January 8, 2014

Italian Engineering Student Shares Experience at Alabama

By: Bryant Welbourne
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

As part of a partnership between Southeastern Conference universities and the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, Italian engineering students were on several SEC campuses last semester. The exchange program, in its fourth year, allows Italian students to study at conference universities in the fall and SEC students to study in Italy the following spring.

One student who took part in the program was Francesco Mazzotta, a junior from Trepuzzi (Lecce), who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama. Mazzotta shared his experience with SECU, the conference’s academic initiative, following his semester in the United States.

SECU: What sparked your interest in taking part in the exchange program?

Francesco Mazzotta: “I always dreamed about coming to the United States because I was fascinated by the different culture and the different style of life. When I was a child, my family would watch movies about America and my interest grew over the years. I also wanted to improve my English, meet new people and have a taste of what it’s like to be an American student.”

SECU: What were your expectations going into this experience?

Francesco Mazzotta: “I wanted to make new friends, improve my English and feel the air of freedom that is characteristic in the United States.”

SECU: How was the reception from students and faculty once you arrived at Alabama?

Francesco Mazzotta: “The reception was great. Everyone was friendly and wanted to get to know me, especially when I said I’m Italian. It was a really warm welcome. The university had the Week of Welcome (WOW) event and it was a great way to make new friends in the first week.”

SECU: What has your experience been like in the classroom working with students and faculty?

Francesco Mazzotta: “The lectures in America are more open for questions. The students and faculty are always willing to help if you ask for it.”

SECU: What is your favorite part of university life in America?

Francesco Mazzotta: “The best part of university life is probably living on a campus where only students live. It’s easier to make new friends and have relationships with people of the same age. I think homework is also important because it allows you to study a little each day without studying all together at the end of the semester.”

SECU: Did you get to experience any sporting events? If so, what is your impression of college athletics in America?

Francesco Mazzotta: “Games are amazing! I’ve never been the kind of guy who follows sports but everyone at the university is so excited about football and they make you feel the same. I also liked how they were polite to the opposite team.”

SECU: What will be the most memorable experience you will take with you?

Francesco Mazzotta: “Probably the time I spent with my friends. They are the best people I’ve ever met. I have too many good memories to choose one.”

SECU: What is some advice you would give to the American students who will study in Italy this semester?

Francesco Mazzotta: “I would just say to get out of their room as much as they can. The first thing to do is meet people that can help you if you need it. There are a lot of people who want to talk (especially in English) but they are just too shy. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation.”