Lessons from Monica

In Florence, The Art of Travel Spring 2018, 12. Strangers by Marirose Aleardi1 Comment

“Beep beep! Attenzione!” The somewhat shrill yet positively cheerful voice of Monica calls out from the front of the classroom. Monica is my Elementary Italian professor here at NYU Florence – which is no easy task considering the extent of my Italian knowledge before coming here was barely “Grazie.” This general lack of knowledge combined with the fact that my background in languages only includes mandarin makes Monica pretty much a saint in my mind. Romance languages? Not in my vocabulary. Conjugations? Not a chance. So you could say I was pretty lost here before Monica came to the rescue.

But in reality, it’s not her ability to help me get around this foreign city that makes Monica a source of comfort for me, but her inherent sweetness and blissful outlook. This woman makes Disney princesses look like they’re in a bad mood. Her unrelenting optimism makes going to Italian class three times a week somewhat manageable. Just yesterday my friend and I were wondering how we can convince her to come back to New York with us.

In one of my first posts I explained my experience of getting lost during orientation week. On one of these instances I was supposed to meet my Italian class in a nearby Piazza which I of course could not find and ended up getting lost with no phone or way of looking up my location. Needless to say I felt pretty defeated and was afraid to learn the consequences of missing a mandatory event for this class – with a professor who I had never met before. I sent Monica an email explaining myself, apologizing, and offering to complete whatever makeup assignment was in store for me. Turns out I was mistaken in thinking I would find a somewhat stern response and definitely a makeup task to complete. Instead Monica’s reply told me not to worry, saying she knows how difficult it can be to get around in a new city, among other kind words relaying her excitement for the semester ahead. This email was a good sign of the semester with Monica.

It’s so much more than being a kind teacher though. Monica has a way of making her students feel comfortable and cared for. Last week we visited a Florentine university to practice our Italian with the students there. As she came around to check on each of us, she said something about me in Italian to my group members, smiled at me, and pinched my cheeks, just like a mother or grandmother. Something about her cheerful giddiness is just so contagious. I suppose her attitude fits in perfectly with the Italian lifestyle that I so admire in Florence. Life is good here. It’s like nothing can crush her good mood. No matter what happens, she’s always smiling. I hope I can bring some of the Monica mentality back with me to New York. People could definitely use some of her sunshine in the colorless land of skyscrapers.

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(Image: NYU Florence Campus in the Spring; Source: Marirose Aleardi )


  1. Wow, I never thought someone could capture Monica so well in a post. I have her for Italian 2, and she really is a joy to see every week. I think I’m in a bit over my head this semester, and seeing her every week lets me take a deep breath and know that I definitely have people on my side that’re willing to help me as much as they can. I really like how you say that you’re going to at least mentally take Monica back to New York with you, and I think that’s something I really want to do as well. To just embody that spirit of being a caring, always happy soul…ever when New York really tries to get me down!

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