Next week, a Cal Poly student will travel back to his roots in Italy. Civil engineering sophomore Sean Pringle has been selected to participate in the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery program, which gives Italian-American students a chance to see and learn more about their heritage with a 10-day trip to Italy.
“In a way, it encompasses this whole sense of culture that I don’t think you’d see just taking a vacation to Europe,” Pringle said. “It’s like a very, very short study abroad program.”
This program is sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), which pays for most of the program’s costs, including airfare to and from Italy, hotel costs and escorted tours. NIAF grants and scholarships manager Alexandra Dall said most of the students going on this year’s trip (which begins on May 28) have never been to Italy.
“As we get further from that generation of original immigrants, it becomes harder to stay connected to that heritage,” Dall said. “One of our goals is to re-engage this generation with their heritage.”
Pringle, originally from Pismo Beach, was one of almost 250 applicants for this year’s program, Dall said. Applicants must be Italian-American, enrolled in a university and between the ages of 18 and 23. Program participants are chosen based on grades, personal essays and recommendations. This year, there were students selected from 20 states around the country, Dall said, and are from different socioeconomic groups, schools and majors.
Pringle’s brother participated in the program a few years ago and told him about it — that was why Pringle wanted to participate, too, he said. He was “psyched” when he learned he had been accepted at the end of winter quarter, he said — it “felt like an honor” to be part of the program. This will be Pringle’s first trip to Italy, and he’s looking forward to it.
By giving Pringle this opportunity, NIAF hopes to “make that last step between hearing what his grandmother told him and actually experiencing it for himself,” Dall said.
“He’s one of those kind(s) of kids I think will take full advantage of it,” Ouelette said. “It will be good for him as part of who he is and where he comes from.”