The Interview Alessandra
two years in
As well as leading the Italian Experience Cotswold days, Alessandra combines this with working for the prestigious Oxford University, Marlborough College Summer School and the Defence Academy of Great Britain. I caught up with Alessandra in June 2019.
Editor (Ed): Can you remember your thoughts after the first experience day?
Alessandra (Aless): “Really, really satisfying. We had a three month run in- having started the Italian Experience Day idea at the start of spring 2017. I remember being quite nervous- we had planned a lot and we wanted it to succeed. The day itself I was on a high in excitement and I couldn't have asked for more. We had such energy at the end of the Day!
Ed: “And highlights of the second year of Italian Experience days ?
We have grown immensely, our following has multiplied on social media and the number of participants we have had means its easier. They are spreading the word for me! At my last count we have nearly 1,000 followers on social media!. We have increased our participant numbers by over a third in one year and our participants keep booking to come back..so that shows its well-liked!
In the Autumn of 2019 we have moved to our base in Alba House in Watchfield. This offers a home from home comfort and it enables a relaxed atmosphere, intensive learning - but also by popular request, my home baked Italian cakes! Students seem to like it there.
The mornings allow time for everyone in our busy lives.
Ed: "So how did the idea originate?
"Thinking back, it stemmed from coming back from the International Language School (DILIT) in Rome in Spring 2017. I was enthused to try out the new techniques for studying Italian. A combination of factors really. I love teaching and the Experience Days give me an opportunity to show an array of ways of learning and research a wide field of language study from the best international experts. I was also frustrated and wanted (for my private students) to give them more opportunities to interact and study with others- and just to feel good about their learning Italian.
Ed: You have now achieved full member of Chartered Institute of Linguist status – did that help your decision to do the Italian Experience Cotswold days?
“Yes, definitely. Chartered status is sought after. And you only get it after years of professional practice. I think it boosted my confidence to go it alone. I realised I was already working for some of the biggest names in languages in the region and with Chartered status it gives customers an assurance of quality.”
Ed: Why locate on the edge of the Cotswolds?
“I count myself as a local to the Cotswolds and of course Oxfordshire, as I have lived nearby for 20 years. Having worked in Oxford, Cirencester, Marlborough and Swindon it seemed a fairly central place to where I am already well known. One of my drivers is that there seems to be few opportunities for learning Italian around this region. “
Ed: Where have participants come from?
We thought to begin with our participants would come from local areas, In fact our Italian Experience customers have come from Oxford, Gloucestershire Wiltshire, Reading and also as far away as the Midlands, Plymouth and Hertfordshire! Its amazing.. we have now covered most of the South of England. In fact in 2019 I even covered a bespoke training weekend in Salcombe in Devon!
Ed: What is it about the Italian Experience in Oxfordshire that is proving so popular?
“I think it is the concept of a special day. One that you can look forward to for several months. To switch off and immerse yourself fully in learning Italian. To be pampered, eat well and relax in pretty and peaceful surroundings. To meet new people who also share your love of Italy and even find out new best locations for travel to Italy. We always have a chat over coffee and find out tips on where to go and what to see! For the beginners it is a start of a journey – and for the more advanced it’s a reinforcement and a practice – ready for that summer holiday or work engagement in Italy.”
Ed: What if I’m already learning Italian somewhere else – is the day for me?
“Yes, absolutely. Italian Experience Days are designed to complement your existing study – and for beginners- hopefully the start of a longer journey learning Italian. I keep the content a mixture of speaking, listening and reading so that the everyday Italian is built up and essentially gives you a big, big confidence boost. There is normally a new grammatical feature that we master and I always like to feature a culture or heritage highlight too. It is not designed around a syllabus or a test. Just a love of Italy and the language of Italian.”
Ed: And the Experience Days are a husband and wife team, which is quite unusual in business. And plans for 2019?
Aless. “Yes! I suppose it is quite unusual! – we both like doing different aspects of the Italian Experience Days which helps. I do all the teaching and Steve helps with administration and marketing. I plan another trip to train in new techniques in Rome for April and this will give me a new impetus to add the most cutting edge of teaching and learning techniques for the days.
We have been bursting with ideas for 2019!. There are new Italian Cinema language days -called Ciak si gira! (action) and a new concept in beginners days for later in the year. We have had some major work and added a shop on our Facebook site and also the website will be having some new pages packed with Italian resources. We want it to be a must have site for the student of Italian.
Ed: Thank you Alessandra. And best wishes for more success and growth in 2019.
In bocca al lupo - I think you say in Italian?!
“Grazie mille. A presto !”