Student Spotlight: Alexandra Basili; Italian Studies By Zoe D'Alessandro
Alexandra Basili received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Italian at Florida State and is in her first year as a graduate student in the Italian Studies program. She will be presenting her research at the symposium "The Matter of the World: Reflections on the Environment," on Tuesday, October 1, 2-3:30 p.m. in Diffenbaugh 009.
Q: Did you grow up hearing or speaking Italian?
A: My first time ever trying to speak it was at FSU; I always had some understanding that I came from Italian culture but I wasn’t very close with my Italian family. “Ciao” and “cin cin” were pretty much all I knew before I came to FSU.
Q: Do you speak in Italian with your family now?
A: I do now, especially with my uncle who is American but spent his childhood in Italy. I speak Italian with a couple of my cousins who don't speak English, and with my dad to help him keep up with it because he's a Spanish speaker, so I try to revive his Italian by bringing it up in conversation.
Q: As an undergrad you were a double major in Biology and Italian; when you first came to FSU did you immediately know you wanted to double major? How did that process happen?
A: I had no idea I was going to major in Italian. I thought Bio seemed like a good path, and then because it's in the College of Arts and Sciences you need three semesters of a language. I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect with my culture and heritage. I went to the office my sophomore year thinking okay, I'll add a minor, and then they showed me how easy it was to major. It just kind of happened the middle of my third semester of Italian, my love was there and I realized how easy it was to just do what I wanted and I ran with it.
Q: Given that you have these two fields that seem pretty different, do you notice that they overlap at all, or how do they interact with each other?
A: So Biology is a vast field but the things that I’m interested in most are wildlife ecology, environmental science, waste management, and conservation. What I've learned through my experiences with Italy and my honor’s thesis research is that Italy has a whole, wide open area of biology that can be explored. My honor’s thesis was in waste management in Italy compared to the U.S. The research in Italy is amazing regarding waste management. Some of the best in the world is coming from Italy, as well as ecocriticism literature and medical research; Italy is a huge force for that. Italy, I think, is really thought about for its art and its culture and its food, but people never think of it as a “science strong” nation, a nation that can really contribute to positive change in the world, and I really want to highlight that with whatever I do in the future.
Q: You’re presenting part of your thesis at the ecocriticism event that is coming up, can you tell me more about what you’ll be presenting and what you’re excited to talk about at the event?
A: I'm really excited about statistics, so that's my thing: giving people some hot statistics. I do a lot of comparisons between nations in my thesis presentation; I like drawing attention to what the major issues are. Talking about the production of greenhouse gases and landfills, to how things are processed in our nation versus in Italy, what changes are being made, what the laws look like, and really thinking who's doing a better job at it. Then showing other leading nations like Germany and China, and what their waste looks like and how it compares to us.
Q: Although you’re currently a graduate student in Italian, do you see yourself continuing with your research in conservation and/or waste management?
A: I don’t see myself being happy without combining both of these passions. I'm thinking about going to law school to pursue environmental law, because one of my focuses was specifically the laws written in our country and Italy regarding waste management. A lot of issues with waste management and how things are carried out is that the people who write environmental law and policy are not coached in it or are not environmentalists. I can bring lot of passion and information to that field to better inform lobbying, as well as doing research in Italy and connecting American and Italian culture. That's the dream.
Q: What's your favorite place you've been to in Italy?
A: This is a big thing that we argue about: people love Rome, people hate Rome. I adore Rome. When I go to Rome I'm just struck by its beauty, its history, the contrast between the ruins and modern life. It’s so awe-inspiring to me. I've also been to Perugia a few times now, and I just love it. It’s so beautiful; the buildings, the people, the laid-back lifestyle, and when I'm there I just feel home. Perugia for me is something special.
Q: Is there anything you want to say about majoring in a language or double majoring in a language and something else? What do you think has been the biggest impact for you in doing this?
A: We think of language as being so different from science, or we don’t think of it as a hard subject or as something really cool. It’s just that some people speak languages, some people don't. But when I started studying Italian I really noticed that the way my brain plays with language is so similar to how I study science. Speaking another language opens so many doors for you, not just on your resume, but being able to communicate, being able to make friends with other people, being exposed to different media and culture. It's also just so fun, it exposes you to so much positivity. There's nothing negative about learning a language. Sure, it might be difficult, but everything that comes out of it is good for you.