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Ask Away: 5 Questions for a Future Professional Singer, Learning about Arias in Italy


We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success… 

Meet Bo—a DePauw University Vocal Performance major currently studying abroad in Milan.

Bo in Italy

1. You’re a Vocal Performance major at DePauw University.  What role does vocal performance play in your language learning interest?

The role of languages is crucial to my major. When I first started at DePauw, I was immediately thrown into Italian diction for singers, which was odd to me to not know the language but to learn how to pronounce.

As a singer, I want to specialize in singing foreign art songs and arias, so not only does my pronunciation have to be perfect but so does my understanding of the text I am trying to convey.

One of the best things about my major is that I am required to take one semester of Italian, French, and German language study and their corresponding diction for singer’s class; therefore, I am getting to taste each language and decide which ones I would like to delve deeper into.

2. What motivated you to apply to study abroad in Milan, Italy?

As a music major, my schedule has been rigorous over the past semesters and I began to feel like I was stuck in a bubble within DePauw’s small midwestern community. The location was the main selling point to IES Abroad Milan’s program. I am literally 20 minutes away from La Scala opera house. Italy is the birthplace of opera, and I wanted to be immersed in a place that had an emphasis on its musical culture.

Another huge aspect was the amount of art that was concentrated within Italy. I still can’t believe all the fantastic art that I have seen while here.

Milan is a large city, which I knew was something I wanted when choosing where to study. It’s the exact opposite of Greencastle, which is nice to get to experience something completely different. Also, can’t complain about the food. Not even going to pretend that it wasn’t one of the main reasons for choosing Italy!

3. Is studying in Italy your first immersion experience? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from living immersed in another culture and language?
Bo in Italy
Bo at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan

Yes, studying in Milan is my first immersion experience!

The biggest lesson I’ve learned while being here is that patience truly is a virtue. The Italian lifestyle and pace of life is much slower in general, so it’s been hard to adjust to not being able to do things as quickly as I would like. The grocery stores here are quite unique, because I’ve literally seen people get out of line while they were being checked out and run across the store to grab more items, while the rest of the line just waits patiently. Also, there are no Walmarts in Italy, so if you want a specific item you may have to visit several stores/shops to find it. The culture has so much to offer though.

I learn something new every day and that’s what keeps me going even on difficult days.

One more quick thing, there is great flexibility within the IES program that allows us to create courses catered to our specific needs so the program in general has a great structure that allows me to take what I want.

4. You’ve blogged about some of the challenges you’ve experienced while abroad—from language learning to homesickness. What’s your advice for students who might be hesitant to go abroad because of potential challenges?

I can’t advocate enough for how much studying abroad will change you not only as a student, but as a person.

There is something special about challenging yourself to immerse yourself in a different culture, let alone one that doesn’t speak your native tongue. It will teach you to be more tolerant, patient and understanding of the world around you.  It’s been really hard at times, but this place is too beautiful to be sad in.

Going abroad in my eyes has been like a vacation of learning. I’ve traveled so much and have done things I never thought I’d be doing. It actually feels like a dream and I can’t believe that my semester is almost up.

5. You aspire to be a professional singer and voice professor: What impact has your experience in Italy made on your future plans?

I hope to one day return to Europe, possibly Italy, to work in opera houses here. Learning Italian has opened up a whole new world to my performance possibilities now, and it’s insane to think that one day I could live here and work.

I also love the idea that if I could live here for a semester, then I could really adapt to live anywhere.

I enjoyed this experience, and the exposure to the Italian culture only gives me a deeper love for singing and sharing stories with people through music.

BONUS QUESTION: Is there a moving or funny anecdote about an interaction in your second language you’d like to share with us?

The Italian hand signs are no joke. It is literally an extension of their language, and now everywhere I go I notice the locals using gestures in every conversation. We had a lesson in Italian class about these gestures and could only communicate with them, and I was told that I was “very expressive” so I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that one.

Grazie mille di avermi letta. Buona giornata tutti!

Learn more about the Italian language—programs, scholarship opportunities, and even more student stories—on our Lead with Italian page, and then visit us @LeadWLanguages on social media to tell us your story.