American Study Abroad Students Give Back to Rome

American study abroad students teach refugees an English lesson at IES Rome Center. Courtesy of

IES Abroad in Rome goes beyond teaching American students in its classrooms. Not only does IES teach American students, but also teaches English to refugees from a variety of countries. The institution gives its American students this opportunity to give back to their new temporary city.

IES Abroad started a new project in Spring 2016 combining a Social Action Seminar to those who do volunteer-based work in collaboration with a course entitled Valuing Diversity? Italian Contemporary Immigration and Integration Politics.

This class, taught by Professor Silvia Zanazzi, focuses on immigration issues within Italy and how it affects the local community. Students also learn about the lifestyle of a typical immigrant to Italy and the obstacles faced when assimilating to their new culture. Through this course, students participated in a field study to a refugee center in Rome called In Migrazione. In return, refugees came to the IES center to partake in a session of Valuing Diversity course. Since the students all were at a similar level of Italian they were able to connect despite their vast cultural differences.

This sparked Professor Zanazzi of IES Rome to create a Social Action Seminar, allowing IES students to teach refugees to speak English. Professor Zanazzi and In Migrazione staff discussed the difficulties of American students with no prior teaching experience. There is also the challenge of overcoming the cultural differences between Americans and the refugees. Both entities were looking for creative students to wholeheartedly take on the project and motivate refugees to keep returning to IES to learn.

Thus, the project came into fruition in Spring 2016 when a Social Action Seminar was created at IES Rome. Two students, Shannon Boley from Hamilton College and Georgina Cortinas from Trinity University, were the first to take on this rewarding experience. Once a week, refugees from In Migrazione came to IES Rome center and participate in interactive activities to learn English from these American students.

Although the project is not currently active, IES Rome places eligible students who fit the appropriate profile to teach refugees English each semester.


-Lauren Spinelli

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