By Adriana Ramirez, ’18
When Allison Watkins, ’10, first traveled to Italy in fall 2009 to study abroad, she was fulfilling a lifelong dream. Little did she know that just a few short years later, she would be calling Italy her home.
Watkins’s grandfather was Italian, which led to her fascination with Italian language, food, and culture. But she never had the opportunity to dig deeper, much less visit the country. “I had never traveled to Italy but it had always been a dream of mine,” she said. “My high school did not offer Italian language; it wasn't until getting to Richmond that I could choose Italian as my second language — and of course I did.”
Watkins graduated from Richmond with a double major in art history and Italian studies. After working for a few years in New York — first at an art gallery, then at the Museum of Natural History — she realized she missed academic life and wanted to continue her education in Italy. “My time at Richmond helped me be open to new experiences, through the school’s encouragement to study abroad,” Watkins said. “My wonderful Italian teacher, Dr. Radi, also helped inspire me to continue my studies and interests in Italy.”
Watkins soon found herself moving to Italy to complete a master's program in Italian Linguistics, Literature, and Culture at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. “My master's program is called ‘Italianistica’ and it is for Italian students, not for foreign students. It is completely taught in Italian,” she said.
The program is what Watkins always craved — a chance to fully immerse in Italian culture through such courses as Philosophy and Theory of Art, Medieval and Humanistic Literature and Philology, and Italian Literature from the Romantic Age. Watkins also delved deeper into research she began as an undergraduate on how Petrarch, an Italian poet from the 14th century, influenced Renaissance depictions of women. “I decided to expand my previous thesis so I can explore not only Petrarch's poetry, but also his Latin and vernacular writings, to examine his influence on the visual arts on a broader scale,” she said.
Watkins is in the final months of her master’s program, but she’s just beginning her life in Italy. She’s teaching English at an Italian high school, and recently got married to an Italian native.
Needless to say, Watkins is enjoying all that living in Italy has to offer. “It is hard to pinpoint one thing I like most about Italy,” she said. “I appreciate the lifestyle and culture; they take time to savor the moment, spend time with family and friends, and have a lot more vacation than we do in America, which inevitably helps me to be able to travel more.”