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Student Success Global Connections

Where in the World is Miami: Italy

Senior Madison Wells spent Summer 2022 studying voice in Urbania, Italy through the FIO Italia program.

Student Success Global Connections

Where in the World is Miami: Italy

In this week's Where in the World is Miami, we meet Madison Wells, a senior Vocal Performance major, who studied abroad in Urbania, Italy during Summer 2022.

What organizations are you involved with at Miami?

Content Manager for MU Opera Theater, Vice President of SNATS, and Program Chair for ΣAI - Lambda Upsilon

Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your experience?

COVID-19 had a pretty big impact on me, and everyone else in the music and performance world; for a while, we weren't sure if we would ever be able to go back to performance the way we wanted to. In regards to this program, I was initially supposed to attend it my freshman year, but due to COVID, it was cancelled that year and the following. To finally get to experience something that I'd been holding out for for so long truly felt like a dream I just happened to be walking around in. To have real performances was truly the cherry on top.

Why did you choose your study abroad program?

While there are many programs that cater to voice students, FIO offered so much in such a short amount of time—in just 5 weeks, we would be traveling and performing four different operas in Italy! Thanks to COVID, my age group of performers hasn't gotten much actual performance experience, so to be in so many shows with other passionate musicians was enough to pull me in.

The location definitely helped in my decision to study with the FIO program: we stayed in Urbania, which was the most fairytale town I think I've ever seen. The memories I have of just walking around there will be some I cherish forever.

What did you study with your program?

In addition to the four different operas we produced, FIO also held weekly concerts, masterclasses, and an opera scenes performance. I was in two of the operas—Suor Angelica and Le nozze di Figaro—and the rest of the performances.

As students of the program, we had weekly lessons and coachings on Italian lyric diction with Italian teachers. We also took daily Italian classes in the mornings before rehearsals—that knowledge was absolutely put to the test every day in the town!

What are the coolest places you visited on your program?

We had lots of different excursions, but my favorite had to be to Florence. There was so much excitement on the bus that morning; we were going to a city full of art, music, and history, something we all were extremely passionate about. To explore that city with so many new friends and artists made it so much more magical. I may or may not have cried when I saw "La Primavera" in person.

We also got to perform at a gala in Fermignano, which was a few towns over from us. We all got to wear our fancy gowns and perform in the square: some of us got to sing from a balcony in the center of the piazza! It was definitely another one of those magical experiences that this trip was chock full of.

What was your favorite part of your program?

Being able to perform was such a blessing and also just so fun. These productions were the most normal ones I had been part of since COVID, and just being able to have that was so freeing.

Another aspect that was SO amazing was that our audiences knew exactly what was happening within the shows and they loved it! Hearing laughs after a joke that most non-Italian speaking audiences wouldn't have gotten lifted the whole cast's spirits and pushed us to do that much better.

Bringing joy to people is the main reason I love opera and performance—it isn't about me; it's about giving the audience the same emotions the composer intended all the years ago that they wrote the work. Feeling that rush of emotions in the theatre made every performance night so alive and electric.

A Miami reunion in Italy
Having fun in Florence
Closing night of Le nozze di Figaro in the Teatro Bramante

How has the study abroad experience changed you?

I think the most valuable takeaway I had from this program wasn't necessarily what I learned from my teachers or directors, but what I learned from the people who lived in the town.

Everything is so much slower in Urbania, so much more mindful. Meals are shared with friends and eaten deliberately, ensuring you savor every moment and every bite. Nightly walks are taken by almost everyone, allowing you to reset and rest after a long day while still being part of the world and thankful for your surroundings.

People are kind and considerate as a reflex: I made so many friends at the coffee shops, at the different restaurants we would frequent (who I tearfully said goodbye to as they made me promise I would come back and visit.) The attitude and energy all of this gave me was one that held peace of mind and gratitude in all I and others did. Reminding myself to hold onto that now that I am home is something so valuable to me.

Training and experience is something I could have gotten from probably any program, but I'm not so sure anyone but the people I met in Urbania could have given me that gentle reminder to be present, thoughtful, and grateful.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering study abroad/away at Miami University?

I would say go for it! Just reminding yourself that there is more to the world than Oxford, Miami, Ohio, even the Midwest, is so important. The world is wide and full of amazing people and opportunities. If you have the chance to experience even a few of them, I will always say to embrace it wholeheartedly.

Where in the World is Miami is a news article series that features stories about Miami students and alumni who are

  • international students;
  • studying abroad/away (current or past);
  • interning abroad/away (current or past);
  • working in an international company or organization.

In each article, we travel around the world to feature the amazing opportunities that Miami students are taking and the experiences our alumni have had since graduating!

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