Collin Perciballi, '11, a focus on Italian propelled his career in economic development
Collin Perciballi graduated from the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University in 2011, where he majored in political science and minored in Italian studies. The experiences Perciballi had at Auburn led him to pursue multiple post-graduate degrees abroad, and he is currently working for an economic development company in Boston, MA. Student writer Elizabeth Phillips interviewed Perciballi about his experiences and lessons learned throughout his career.
Attending Auburn University was not always the plan for Perciballi. Growing up in Pensacola, FL, he was surrounded by a variety of college fandom, including FSU, LSU, and Auburn. However, since his parents were not from the South themselves, he did not feel any strong ties to a particular school.
During his senior year, Perciballi visited Auburn’s campus with a friend. This short overnight stay allowed him to envision himself going to school here, and he later was accepted with a Navy ROTC scholarship.
Once he was a student, Perciballi became involved with a variety of organizations. He was a resident assistant and joined the AU Tennis Club, Global Tigers, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, and AU Catholics. But the most unique experience Perciballi had while at Auburn was his time studying abroad in Taormina, Sicily in Italy. This experience accelerated his skills in Italian and led him to pursue many other adventures abroad.
Perciballi always knew that he wanted to take Italian classes when he went to college. After enrolling in entry-level Italian courses, Perciballi became even more fascinated with the language. He said, “I really loved the language, so I dedicated myself to learning it.”
This desire stemmed primarily from his family, and the time they spent at the Navy base in Sicily. Although he was not born yet, he grew up hearing stories of the town, the language, and their Italian host family. These stories fascinated Perciballi throughout his life, so when the time came for him to study abroad, he made sure to visit the family he had heard so much about. Perhaps not surprisingly, Perciballi also grew close to the family.
That first trip to Sicily was also where he got to know Giovanna Summerfield, who was the professor leading the program.
“I have great memories of all of my students in those years because I was proud of taking them to my birthplace and to see them so taken by the surroundings and the many activities we conducted together. That program and summer was just a trampoline for Collin,” Summerfield said.
During the month Perciballi spent there, he rapidly improved his Italian and decided to pursue it as a minor.
Perciballi is adamant that studying abroad is a life-changing experience everyone should have. He said, “If I had kids, I would force them to study abroad. I think it should be mandatory because it changes the way that you think by connecting you with different people who think differently than you do.”
Connecting with others and experiencing a new culture is the main draw to those who are looking to study abroad, but in order to do this, it is important to study the language before traveling. “You have to make an effort to understand and appreciate a culture or a country. This is a sign of respect and interest,” Summerfield said.
Following his graduation, Perciballi worked as an intern for the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce in their economic development department. Perciballi said he enjoyed his internship as it provided him with hands-on experience, but when Professor Summerfield told him about a master’s program in Italy, he jumped at the opportunity. This program would allow him to live in Italy, something he had wanted to do since the month he spent in Sicily.
After being accepted, he spent the next two years studying for a master’s degree in social science. Those two years were divided between Catania, Sicily, where he spent a year and a half, and Paris, France, at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, where he spent the remainder of his time.
Not only was he required to use some Italian for coursework, but many classes were also taught in French. Perciballi said, “I had to learn French pretty rapidly because in Paris, because it is a French school, they only teach in French.” To keep up with his studies, he traveled to France a month early and enrolled himself in intensive French classes so he could communicate.
Following his master’s program, Perciballi decided he wanted to continue his studies with a master’s in business administration. He found a program at the University of Bologna at Bologna Business School. The University of Bologna is the oldest in the western world as well as the first higher-learning and degree-awarding institution. Not only is this university highly regarded, but it is also near many of the biggest name brands in Italy. His visiting professors and speakers included individuals from Ferrari to Zucchi, an Italian home textile brand.
Currently, Perciballi is working within the field of economic development. He is based in Boston, MA.
Perciballi looks back fondly on his time spent at Auburn University and offers some advice to current students as they continue their studies. He said, “You get out of Auburn what you put into it. If you get involved and you find your specific interests and you are really active with them, it’s far more enriching than just going to class and getting your degree and trying to find a job afterward. If you are interested in language, don’t just take language class, try to form a group and practice or form a relationship with your professor.”
The relationships Perciballi developed while at Auburn with his professors allowed him to learn about new and exciting adventures such as the master’s program that he participated in. Summerfield also speaks of the value of these student-professor relationships. “That’s the joy of being a teacher, knowing that during the time they spent here at Auburn they received the preparation they needed. It has been my pleasure to continue to see Collin’s growth and success. I am very proud of him. He will go far with his talent, his drive, and his heart.”