Anna Settembrini: An Italian in New Orleans

Posted on 14/06/2011


Anna and Laura on site while painting a house in New Orleans

Hi! My name’s is Anna. I am from Lake Garda, Italy. During my exchange program at Richmond I got the chance to take part in the alternative spring break to New Orleans.

The idea of going to New Orleans together with students from school and learning first hand about the lives and difficulties of people there as well as about the culture and story of their city sounded to me like an experience not to be missed. I applied and was enough lucky to be accepted by the team and sponsored by the Office of International Education (OIE). I was very excited about the program but the trip went even beyond my expectation. I couldn’t imagine what an intense, interesting, fun and enriching experience it would be!

We worked in several locations, helping families whose house had been damaged by Katharina. It was great to talk with the families and learn about their story while working and discussing with our friends and professors. In Italy the news reported the disaster but we got few in-depth analysis of the problems that followed the disaster, which concerned the reconstruction of the damaged parts of the city. Our week also included a lecture at Tulane University about problem of crime in New Orleans, as well as a presentation at the EMS Headquarters which gave as an account of the role of police and emergency response after a disaster. Thus, as an international student, the trip was particularly interesting for me. It was a way to learn a lot of details and get a much clearer picture of the situation in New Orleans. After my trip and once back in Italy, I shared with family and friends this experience and they also became more interested in the story.

As a group we did daily reflections about the work we were doing. Sometimes the service work was frustrating because we realised that lots needed to be done and the time we were there was not much. However, sharing our thoughts and feelings was very useful and motivating and I think we got very compacted as a team by the end of our stay. The trip also made me think about the role of volunteering within the community and about the ways its organization could be improved.

Besides the experience and learning during the service, I have also learned a lot by walking around the city, enjoying its atmosphere and finding out about its rich culture which I have found fascinating and which I love to share with friends when I tell them about this trip.
One of the most amazing thing about this experience, however, was the chance to meet, work and spend time with the fantastic people in my group, which shared with me the willing to learn, exchange ideas and help.

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