Let Us Introduce You: Jessica Birolini

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Let Us Introduce You: Jessica Birolini

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Transatlantic moves and international journeys have shaped Jessica Birolini’s life for the past several years. She comes from Albino, a village nestled in a valley in the northern Italian Alps. She began studying German and accounting in high school and went on to get her bachelor’s degree in accounting at the Università degli studi di Bergamo.

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Her first study abroad experiences took her to Canterbury, England, and Vienna, Austria. She first came to America during her second year at university, spending two months in a language school in Boston, although she describes the experience as being “in a bubble” with fellow Europeans, “doing European stuff in the United States.”

“Europeans are very different from Americans,” she explained, “because most of Americans don’t leave their country – it’s actually hard for them to leave their country … I live an hour from Switzerland and Austria, and three hours probably from France … So it’s actually very easy to get in contact with foreigners.”

One exception to this was her participation in Mizzou’s Summer Business Program in Bergamo; the experience resulted in dozens of friends who would later welcome her when she studied for a semester at Mizzou.

Her experience in accounting and English intersected when she secured an internship at Morgan Stanley.

According to Birolini, everything started from a teacher’s suggestion that she pursue her Master’s degree abroad. Accounting, for which she professes a passion equal to her passion for languages, presents a paradoxical obstacle: despite it’s having brought her so far from home, in practice it is complicated by national boundaries.

“The problem with accounting, it’s very … regional … so it’s not like finance that lets you travel a lot, but when you study accounting, the rules of the state … you cannot do anything with those and you have to learn the accounting rules of the other state if you want to travel.”

This dissonance has impacted her current studies at SLU. Because the U.S. operates under common law and Italy under civil law, Birolini has had to take undergraduate courses in tax law and financial law, forcing her to adapt her plans for graduate studies.

“The accounting department is just Chinese and American, and I’m always the European – strange, weirdo, goofy. Always the stranger.” Her geopolitics course, however, compensates for this sense of isolation: there she has met students from Lebanon, Lithuania and France.

This semester, her second at SLU, she teaches two Italian lab courses. While new to teaching, she says, “I completely love it.”

Birolini leads the Italian Table on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Center for Global Citizenship, a conversation group for students learning Italian.

“The students of the language department are really motivated,” she said. “They are really happy, and I feel like they are happy to have a young person who they can talk with, because the important thing of language is to talk with [another speaker]. It’s really important because most of the English that I can talk I learned when I came here … when I started to do my internship.”

Through all her trials and tribulations, SLU’s Catholic culture serves as an anchor.

“I love that they respect Christian holidays because they’re the same holidays as Italy … So I’m home in the same way [as] when I’m home-home.”