Remus Sottile ’19 spends his days roaming the ancient streets of Italy and exploring Etruscan tombs when he is not in class. After two years at Andover, Sottile decided to study in Italy for a year through the Tang Institute’s affiliate program, School Year Abroad (SYA). He and Melanie Tlaseca ’19 are the only two students participating in SYA this year, and Sottile is currently staying in Viterbo, a city an hour-and-a-half north of Rome.
“School [in Italy] is exactly the opposite of Andover,” said Sottile. “The school occupies the second floor of a building on one of the main streets of the city… On Wednesdays, we’ll do activities where we’ll go places. Last week, we went to Tarquinia [a unique necropoli] to explore. We explored ancient Etruscan tombs, and then we went to a Holocaust museum that had one of the railway cars that carried people into Auschwitz.”
Sottile chose to spend his SYA year in Italy because there is no language requirement for the program, and the Italian language and culture have always fascinated him.
“I wanted the opportunity to live in a new country with a new culture and a new language… I’ve always thought that Italy was the best country in the Mediterranean. They had no real language requirement [to go on SYA], and Italian [was] always a language I’ve been interested in learning,” said Sottile.
Sottile takes classes in math, English, art, ancient history, a full-immersion Italian course, and a global citizenship course. According to Sottile, his Italian course has developed his comprehension of the language, but the majority of his immersion experience comes from using it to communicate outside of class.
“I like the ability to speak another language because it gives you the power to communicate with people who you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I take a global citizenship class here where we learn a lot about global issues and challenges, and a lot of the stuff that we talk about we can see in the world around us. For example, there are a lot of problems with immigration facing Italy,” said Sottile.
Sottile said he often spends more time exploring the city than actually completing school work.
“At Andover you only work, and here I haven’t spent that much time working because there’s always stuff to do, whether that’s hanging out with friends in the city or going out to eat or a host of other fun things,” said Sottile.
Sottile will live with his host mother, father, and brother for the year. According to Sottile, though he is only at their house for small portions of the day, he has gotten to know the family well, especially his host father.
“My host father is a very funny guy. He’s very cool. He’s a private driver for the President of Italy. Since Viterbo is about an hour-and-a-half from Rome, he commutes and works for a few days. Every other week he’ll go to Palermo or Milan for work. I was looking at an Audi once, and he pointed and said, ‘Next year, I go to training program with Audi,’ ” said Sottile.
The biggest culture shocks Sottile has experienced in Italy are the food and the city’s greater sense of community.
“For one, the food is completely different. The food is very good. I eat lots of pasta and fish and pizza,” said Sottile.
Sottile continued, “There’s a bigger community feeling in town. You’ll be walking down the street, you’ll see people you know, and you’ll strike up a conversation. You find that you get to know a lot of people around town. It’s good for learning about what to do and what not to do and learning Italian and communicating with others.”
Logan McLennan ’19, one of Sottile’s friends, is still in regular contact with Sottile despite their 4,000 mile distance.
“When [Sottile] told me he was applying for the SYA program, he just seemed so energetic and enthusiastic about it… He seemed very confident that it was something he wanted to go into,” said McLennan. “I let him know what’s going on in the Andover world and on the crew team, and he tells me about his experiences. In a FaceTime call we had during the Fall Term finals week… he said his host family [had] incredibly great people, and the school he goes to is great,” said McLennan.