Pictured is Saltis at the Grand Canal in Venice.
(Cazenovia, NY – Oct. 2011) Michelle Saltis, a senior psychology major at Cazenovia College, had already mastered French and learned some Spanish when she fell in love with Italy during an honors seminar course in Greece and Italy with the All-College Honors Program. She vowed to return to study in Europe for a semester.
Saltis of Keene, NH and a 2008 graduate of Keene High School, knew where to find what she wanted, and her mentors at Cazenovia College were happy to oblige. Although the College has a study-abroad program that allows students to spend a semester at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, England, with opportunities to travel throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, Saltis desired immersion in Italian culture.
She said, “Two of my friends studied in Florence through a program at Marist College, and after doing some research, I decided that would be the best place for me as well; I would be able to add to my set of romance languages – and I love being put in cultures very different from my own.”
With advocacy by her psychology professors, Dr. Rachel Dinero, Dr. Michael Holdren and Jesse Lott, director of the Learning Center, Saltis made her plans to spend a semester in Italy, and in mid-January of 2011, she arrived in Florence to begin a semester at Lorenzo de’Medici Italian International Institute.
In classes, she says, “I dipped eager fingers into flour and custard and vine-ripened tomatoes, learning to cook dishes from various regions of Italy; and I scratched ink on paper, expanding my vocabulary and observational skills in my travel writing class.”
She also took a course on the history and sociology of the Italian Mafia and studied theories on criminal behavior in her Psychology of Crime class. She recalls, “As the semester sped by, Italian began flowing from my lips with ease, expanding my opportunities to understand Florentine and Italian culture.”
She notes that Italy has “a culture of traditional foods and wines, of city-wide festivals and prideful souls, and of history unique to each region.” She continues, “Through aperitivo and sips of local Tuscan wine while gazing at the rolling yellow and green grape-filled hills, to traveling the mazed waters of Venice, seeing the spiraling cathedral in Milan, and traveling to Rome, the graveyard of ancient history, I let Italy soak itself into my core.”
Saltis also had many opportunities to travel, taking in the sights of Germany, France, Spain, Morocco, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. “I found another part of myself when I visited relatives in the beautiful cities of Heilbronn and Heidelberg, Germany,” she says. “I spent weeks in France with my friend, Florine, soaking up French culture, traditions and history. In Morocco, I grew to appreciate and understand the culture of souks, oceans, deserts, and the country’s western-meets-eastern inspired youth.”
“I rode trams and walked through fields of tulips and streets of flaunting bodies in Amsterdam – a place even more free than America,” she laughs, “and I roamed the broken castles, plateaus, and crevasses of the teeny nation of Luxembourg’s capital city.”
Having met many people who teach English in the cities and countries she visited, Saltis has been inspired to begin her post-college career teaching, possibly in Morocco. “I have always been driven to help others; this is the reason for my interest in psychology. I think teaching English as a foreign language to others will fulfill both my need to help others and as my desire to be part of other cultures and learn other languages.”
Upon her return to Cazenovia College, Saltis has expanded upon her thoughts about teaching English as a foreign language. Her internship at a psychiatric hospital, working among criminals with mental illnesses, has cemented a desire to earn a doctoral degree in clinical forensic psychology and plan a career in that field. This desire, however, has not changed her thirst for immersion in other cultures.
“During my travels,” she says, “hundreds of souls have shared their cultures, personalities, and traditions with me, and thousands of small winds have altered the course of my life. As with all my travels, this trip has changed me dramatically. Each country, place, person, and interaction has forever altered who I am. I know now more than ever that happiness does not lie with a big paycheck or in the ink of a diploma naming me a doctor of philosophy. It is the beauty of the world and its people that make everything worthwhile.”