities around the country. Williams lived with a host family and was "on his own" to navigate and negotiate living in a large, Italian city. With respect to program outcomes, Williams noted that being immersed in a country where the language is spoken helped to curb stereotypes he and others may have previously held about the language and culture. He encourages others to apply for this or similar scholarships. The experience impacted him so profoundly that he noted, "I consider Milan my second home!"