The University of Miami’s undergraduate population boasts 10,000 culturally diverse students.
However, few can say their UM application process was spurred by an earthquake. Valeria Ranalli can.
Her home city of L’Aquila, Italy was devastated by the Apr. 6, 2009 earthquake that killed 300 and left 28,000 homeless.
Courage allowed Ranalli to not only survive the quake that collapsed the 800-year-old apartment building she and eight friends were in, but also to travel 5,220 miles to the United States for the first time with only her friend and fellow survivor Eleonora Rasicci.
Despite limited English-speaking skills, she is extremely grateful for the “dream come true” opportunity the National Italian-American Foundation (NIAF) and UM exchange collaboration have given her.
“Reaching out to our partner university in this dark hour was very important to us.” said Elyse Resnick, Assistant Director of UM’s International Education and Exchange Program (IEEP). “Thanks to the UM/NIAF collaboration, the Universita degli Studi dell’Aquila students will be able to continue their education in Miami for one semester while their community rebuilds.”
Ranalli’s room, meal plan and airfare expenses are paid for by NIAF while her home is rebuilt.
Ranalli fully embraces her new surroundings.
“It is a breath of fresh air, everything from the student-professor relationship, to how the university truly revolves around the student as an individual.”
She explains how the university life here differs drastically from that of Italy, which focuses solely on classes and tests, not extracurricular activities. An enthusiastic writer, Ranalli hopes to improve her English-speaking skills and perhaps pursue her longtime dream of working in the record industry. This dream is something that she has never fully considered because of the limited possibilities offered by her country in this field.
American boys are another aspect of life in the United States that fascinates Ranalli, who says it is refreshing to see such well-rounded, active males.
Although intrigued by the many differences between the U.S. and Italy, her ability to easily adapt to new environments plays a crucial role in Ranalli’s life.
“ If it were not for the lack of Italian food, I would say that I’m really beginning to feel at home here,” Ranalli said.