eight students are pictured standing in two rows in front of a building on the Allendale Campus

Students study, learn in Italy as first group of Secchia Scholars

Top photo: The inaugural group of Secchia Scholars is pictured.

Hannah Frassetto quickly learned how to say "vegetarian" in Italian. Shaylin Cota is living her own version of "The Devil Wears Prada" in Milan.

Frassetto and Cota are among eight Grand Valley students currently studying or completing internships in Italy as the inaugural group of Secchia Scholars. The fund was established through the estate of Peter F. Secchia, former U.S. ambassador to Italy, and his wife, Joan. Students who earn a Secchia Scholarship receive $5,000 to study in Italy.

Frassetto, who is a Meijer Honors College student majoring in advertising and public relations, said the Secchia Scholarship covered most of the cost of her program. "I tried for as many scholarships as made sense to bring the cost down," she said.

Frassetto is staying and studying at John Cabot University in Rome, taking classes in Italian food and culture and Roman monuments. "We talk about these ancient monuments then travel to see them. There are some Italian students in my classes and it's great to hear their perspectives," she said.

Not speaking Italian hasn't slowed Frassetto during her travels, but it did teach her to learn certain words quickly. 

"One restaurant we went to did not have menus and the server kept explaining the dishes," she said. "I'm a vegetarian and I tried to ask if this one dish had meat, but he didn't understand. It came with meat on it, so I learned how to say words like 'vegetarian' and 'meat.'"

two photos side by side of student in Italy, one with Global GVSU flag
Shaylin Cota is completing an internship at an Italian public relations agency.
Image credit - courtesy of Shaylin Cota

Cota, who is also studying advertising and public relations, joked that part of her preparation before arriving in Milan was watching the 2006 comedy "The Devil Wears Prada." As the social media intern at Natasha Slater's Studio, Cota said she does a bit of everything, including serving as her boss's personal assistant.

"I've been doing a bunch of roles, really," Cota said. "It's monitoring and posting on social media, doing the newsletter, maintaining the website, helping with events. It's challenging but very rewarding."

She traveled with her boss to Switzerland for a women's networking event and met a photographer from Vogue and others from similar industries. The internship was arranged by Global Experiences.

Her love of travel was instilled early as Cota's family has hosted exchange students at their Tawas home for more than 10 years. "I have brothers and sisters all over the world," she said.

Both students said completing their programs in Italy should boost their resumes when it's time to enter the workforce. "Doing this will have made me a more well-rounded person who has an appreciation for other cultures," Frassetto said.

The Padnos International Center can assist students who have questions about study abroad experiences.


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