I have been lucky enough to take many great courses during my time so far at CUA. My favorite class so far was called “Italian- American Experience.” You are probably chuckling a bit and thinking that I learned a lot about spaghetti and Jersey Shore. I assumed that I would too. I was honestly in for a bit of a shock.
First, I should probably give some background as to why I took this course. I had been toying with the idea of becoming an Italian Studies minor partly because I come from Italian heritage. What is convenient about this class is not only does it count towards my Italian Studies minor (if I chose to pursue it, which I did) but I also could use it towards my Media Studies major. Side note and pro-tip: if you can take a class that counts toward both a major and a minor, take it. You’re probably interested in the subject matter anyway.
Now, back to the class itself. On the first day of the semester, I discovered that not only was I one of only three freshmen, but many of the students in the class were seniors and had already completed their Italian Studies minor. I was immediately worried that I would not do well in the class, but I vowed to do the opposite.
The class was split into two parts: history and literature & cinema. The first half of the semester, we learned a lot about Italian immigration and the causes for it. This was when we learned just how Italians became Italian-Americans. The second half of the semester, we explored different forms of Italian-American culture. We read books such as The Fortunate Pilgrim written by Mario Puzo who famously wrote The Godfather. Some films we had the pleasure of watching included The Godfather and had an extended analysis of The Sopranos series. As some may guess from my major, this was my favorite half.
We also focused on a lot of different stereotypes that come with being an Italian-American. These stereotypes are so embedded in our culture that, even as an Italian-American myself, I believed some of them. Being able to identify these stereotypes in real life situations was just one of the many useful things that I learned while taking this class.
Something that made this class so great was actually how difficult and rigorous it was. There was more required reading than I had ever been used to. We also had to write one paper each week, which is something I was not used to doing at that point in time. With many classes that I had taken in the past, I had been trained to memorize and regurgitate information on exams. I was practically forced to learn the material for this class, which to my own pleasure, I still remember. This unfortunately cannot be said about that one physics class I took in high school.
What I loved most about Italian-American Experience is that it incorporated many things that I love: culture, learning about my background, and exploring different media. Although it was probably one of the most difficult classes I have ever taken, it taught me to appreciate the action of actually learning as opposed to what has been commonly adopted: memorization. The best advice I could give anyone is to take classes that will not only challenge you, but will also teach you something interesting.
– Amanda Cristi