Genghini, Maria Giulia

Name: Maria Giulia Genghini
E-mail: mgenghin@nd.edu
Location of Study: Madrid, Spain
Program of Study: Enforex – Centro de Estudios Internacionales
Sponsor(s): Robert Greco


A brief personal bio:

BA in Classics at the University of Bologna (2009) MA in Ancient History at University College London (UK), 2010 MA in Classics (Philology, Literature and Classical Tradition) at the University of Bologna (2012) I started my Ph.D in Literature at Notre Dame in August 2011.   Although my interests have first been directed towards Greek historiography and Roman Imperial history, I have always been fascinated by the reception of the classical world in late Antiquity and early Middle Ages. In particular, I am interested in the the cross-cultural transformations that occurred to classical concepts such as those of sanctity, prophecy and divination in the early Christian times.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

The main interest of my current Ph.D. in Comparative Literature is the reception of Christianity in different social contexts, with a specific focus on the situation of the Late Roman Empire, on the one hand, and that of the indigenous communities of Latin America at the time of the Jesuits, on the other. By learning Spanish and visiting the National Archive in Madrid, I hope to discover some documents that will help me point out and analyze some specific trends in the dialogue between Christianity and the different social and cultural contexts in which it spread over time and maybe open up further research in any Latin American country.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

I hope that an intensive language course will offer a unique opportunity to be in an environment which nurtures my passions for cultural and religious diversity while developing my technical skills for a proper acquisition of the language in which half of the sources for my research topic are written.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to communicate in Spanish with native speakers on cultural and social topics such as the reception of Christianity, identity and communication between different cultures.
  2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to recognize and utilize patterns of Spanish scholarship in order to conduct archival research in Spanish and utilize appropriate citation and reference patterns in my Spanish writing.
  3. At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to two semesters beyond my current Spanish coursework placement at Notre Dame.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

I will home stay with a Spanish family that used to host students and agreed to provide my accommodation. I believe this will maximize my commitment to language practice as I will be constantly stimulated by the surrounding environment.  I have also articulated a detailed program of trips and activities to extend my commitment to language practice outside the classroom. First, I am going to explore Madrid and Loyola as the most important Jesuits centers of Spain. They both have archives where the order deposited many of the reports from the colonial time. I am also going to visit the important Jesuit center in Salamanca. The trip will give me the chance to encounter different approaches to the theme of evangelization in different provinces of Spain.  I am also going to take 5 extra hours of cultural activities which have the purpose to improve the immersion in the Spanish and hispano-american culture (music, cousin etc…)

Reflective Journal Entry 1: Pre-departure entry – 06/15/12

At the outset of my journey to Spain, these are my major concerns:

1. That I may be able to integrate myself within the Spanish social and cultural context so as to maximize the outcome in terms of language practice and social knowledge.
2. Evaluating the proficiency of the Spanish Language School I chose so as to make sure that the language acquisition may be profitable.
3. Mantaining a balance between language acquisition and academic/research interests (by digging into the Jesuits archives) so as to make the best out of the trip.

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

After spending the first week in my host-family, I could appreciate how useful it was to arrive in Madrid a few days before the starting of spanish classes. That gave me the possibility to overcome the cultural shock of finding myself unable to express fully in a foreign language and, thus, to become familiar with the idea of trying to communicate in Spanish no matter how hard and long it was.

This allowed me to arrive at the Spanish school with a little bit more confidence, which resulted in a good assessment test thanks to which I was put into the Intermediate level to start my classes (Nivel Intermedio B1).

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

I really appreciate the methodology of the Spanish school I chose. The intensive course is structured around 4 hours of classes per day, taught by two qualified professors. The idea seems to be to encourage students to partecipate in class discussion as if it were a normal gathering of people that want to get to know each other. This is done through readings of Spanish literature, conversation on general topics such as politics, amusements, sport, daily life’s events. Even when grammatical aspects are explained, they always come out from their use in practical language and therefore they seem to be contextualized and thus easier to study and retain.
I realized that it also helps a lot to make friends with the people that are in my class. Being all foreigners it is natural and necessary to speak Spanish as the common language and that improves communication both inside and outside class.

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

During the weekend of the 7-9th July, I went to visit the Basque countries to research more closely about the Jesuits and their mission in South America. I have been to Loiola (the town of St. ignatius) and Javier (the town of San Francisco) – whose pictures I posted on the blog page. I organized the trip together with some Spanish friends that I had got to know over my stay and that represented the perfect combination between research interests and language practice. Over the weekend I could gather lots of informations about the Jesuits becuase of the encounters with some of them in Javier where there was also an exhibition ( whose title was “The Jesuit Reductions of Paraguay. A fascinating adventure which endures in time”) that I had the chance to see and study. I am very happy to report that my study in Spain is being very profitable under multiple points of view!

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

Today (07-13) in class we had to do an oral presentation about a topic of our interest while the teacher was listening to it and taking notes about our oral skills and our imporovements during the first 4 weeks of classes. I was happy to realize that my vocabulary and my sentence structure ware highly improved from my poor beginning, that I was able to express myself over academic topics (such as the history of the colonies in Paraguay) in a clear and fairly articulated manner.

Reflective Journal Entry 6: Final report post-Spain

I consider myself completely satisfied of the time spent in Madrid. Regarding the concerns I stated at the outset of my journey, I can say that I have been able to integrate myself within the Spanish social and cultural context so as to maximize the outcome in terms of language practice and social knowledge. I was most happy with the choice of the Spanish Language School and their methodology for language acquisition. Finally, I benefited greatly from my research over the Jesuits and the visit to different archives (Madrid, Loiola and Javier) and I believe I will be able to continue on this topic for my Ph.D. thesis’ proposal.

Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

After spending the first week in my host-family, I could appreciate how useful it was to opt for such solution for accomodation. I arrived in Madrid a few days before the starting of spanish classes and that gave me the possibility to overcome the cultural shock of finding myself unable to express fully in a foreign language and, thus, to become familiar with the idea of trying to communicate in Spanish no matter how hard and long it was.This allowed me to arrive at the Spanish school with a little bit more confidence, which resulted in a good assessment test thanks to which I was put into the Intermediate level to start my classes (Nivel Intermedio B1).Therefore, at the end of the course, I was able to communicate in Spanish with native speakers on cultural and social topics such as the reception of Christianity, identity and communication between different cultures, to recognize and utilize patterns of Spanish scholarship in order to conduct archival research in Spanish and utilize appropriate citation and reference patterns in my Spanish writing and, finally, to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to two semesters beyond my current Spanish coursework placement at Notre Dame.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

I could really appreciate the methodology of the Spanish school I chose. The intensive course is structured around 4 hours of classes per day, taught by two qualified professors. The idea seems to be to encourage students to partecipate in class discussion as if it were a normal gathering of people that want to get to know each other. Therefore I’d recommend to search the school carefully what type of methodology they follow. I realized that it also helps a lot to make friends with the people that are in your class. Being all foreigners it is natural and necessary to speak (in this case) Spanish as the common language and that improves communication both inside and outside class.Finally, I would definitely encourage to plan trips and excursions during the stay so as to make the best out of the combination between language learning and academic and/or cultural interests that help you understand more fully the environment you live in.

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:

I have been very happy about the time spent in Madrid and I can say that I have well integrated myself within the Spanish social and cultural context and thus I will continue to be in touch and get to know on the Notre Dame campus people coming from the Spanish or South American communities. I believe this is an easy and fundamental task to mantain language practice within an outside of class and more lively environment. I will also take an advance Spanish course in the Spring 2013 because I would to take the Spanish B2 qualification at the Cervantes Instute of Chicago before the summer. Finally, I benefited greatly from my research over the Jesuits and the visit to different archives (Madrid, Loiola and Javier) and I believe I will be able to continue on this topic for my Ph.D. thesis’ proposal. For this reason, I have asked my Ph.D. director (Prof. Buttigieg) to do directed readings with a professor of Spanish/Latin American history as I would love to prepare myself for a trip on the field (among the missions of Paraguay) next summer!

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