Student Connects Her Past and Future Through Italian
Whether she’s watching Life is Beautiful in its original Italian, discussing the plays and novels of Luigi Pirandello with her aunt in Naples, or learning about the social and political issues facing modern Italy, Maria Di Costanzo always feels inspired in the Department of Italian.
“It’s a total life experience,” Di Costanzo says. “I’ve learned so much in the Italian department—starting with this beautiful language and then extending into film, literature, and culture.”
She has also learned a lot about herself. When this Piscataway, New Jersey native started taking Italian classes in the School of Arts and Sciences, she was hesitant to even speak in class, wondering if the Naples dialect she learned from her family might hinder her ability to speak standard Italian.
I’ve learned so much in the Italian department—starting with this beautiful language and then extending into film, literature, and culture
Now she’s mastered the language and is president of the Italian Club. Adult students auditing courses seek out her help to fulfill their dream of learning Italian.
“I feel I’ve been transformed from someone insecure in their ability to speak the language to someone who helps others grow and become more confident in the language,” she says.
Di Costanzo’s father, Giovanni Di Costanzo, grew up in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, and came to the U.S. when he was 18. He is the owner of the Gianni's Pizzarama in Piscataway.
When Di Costanzo entered Rutgers, she initially considered majoring in global business. But she slowly realized that it was in her Italian and Spanish language classes that she felt the highest sense of calling.
The stage was set when she signed up for an Italian literature class with Professor Laura Sanguineti White, a class in which she read books by the author Luigi Pirandello, a favorite of her aunt’s.
“When I went back to Italy over the summer, my aunt and I sat in her kitchen talking for hours about the book,” she says. “Something just clicked in my head—I can read these complex works in the original language and discuss them.”
She went home, got on the Rutgers website, and changed her major to Italian.
“This is what I want to do. This is my calling.”
Now, with a second major in Spanish, and a minor in international and global studies from the Department of Geography, Di Costanzo is eager to get out into the world, and is considering a career in the international arena.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of working at the United Nations,” she says. “The options feel limitless.”