Anna Maddamma ’16 during her time in Santorso, Italy.Anna Maddamma ’16 during her time in Santorso, Italy.

What were you doing this summer?

I was interning at the municipality in the town of Santorso, Italy, which is a very, very small town - probably 5,000 people live there. It’s a municipal facility and offices that collect things like census data, they do social services, they do different things like provide housing and food and stipends and public assistance, and it’s where the mayor and his secretary’s offices are. They also do things like birth, death, and marriage certificates and the archives of all of that, and then technical offices which have building permits, and they have the house records for every house that’s built in the municipal limits because they’re working on writing this whole green housing initiative where they’re trying to get everyone to have solar panels, better water systems…

So what they called it was ten weeks going around — it doesn’t really translate to English very well — but they said, “Okay, so we’re going to have you transition through the different offices and programs,” because they also do a lot of culturally based programming. So one of the big things they do in the summer is called “Theater in the House,” where people who own big historical villas or even just nicer but spacious houses open up their residences to theater programs… They also have a concert series in the summer at the main villa in the town… I helped with their events and did event programming and event planning. 

The first week I was there I actually worked with the London School, which is an English language school, to do a summer camp for kids in the town. It was an extra-curricular summer English learning camp where we’d have lessons in the morning and activities in the afternoon, so we’d do sports and music and art activities… and they’d have to speak English. So I was a counselor.

And then the second two weeks I was working at a nursing home and a neurocognitive rehabilitation center, which were funded and publicly owned by the municipality…. so health services are socialized and are provided by the region. I was there and I was doing translation of consent documents, and they had people from the US who were currently using the facilities, so they needed documents and instructions translated to English. And then I was just with people in the nursing home and watching old Italian soap operas with them (laughs)… It gave me a really nice opportunity to practice the language…

And then I was just in the offices — there’s also an economic office, I forgot about that one, where they just monitor and do all the economic paperwork for the whole town… 

It was ten weeks, and I changed every week except for when I spent two weeks at the nursing home… I did a little bit of everything, but luckily it was within the same organization.

How did you find this?

Mostly through adjunct professor Salvatore Poier. I lived with his parents in their extra apartment. His dad only speaks dialect too, so that was another language opportunity. I really didn’t do any networking. They were people who I had kind of started building relationships with last year in the Italy program. The municipality owns the villa that we had our final art show in for the Italy program from COA…So there were a lot of developing relationships with people I had met last year.

Going into it I thought it might be very very different or that people might be different. I was kind of expecting a somewhat romanticized or different experience than what I had, and my experience was that bureaucracy…is boring everywhere, and it’s kind of what you make of it. When I was bored I knew I needed to talk to people, or do more grounded anthropological work or more participant observation or really use this opportunity to build ethnography skills. It kind of made me feel like the world is really small, which is cool.