This summer, 18 high school counselors spent a week at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, where they explored the local communities, experienced the culture, and got to know faculty and staff as if they were Chargers studying abroad.
August 18, 2023
Henry DelAngelo has been a counselor in education for more than three decades. He says many of his students express interest in studying abroad. It’s something he experienced for himself when he was a student – he studied abroad in England – and this summer, he spent a week at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, as if he were a student abroad.
A school counselor at Joel Barlow High School in Redding, Conn., DelAngelo says his own visits to college campuses are a critical component of helping his students choose where they will continue their education. This summer, he had an extraordinary opportunity to visit a campus across the Atlantic Ocean, where he saw firsthand where Chargers live, learn, and experience Italian culture.
DelAngelo was among 18 high school counselors who spent a week experiencing the University’s satellite campus as students do. He became a student, of sorts, learning from Kevin Murphy, Ph.D., and Silvia Risaliti, the Prato campus dean and student affairs coordinator, respectively, about everything the campus and the community have to offer.
“The firsthand experience of seeing what students do in Italy helps so much when talking to students and their parents about colleges,” said DelAngelo. “When you can say you were there and that the faculty will take care of you, that you don’t have to know Italian to go there, that you can have a meal with a family in Prato, and that you went places where the students go, that’s important.”
‘They put so much thought into the student experience’
The program for counselors, offered since 2014, provides high school counselors an immersive week during which they learn about the campus, the local community, and the study abroad program. They meet faculty and staff, take an Italian class, and explore Prato. They also experience Italy’s rich culture, making pizzas, enjoying a hands-on fresco painting workshop, and attending an opera.
Dr. Murphy and Risaliti, a professional tour guide and a local, welcomed the counselors. They regularly lead tours, excursions, and cultural visits with students, and they enjoyed showing the counselors what students experience in Italy.
“I think there are many features that make the program unique,” said Dr. Murphy. “In just one intensive week, the counselors get to experience so many educational and cultural aspects of the program. In this way, they are always learning about the campus, and they personally get to know the people who would be looking after their students. This personal connection and building of trust are huge benefits of the program.”
That connection was important to Danielle Avery, a school counselor at Trumbull High School in Trumbull, Conn. As a student, she did a six-week study abroad program in France, and as a counselor, she’s sometimes concerned that semester-long study abroad programs are scary or intimidating for students. But, she says, the opportunity to study at the satellite campus with dedicated University faculty and staff makes the program more accessible.
“I felt the campus was big enough for students to travel as they please but close enough to home because Kevin and Silvia are right there,” she said. “I felt that, if I were a parent of a college student, this would feel close to home. They put so much thought into the student experience, and it shows.”
A taste of life in Prato
The program highlights the University’s focus on experiential and global education. Counselors learn about the study abroad program itself, and they receive important information about admissions, student success and advising, and intercultural competencies. Phil Howard and Josh Kealer, members of the University’s undergraduate admissions staff, also attended, helping to ensure a seamless experience. Dr. Murphy hopes the opportunity was a way for counselors to experience the many benefits students gain from studying abroad.
“It is very satisfying to be able to speak directly with the people who work with students and to show them firsthand the opportunities and experiences the University offers at the Prato Campus,” he said. “We also learn a lot spending so much time with other professionals dedicated to student development.”
Besides exploring Prato, the group visited many of the local cities and communities that students visit while in Italy. They toured historic churches, museums, and other sites in Florence, explored the Tuscan countryside, and visited nearby cities such as Pisa, Lucca, and Siena.
Randy Stamm, a school counselor at Hackensack High School in Hackensack, NJ, was thrilled to have the chance to visit the campus. It was his second time out of the country and his first in more than two decades, and he describes the trip as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” He particularly enjoyed having dinner in the Tuscan countryside, the delicious food, and breathtaking views. He says he is excited to share the experience with his own students.
“I was so impressed by the attention to detail and intentionality that the faculty and staff put into creating an experience wherein counselors would get a taste of what life as a University of New Haven student in Prato would be like,” he said. “The University has identified a location that strikes the right balance between living in large city, yet still feeling like part of a smaller community. I would absolutely feel comfortable recommending students to spend a semester in Prato with the wonderful, caring, and knowledgeable staff and faculty.”
‘You want your kids to experience new things’
For Lorraine Longing, who has been a school counselor for nearly 30 years, the experience was informative and also rewarding. The district director of guidance for the Nyack School District in Rockland County, NY, she was excited to make new connections with her fellow school counselors and with University faculty and staff while exploring everything the campus – and Italy – has to offer.
“This trip was a wonderful opportunity, and we had a great group,” she said. “I enjoyed getting to know Kevin and Silvia. They did a great job with everything, and I’m so glad we had this experience.”
For DelAngelo, the Joel Barlow High School counselor, experiencing Italy and Italian hospitality wasn’t just exciting and educational, it was also reassuring. DelAngelo is a counselor as well as a parent, and he appreciated the faculty’s and staff’s dedication to creating a welcoming, educational, and well-organized experience for the counselors.
“As a parent, you want your kids to experience new things,” he said. “If they are going across the ocean and six time zones away, it’s important to know there will be people who will take care of your child. I can’t speak highly enough of Kevin and Silvia. They know they are entrusted with students’ lives.”