This year, IALC accredited Italian language school Accademia Italiana celebrates its 20th Anniversary.
Accademia Italiana, which has recently been nominated in the ST Italian Language School category for the 6th year at ST Star Awards 2017, has offered all year round Italian courses since 1997.
In an interview with Francesca Romana Memoli to mark the 20th anniversary of Accademia Italiana, the school’s founder and director reflects on the anniversary and her last twenty years in the industry.
How has the scene changed in Salerno in terms of tourism in the past years?
When I founded Accademia Italiana you could hear everywhere people saying that Salerno was a beautiful city for a short visit. Everyone considered Salerno as a place for a short stay while visiting the Amalfi Coast, Naples or Capri, but nothing more. In the past 20 years the prospective has completely changed, thanks also to our activity that has contributed to changing the image of the city. Today Salerno is no longer considered just for a summer holiday, but also as an academic, cultural and educative experience. Our 750 international students last year, who spend on average 3 weeks per head, are proof of this.
How did you get the idea of opening a school in Salerno?
I studied at the University of Salerno, and at only 18 years old, I had the opportunity of being involved by my Professors in the didactic running of the language courses for Erasmus students. After my degree, I attended a Master course in Saint Petersburgh to specialize in the Russian language and there also, I had the opportunity to continue teaching my language to Russian students. After a short experience in France, I returned to Italy where I taught both in Florence and Rome. There the world opened up before me, because I discovered the magic of teaching international classes and it was then that I decided to take this world to Salerno, where I was born and grew up. I realized if I wanted my dream to come true, I would have to become a female Entrepreneur. But it was very difficult to get any financial help from institutions for young people. The project however was already underway so I spoke to my parents about it. They too looked into the future for which I will forever be grateful: they understood that it was a lifetime project and they had faith in me, even though I was only 24 years old. They offered me all their savings, saying "Play with your life". That's how it has been!
What is the most passionate part of your job?
Everything! Everyday I feel a very lucky person when I come into work. I consider myself a very determined person and with every challenge I face, makes me stronger. I have the privilege of working with people who are happy, on holiday, and highly cultured. The relationship with my students who I am never able to consider as simple clients, and with my staff who are very qualified and motivated, help me grow and enrich me every day. I always try to confront myself with others as I know I am not perfect and, above all, because my point of view, being only partial, may not be the same as the person I have in front of me. Confronting one’s self is always very positive when it is least expected, it opens your mind and feeds you enthusiasm and knowledge.
What has been your most emotional moment in your school?
I get emotional every time I speak to my students, in particular the groups of students who come to take part in an academic program here in Salerno, organized by me personally. Surely the most emotional moment was in February 2009, when we enlarged the school, we organized a Conference for the opening day, bringing to Salerno representatives from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education, from the European Commission, together with University for Foreigners of Siena and Perugia and from the Dante Alighieri Society. Another great satisfaction was to see the Accademia Italiana nominated, six times in the past seven years, for the STM Awards, an award given to the Top International language schools and operators.
It all sounds very enthusiastic, but it must also be very hard work?
Yes, certainly at the beginning it was very hard for me. I remember I did everything at school, and I'm not ashamed to say that also included cleaning. Certainly there were times when money was lacking and this was very frustrating as I wanted to do so many things and it was not always possible. But the biggest challenge without doubt however remains that of coping with both work and family. I am the mother of three wonderful children, and often being away for work, I try to give them the best of myself as I don't want them to feel my absence. For me both family and work are on the same level so it is very important to create balance and harmony. I am convinced that if a woman really wants to, she can manage both successfully.
Do you remember any student in particular?
That would surely be Akiko, one of the first Japanese students at Accademia. She spent a year with us and is now living in England. We still keep in touch and I often see that she mentions me as her best teacher (she is actually studying at the 'Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Londra). This makes me very happy. To tell you the truth all my students are special. Sometimes I'm aware that I am very protective towards them and to treat them like children when they are actually grown up. They have written this in their final feedbacks. Sometimes I'm motherly to my staff too. The fact is that I feel and I am the mother of the Accademia, my creation.
What are your plans for the next 20 years?
Secrets are to be kept as such, and it is unlucky to reveal them before they become reality. Therefore I will update you on our next meeting!
Accademia Italiana is a school of the highest quality and IALC would like to congratulate Francesca Memoli and her school on this fantastic achievement!