UM responds to devastating earthquake in Abruzzo

Institutional and Community Serviceman Amedeo Pomenti, Guido D’Urbano, UM professor Manuel Garcia-Rossi, and Giovanna Di Lello discuss government policy, the destruction from the earthquake, University of L’Aquila and UM relations. L'Aquila is the capitol of Abruzzo, Italy which was hit hardest by the earthquake of 2009. Courtesy Alanna Zunski.

During the winter intersession, 10 students studying intermediate Italian traveled to the region of Abruzzo, Italy to meet government officials and act as ambassadors for the University of Miami.

In 2009, the Abruzzo region experienced a devastating earthquake. The earthquake wrought destruction, left more than 300 people dead and many others injured or homeless. Before the earthquake, UM offered a study abroad program in the region at the University of L’Aquila.

“This trip to Abruzzo was a perfect opportunity for our Italian students to see first-hand the diverse cultures and people found within the beautiful country of Italy,” said Manuel Garcia-Rossi, UM Italian professor.

Because of their relationship with UM, the University of L’Aquila called on the Miami community for help after the earthquake. Many L’Aquila students were left with no place to live or attend school after the disaster. UM took in many of the L’Aquila students free of charge, allowed them to continue their studies and provided classes for them to learn English.

In return for their help the government gave 10 UM students the opportunity to visit the Abruzzo region for free to learn about the culture and see the damage caused by the earthquake.

“My classmates and I were stunned by the level of damage from the earthquake,” junior Elizabeth Tauben said. “We didn’t realize the magnitude of the destruction until seeing it in person. It was overwhelmingly sad.”

In Abruzzo, UM students were able to improve their Italian by immersing themselves in the culture of a region nearly undiscovered by foreign tourists.

“The trip inspired me to expand my knowledge of Italian foreign policy and government as well as my knowledge of the language,” Tauben said.

Garcia-Rossi hopes that another group of Italian students will experience the Italian region in the future because the trip “brought to life what was learned in their textbooks.”