For the 2020-2021 academic year, NAU Education Abroad at the Center for International Education and the Global Languages and Cultures department hosted Tania Ferronato from Italy as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA). The Fulbright FLTA Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and designed to develop Americans’ knowledge of foreign cultures and languages by supporting teaching assistantships in more than 30 languages at hundreds of U.S. institutions of higher education.
From Farra di Soligo, a small town an hour from Venice in northern Italy, Ferronato came to Flagstaff in August. Despite being unsure if she would be able to participate in her Fulbright placement due to the rise of COVID-19 cases worldwide, she was able to secure her visa just before the start of classes.
“One of the worst years for the entire world has turned into one of the best years of my life,” Ferronato said. “Fulbright is an experience that opened my mind to new perspectives, empowered me and gave me the chance to expand my personal and professional growth. Thanks to this adventure, I strengthened my spirit to take the world in a positive direction, it motivated me to not give up and to always do my best. I am grateful to have had this opportunity once in my life and this encouraged me to always make the best of what I was doing, no matter how bad the circumstances were. This year especially has been challenging but, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!”
Ferronato taught a section of Italian 101 to undergraduates for two semesters, supporting the Italian section head Kevin Massoletti, NAU’s only full-time Italian faculty.
“One of the great satisfactions as a supervisor of a Fulbright grantee is to see their development, watching them learn about how to teach different things and seeing their perspective change over the course of the year,” Massoletti said. “In Tania’s case, being unfamiliar with the average American student and the previous knowledge they have entering a class created some challenges and some false assumptions of their awareness of something that for a European would be obvious. Tania’s patience and willingness to learn about her students helped her greatly in being a great teacher and role model for them.”
Ferronato also organized and hosted bi-weekly “Aperitivo” cultural exchange gatherings on Zoom outside of class to share Italian culture. In addition to teaching, she took graduate level coursework in the MA-TESL program.
“I felt at home at NAU,” she said. “Everybody is friendly and enthusiastic here, students and colleagues welcome and respect you, the multicultural and international environment makes you never feel alone, even being hundreds of miles away from home. NAU staff and faculty are always ready to help in overcoming daily challenges in every situation. NAU is the safe place when being far from home.”
The NAU Center for International Education works to internationalize the NAU community by hosting international students and scholars and facilitating experiences abroad for students, faculty and staff. The NAU Center for International Education was selected to host two FLTAs for the next academic year 2021-2022 to teach Italian and Mandarin Chinese, in addition to hosting two FLTAs for the next academic year 2021-2022 to teach Italian and Mandarin Chinese.
“Once you live in Flag, you cannot help loving this place,” Ferronato said. “A unique and unexpected glimpse of Arizona, I fell in love with this place and the amazing views that one can see only here. Hiking and feeling nature, the snowy days and the blue sky, the vibrant downtown with the small and cozy locals, Route 66. Flagstaff will always be my second home!”