Spotlight Iowa City: Breathing multicultural air


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Isabella Santoro thinks in a mix of languages.

The UI senior is a dual citizen of the United States and Italy, and she has added English, French, and Spanish to her native Italian.

In her four years of college, Santoro has used both her experiences and studies to promote cultural exchange and interaction. She will graduate this month with a degree in international studies and minors in Spanish and French.

“Overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers is my passion,” said the native of Florence. “Studying language, translation, and interpretation has always fascinated me.”

While studying at the UI, the 22-year-old has maintained a 3.92 cumulative grade-point average, made the Dean’s List in every semester, and worked in many international programs to pursue her passion of intercultural relationships.

International-studies program assistant Natasha Wilson Boland helped Santoro land a very involved internship with the Stanley Foundation in Muscatine, where she performed foreign policy research.

“She’s ambitious,” Boland said. “Her assignments there sounded very difficult for an undergrad, and she seemed overwhelmed, but she never backed down from the challenge.”

Santoro said her various internships and activities have been invaluable in helping her to achieve her goals of working in foreign policy and pursuing a master’s degree in international relations.

“Making friends with people with very different cultural backgrounds and learning about cultural norms elsewhere has been a huge help,” said Santoro, who studied abroad in Spain in spring 2007 to enhance her experience in intercultural communication.

Santoro is in Washington, D.C., finishing a full-time internship with the International Institute for Strategic Studies. She has worked on issues related to the Middle East, missile defense, and climate change.

“Being in the nation’s capital has been a great experience, seeing where everything happens at the political and social level,” she said.

Santoro said meeting President Obama during his campaign in her Washington, Iowa, home motivated her to pursue a career in public policy and Foreign Service.

“It inspired me to go to D.C., where change would happen, and be in the heart of it all,” she said.

For the last three years, Santoro has helped foreign students adapt to the UI campus while working with Global Buddies. This spring, she taught English to immigrants in Iowa City as part of the International Women’s Club and worked as a volunteer teaching assistant with international studies Adjunct Professor Jerry Croft.

“In my 10 years, I’ve never met a student who worked harder to make things just right,” he said. “She’s very bright.”

So far, Santoro has interviewed for a position at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She said she’d also like trying an entry-level job at a think tank — nonprofit organizations that influence policy decisions and promote community awareness on foreign policy.

“They try to put a bunch of brainpower together to come up with a recommendation for the administration,” she said.

Because Santoro’s thinking and brainpower is in volts of four mixed languages, the soon-to-be graduate is in a unique position to likewise mix up think tanks .

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