Martina Viale is a freshman student at Newman University. She is originally from a small town in Italy — Borgarello. She is attending Newman while being sponsored by Go Campus, an organization affiliated with Mondo Insieme that partners with countries from around the globe to give students the opportunity to study abroad.
Viale has a big dream. But she knows there are many steps she must take before achieving her goal.
She first contacted Go Campus in 2015, paid the application and testing fees, and received a scholarship to attend high school in the United States. The organization found her a host family and she headed off to La Quinta, Calif. As a senior, she enjoyed choosing some of her own classes, which is something she wouldn't have been allowed to do in Italy.
"In Italy, we have 12 subjects to choose from," said Viale. "And we choose our specialization in high school. I chose languages, so I had a package of classes I had to take."
But college wasn't the immediate next step for Viale. She returned home to Italy to finish her high school certification there.
"It’s not my last year of high school," she said. "I was a senior in 2015, and graduated in the United States in 2015, but in Italy, I graduated high school in 2016. We have 13 years of school, five years of high school instead of four."
Viale then contacted Go Campus once again to arrange for sponsorship to attend an American college. After applying, she was given 10 college scholarship options, all from different schools in different states. She narrowed her choices down to her top three, which included Newman, Post University in Waterbury, Conn., and the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Ga.
Comparing scholarship amounts wasn't her main concern when making her decision. She said she also looked at things like the university websites and their social media to gain an inside look at each of her choices. She noticed the Orientation Leaders page on the Newman website and decided to reach out to some of them via Facebook.
"I was really curious," said Viale, "and so I tried to get all of them as friends on Facebook. Some didn’t accept me since I’m from Italy. Ashley Sweetnam answered me and told me how college worked here. I was asking her lots of questions."
Viale also liked the size of Wichita. "Wichita is more than 300,000 people, and I wanted a big city. I’m from a little town, and I wanted bigger. And there are more things to do in this city."
As for her big dream, Viale said eventually she would like to open her own restaurant and only hire those who are homeless or individuals with disabilities.
"I want to make that be my business. I want them to have the same chance as other people," said Viale. "When I was 10, these little kids were trying to sell us something, and asking us for money. But I shared my food with them. They didn’t even eat it right away, they took it back to their group of friends and shared what little I gave them with their friends. When you walk around (in Italy), you see those little kids, without shoes and ripped clothes. They ask for food and money. I want them to have a chance."
Currently, Viale is working to obtain a double major in business management and psychology with a minor in entrepreneurship. She said she would also love to work at Google after graduating college.
Her experience at Newman so far has been a good one. Viale said she was most nervous about living independently in the residence halls and being able to speak English well enough.
"I was really afraid the day before leaving to come," she said, "because when I was an exchange student in high school, I had a home family. But here, I just have me, myself and I."
She also said she feels challenged at Newman — and that's how she prefers it. "I like to take a lot (of classes) because I like to be challenged. I will take 19 hours next semester."
Viale added, "I’m not used to doing lots of papers. In Italy, we do those in class in two hours. I was stressed; it was a lot of writing. It’s also challenging because it’s in another language."
Studying English grammar is something Viale did for 13 years. But she said speaking it and writing it was much harder than she thought. "In Italy, we study the grammar, but then you lose it when you try to speak because you’re thinking about the grammar too much."
She said she is excited about her future. "My parents tell me dreams are good, but to focus on my life, too," said Viale. "But they support me and they make sacrifices to help me. They always say that they didn’t get to finish high school and college and they want me to have that opportunity."
Viale added, "I will be the first in my family to finish high school and college. But they try to keep me on the ground, too. They want me to have a job before I have my dream and my restaurant. They want to live in the United States, too. And I think they want to help me open my restaurant."
Viale said her restaurant will more than likely be in California — where she would like to live someday — and will serve authentic Italian food.