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Alumni Spotlight

Melissa Sakamoto
Italy Year 2008-09
International Studies Major, Italian Minor

Italy

"Since I was an International Studies major, I chose to learn Italian and to write my Senior Honors Thesis on research that I conducted while studying abroad in Italy."

I had two conversation partners that allowed me to greatly improve my conversation skills. It's amazing how quickly you can pick up a language once you're in the actual country!

"After studying abroad in Italy, upon graduation I went to Japan to learn more about the culture and language. I went on to work at an International Trading Firm, and I've been in Japan for about 2 years."

Why did you choose your particular study abroad program/location?
Since I was an International Studies major, I chose to learn Italian and to write my Senior Honors Thesis on research that I conducted while studying abroad in Italy. Once I started learning the language my first quarter of Freshman year, I fell in love with the sounds and rhythm of the language. My goal was to become fluent in the language and I was very determined. After studying the language for two years, speaking to locals and researching in Florence for one year, and returning to UCI to graduate and finish my Senior Honors Thesis, I was happy to speak to my Italian professors only in Italian. I chose to study in Italy because I knew it was the only way I could accomplish my goal of speaking Italian fluently.
 
What types of activities were you involved in while abroad that were meaningful for your learning?
I had two conversation partners that allowed me to greatly improve my conversation skills. It's amazing how quickly you can pick up a language once you're in the actual country! My favorite class was a cooking lesson held once a week, where made delicious Italian recipes with my classmates. I also enjoyed Art History classes where I often had class directly in front of the work of art that we were discussing. Art classes here meant so much more to me because I could see and understand every detail, not like in a textbook. I also volunteered to teach English to a family and stayed in Sicily for a month.
 
How have you changed or what have you learned due to studying abroad?
After being abroad for a year, I gained a tremendous amount of independence. I realized that if I could survive in a foreign country for a year, I could literally do anything. I was able to see things with a new pair of eyes, and learned how to really settle into another country. Being out of your comfort zone is one of the only ways to gain a deeper understanding of the world.
 
What are you doing now as a result of studying abroad?
After studying abroad in Italy, upon graduation I went to Japan to learn more about the culture and language. I went on to work at an International Trading Firm, and I've been in Japan for about 2 years. I plan on learning more languages because I know it's the best way to communicate with locals; even if you can't speak the language perfectly, it really counts if you try!
 
What advice would you give to a student considering studying abroad?
DO IT! You are young, healthy, and can still grow as a person from this experience. This is the best time of your life to pursue studying abroad!

Study Abroad Center
University of California, Irvine • Irvine, CA 92697
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