This blog is about multiculturalism, multilingualism, and my adventures as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Padua, Italy (Università degli studi di Padova). You don't have to speak another language fluently to be bilingual. All you need is the opportunity to use another language and the desire to communicate with it: as one of my students said, the willingness to "get it on your hands".
I have spent the last few years researching bilingual language, literacy, and identity of teen English learners in the U.S. Thanks to a Fulbright Junior Research Award, I now have the opportunity to explore the bilingual writing of Italian high school students learning English as a second language.
My fascination with bilingual language and identity comes from my own experiences. I learned Spanish as a second language, beginning in middle school. My first adventure overseas was a trip to the south of Chile, when I was 18. A college student, I traveled alone to stay with a friend and do an independent study project during the January term at New College of Florida. Just the flight there changed me. Before I awoke to a glorious view of the Andes (the first time I had ever seen mountains), I contemplated a conversation with the Chilean passenger next to me. We had spoken in Spanish. He had suggested that I change my name to something easier for people to pronounce, something that didn't sound so foreign. He suggested I introduce myself to people as "Andrea".
I did not follow this stranger's suggestion; however, I remember wondering deeply about this problem. How would I ever fit in in Chile if people couldn't understand or pronounce my name? Since then, and during various, other short- (one week) and long-term (five years) living experiences in other countries, as well as in many conversations with first- and second-generation immigrant students who have participated in my research, I have continued to inquire about how people balance fitting in and keeping true to themselves, adapting and maintaining a sense of self, when living in another culture, speaking another language.
So it's time for another adventure! I depart in two weeks, and I have just four months in Padua to get my conversational Italian up to academic speed, conduct a research project, and be a culture chameleon in Italy. This blog will be about the multilingual and multicultural experiences, insights, and inquiries that come to life during the Fulbright experience. I am ready! Sono pronta. Andiamo!