Italian Teaching Fellow Angela Lavecchia’s passion for learning foreign languages—she knows four in total—has turned into a passion for teaching them. She has used her linguistic skills to learn more about other cultures as well as to develop her own ideologies regarding immigration in the various countries where she has lived.

Originally from a small town in Southern Italy, Lavecchia worked as a teaching fellow at Bowdoin during the 2014-15 academic year. Upon returning to Italy, she taught Italian and English to immigrants for a year before she had the opportunity to return to Bowdoin once again as a teaching fellow. After this year, she hopes to attend graduate school in America and then continue her teaching career.

“Coming to Bowdoin [for the first time], I was not really convinced that I wanted to teach,” she said. “But then when I was here, I discovered that it was really something I wanted to do, so it has kind of changed my life.”

Lavecchia believes that teachers can learn a great deal about themselves through teaching.

“I like the exchange,” she said. “That you’re not just telling people how to do things or teaching them but you also learn a lot about yourself and about people and how to behave with different people, so it’s really something that opens your mind. It can change you a lot.”

Lavecchia believes that international teaching fellows are a valuable resource for Bowdoin students.

She said that the people she has met over the course of her studies have changed her life by presenting her with opportunities for study that she would not have considered before. As a teacher she hopes to do for her students what her teachers have done for her. 

“Studying is important not only to get a good job, or a well-paid job but just for yourself, for you own enrichment,” she said, regarding one of the many lessons she hopes to pass on to her students.

Lavecchia attended a linguistic high school where she took courses in French, German, English and Italian. She found a passion and pursued Arabic and comparative literature at an Italian university. 

“I [chose] Arabic because I wanted to study something that was really different from my own culture,” said Lavecchia. “It was a time when, because of the terrorism, we always heard things about Islam and Muslims and extremism, so I was puzzled,” she said. 

She explained that she wanted to learn more about Islamic culture in order to gain a new perspective. 

“I was like … there must be something we’re not talking about. There must be something we don’t get to know about,” she said. “I have discovered a whole world, and that helped me to have more respect, and that also helped me to try to get as [much] information as I can, [to] not [be] satisfied with what [I heard] at first,” she said.

“When you get to study a new language to a certain level, you actually have to change your mind setting,” said Lavecchia. “Even if you don’t really study the culture ... you have to switch to a different system, so it helps you be more open-minded and more flexible.” 

Lavecchia has enjoyed having the opportunity to continue her language studies at Bowdoin. She studied Arabic two years ago and she is currently taking a German course.

She added, “I’ve also taken Italian classes here, which might sound strange, but it’s interesting because they study Italian here from a very different perspective, so it gives me a comparative view of my own language and culture and literature.”

If she does not get into an American graduate program, she will return to Italy to continue her work with immigrants. 

“The refugee-immigrant situation is difficult in Europe now, but working in these kind of situations, you really [do] something to make integration possible, you know what I mean? It’s like, you don’t only help the immigrants, you also help the people around you to understand what it is like to be a refugee or an immigrant in such a situation.”

When the language school for immigrants first responded to her application to work there, she was nervous about what her job might be like. 

“It was challenging at first because I felt like I had a lot of things to do to be good at my job, but then these people, they really wanted to be there. They really wanted to do something to improve their lives, so their attention, their commitment to studying, was amazing, and I’ve learned a lot,” she said.

“There are also exchange programs [for Bowdoin students] to go to France or Italy to teach, and it’s good because maybe students who didn’t think about it, [when] they come to our classes, they see that our experience here is so good, and they feel like they want to do that … so they think like, I can go abroad, work, improve my language skills and also travel.”

Studying foreign languages has encouraged Lavecchia to be open-minded.

“There’s always more … If you know more, you can get new perspectives. You can really get your own idea without being too influenced by what everybody says.