Figuring out what to do after graduation is not always simple. Avanti Italia offers a two-year teaching opportunity for college graduates in Scandicci, Italy, a suburb of Florence. Teachers live at the Florence Bible School where they teach English lessons by studying the Bible with people in the surrounding community.
Stateside coordinators and former directors Jay Walls and David Woodroof work to recruit interested students, and fully believe in the program’s purpose.
“We’re completely up front with people about our method so that they know that our primary reason in doing this is that we want them to read and know more about the Bible,” Walls said. “We also like helping them with their English skills, but that’s secondary. We don’t hide that from people at all.”
Senior Jessica Stano, a music education major, first learned about Avanti Italia with Mostly Music, a seven-week study abroad trip in Italy. Stano also went on a mission trip with Walls this past summer.
“When I got to Harding, I started hearing about mission opportunities,” Stano said. “I thought that sounded like something I’d like to do, but I had no idea where. Then I went on the study abroad trip, and I loved it and the people I met.”
If accepted into the program, the potential teachers reach out to friends, relatives and churches in order to be funded. The first three months in Scandicci are spent learning Italian before classes begin. Teachers are encouraged to use their talents and interests to connect with the community.
“We try to get people out into the community doing things that interest them, so it’s not just teaching lessons,” Walls said. “We’ve had musicians that have played in a local band in Scandicci. We’ve had people who have worked with an American football team or volunteered at the hospital or local library.”
Senior Caleb Russell, a history and political science major, believes Avanti Italia is a great option for people interested in mission work who plan on pursuing their field of study later on.
“I think it’s a chance to enrich yourself as a person and to enrich others,” Russell said. “Even if you can’t be a missionary for 20 years in a different country–maybe you have to go back to an occupation–this is a good opportunity to serve and to fill a need.”
Some people find it overwhelming to delay their careers and believe that it will be a setback to their futures, but according to Walls, Avanti Italia actually does the opposite.
“I know some people worry about whether taking a couple of years out after graduation hurts their chances in their field or in getting into grad schools. However, we’ve never seen Avanti Italia become a detriment to anyone. In fact, it opens lots of doors,” Walls said.
Apply or learn more by contacting Jay Walls at firstname.lastname@example.org or David Woodroof at email@example.com.