Virginia Ventrucci, an Intercultural and Linguistic Mediation major at the University of Bologna, was an exchange student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during the 2016-17 academic year. Virginia excelled in her courses and was part of the Flippin’ Illini Gymnastics Club. She enjoyed her experience abroad so much that she decided to apply to graduate schools in the Midwest. Virginia was admitted to the M.A. program in Translation at Kent State University and was also offered a teaching assistantship. We talked to Virginia about her experience as an exchange student and future plans.
What factors drew you to apply to UofI through the Overseas exchange program?
The University of Bologna has numerous partnerships with foreign universities, which means there is a vast array of possibilities when it comes to applying to study abroad programs. However, my undergraduate course focused on translation and interpreting more than on foreign languages and literatures, and that significantly limited the number of institutions to consider if I wanted to complete my academic requirements without falling behind. After researching different options, I narrowed my choices down to three universities, two of which are in the Midwest: University of Minnesota and University of Illinois. I ultimately accepted UofI’s offer, as I had already studied in Minnesota when I was in high school and wanted to explore another state.
Could you tell us about your favorite classes at UofI?
I had the opportunity to enroll in various classes with students of the M.A. in Translation. Those were my favorite courses because I felt challenged to do my best in a classroom environment that welcomed students of different nationalities and different degrees of translation experience. The professors were very knowledgeable and had an extremely hands-on approach that resembled the didactic method of my degree program at my home institution. If I had to list my favorites, they would include: Translation for Professions, Commercial and Technical Translation, Translation Theory and Practice, and Spanish/English Translation.
You mentioned that the Flippin’ Illini Gymnastics Club brought you on road trips across the Midwest to compete. What was that like?
The Flippin’ Illini have been like a second family to me. We practiced four days a week and hung out most nights; it was a very tight-knit group that made me feel at home in a foreign country. The Flippin’ Illini gymnastics club is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs (NAIGC), so we had the chance to travel to various meets hosted by other member clubs. We traveled to Purdue, IN, Blacksburg, VA, and Columbus, OH. While competitions occupied most of our time, we would also have occasional breaks to explore the area, which was always fun.
Could you elaborate more on memorable moments at UofI?
Quad Day was an amazing introduction to my stay abroad. Every year UofI hosts a huge fair with booths of hundreds of different student organizations: from honor societies and fraternities to sports clubs and non-profit organizations. I liked Quad Day because it made me feel like I was on a huge campus full of thousands of students, a welcoming place where anybody can comfortably fit in and enjoy sharing their passions and interests with other students.
The NAIGC National Championship was also unforgettable. The gymnastics club was excused from class for four days, while we competed against clubs coming from all over the United States, and a couple from abroad. The event made me feel proud to be part of a team and honored to represent UofI.
I am also satisfied with my academic achievements. Being on the Dean’s List was proof that I could be successful not only in my home country, but even abroad, and it represented an ulterior confirmation of the fact that I have chosen the right field of study and am on the right track.
Would you like to be a translator in the future? Where do you envision yourself logistically and career-wise after completing the masters at Kent State?
Translating has been a passion of mine for quite a while now. During my first month in college I had already started working as a volunteer translator for an NGO, and since then I have been working on small translation projects. While I prefer literary translation and website localization, my study plan at Kent State includes also legal, commercial, scientific, and technical translation.
I have developed a passion for teaching, first by teaching English in an Italian high school, and now by teaching Spanish at the undergraduate level at Kent State.
After completing my studies in the United States, I plan to move back to Europe. Ideally, I would both teach and translate, or maybe I could teach translation. For now I am focusing on getting the best out of being a student and a teacher at the same time, and I have not picked a definite career path yet. I love translating and teaching, and I think I would be satisfied working in either field. I am going to keep my options open, knowing for sure that I will not give up on either translation or teaching.
How has study abroad help you reach your goals so far?
Studying abroad helped me more than I can say. My English improved dramatically, to the point where just four months after moving to Champaign I was able to score a 116/120 on my TOEFL IBT (an English proficiency exam for speakers of other languages), which enabled me to apply to any graduate school program in the United States. Studying at UofI was both academically stimulating and extremely beneficial to my resume. I am sure that without studying abroad at UofI, I would not be answering these questions from my office at Kent State University.