Translating More Than Words

August 20, 2015

Kasey Cheydleur

Aerial view of a village
Photo credit: Annie Valocchi

After graduation Annie Valocchi ’15 said goodbye to Oberlin and ciao to the Italian countryside. Valocchi is spending her summer interning at Spannocchia, an organic farm and bed and breakfast near Siena, Italy, before she begins teaching English at a high school near Milan this fall. She discovered Spannocchia during her second year at Oberlin when its staff members taught in the sustainability track of her study abroad program.

Valocchi, a comparative literature major, spends her days at Spannocchia preparing breakfast, making cakes, washing dishes, translating cooking classes, and learning a myriad of obscure Italian words. “Surprisingly, the word for kitchen twine didn’t show up in any of the contemporary Italian poetry I studied at Oberlin” she jokes. “Everyday I learn not only new skills—like how to light ovens or make granola for 50 people—but I also improve my language skills.”

She says the most rewarding part about her work has been “facilitating connections and relationships that transcend language barriers. In our cooking classes, I act as an interpreter not only for directions and advice, but funny anecdotes, jokes, and stories.”

A native of Urbana, Illinois, she says her time at Oberlin challenged her and “deeply influenced the way I view myself and the world around me. Oberlin simultaneously put me in my place and showed me the world is at my feet. Oberlin is still challenging me, and I hope it continues to challenge me for the rest of my life.”

Valocchi says her future plans are to work in spaces where English and Italian intersect—whether it be teaching English in Italy, working in tourism, or becoming a translator. She says, “there is nothing more satisfying than helping two people understand each other better.”

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