Gabriella Del Gandio ’14 ~ Diplomacy, Philanthropy, & Fluency
With only a few months to go before walking down the Avenue of the Oaks in her cap and gown, Gabriella Del Gandio is busy researching the next big stop on her life journey.
The Clarksville, Tenn., native will graduate in May with her degree in international studies with minors in political science and Spanish. The Spring Hill College senior hopes to put her studies to use by eventually working at the State Department.
“There are a bunch of steps in between here and there, but it would be an absolute dream to be a diplomat,” says Del Gandio. “Diplomacy is a mix of everything I love – it is a both an art and a science. And it would be a chance to use my education and skills for the service of others.”
In preparation for realizing her dream, Del Gandio is applying to graduate programs, some stateside, but most of them based in Europe. She is also considering teaching abroad in Spain, France, Italy, or Dubai before going back to school.
“I was introduced to foreign languages very young,” says Del Gandio. “My family lived in Italy for three years after I was born, so I actually began speaking in Italian. I started learning Spanish in seventh grade and haven’t stopped since. I added French my senior year of high school.”
Del Gandio, who explains her passion for languages as an incredible medium of communication and culture, seized the chance to hone her skills while studying at Spring Hill’s Italy Center in Bologna.
“During Family weekend, Kyle (Trusgnich) talked about the unique nature of the program – how it is fully immersive and service oriented. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I literally applied that night and had the experience of a lifetime.”
The summer after she returned from Italy, Del Gandio interned with Sister Cities of Nashville, an organization that works to promote citizen diplomacy, and a charter of Sister Cities International. Del Gandio mainly worked with young people preparing to get involved in foreign exchange programs.
“I collected information for travel documents and arranged home stays, and it was awesome to prep each group before they left. You could feel the excitement of these kids as they prepared to go abroad to South Korea, Germany, France, and Ireland. I could really related to the emotions they were experiencing, as I’d just returned from Italy.”
This past summer, Del Gandio worked in Washington, D.C., for a boutique consulting firm specializing in human rights concerns, security, and social justice issues around the world. Working for clients like the Moroccan Embassy and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Del Gandio and other interns had the chance to attend meetings at think tanks like the CATO Institute, Brookings, and USIP (U.S. Institute of Peace).
Dr. Matthew Baugh, professor of political science and law at Spring Hill College, praises Del Gandio’s drive and initiative at seeking out real-world opportunities.
“Gabriella is just an outstanding student: incisive, engaging, always well prepared and thoughtful,” says Dr. Baugh. “Her ability to write, think, and speak with both clarity and grace will make it difficult for her to decide what to do in the future. So many options are open! Whatever she pursues, I'm confident that she'll make a contribution that will make Spring Hill proud.”
Assistant professor of English, Dr. Steven Almquist, agrees that Del Gandio is a pleasure to work with inside the classroom. “She is inquisitive, curious, and thoughtful; she is also remarkably responsible and diligent,” says Dr. Almquist. “This combination of talent, work ethic, and responsibility will serve her well in her future, whatever that future brings her way.”
Del Gandio actually fell in love with Spring Hill College when one of her older sisters toured the school – a full three years before Gabriella became an enrolled freshman on campus.
“The thing that impressed me most about Spring Hill is the energy. Everyone who is here wants to be here. And when they graduate they want to come back,” says Del Gandio. “It’s also gorgeous here, obviously, but the school has more to offer than aesthetics. Three years later, I got an invitation to Scholarship Day. When I returned to Spring Hill, it felt like I was coming home, not coming back again.”
During her four years on the Hill, Del Gandio has held a work-study with Spring Hill College Campus Ministry, participated in Habitat for Humanity builds, has gathered supplies for homeless shelters, and has participated in sorority philanthropy events. She also participated in a service-learning class for Spanish in which students volunteered with an English as a Second Language (ESL) class. She is currently secretary of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit Honor society on campus, as well as a member of the Honors Program.
“My time at Spring Hill College has been wonderful. The campus is steeped in this rich history of tradition,” says Del Gandio. “The classes are small and the professors are engaged. And the sense of community is beyond compare. Spring Hill echoed all the values I’ve been taught and has challenged me with new ones. I will definitely miss Spring Hill when I graduate.”
Gabriella’s “Top Ten” Advice for SHC Freshmen
1. Balance is something hard that is to achieve, but at the same time, you just have to do it. If it is worth it (whether its school, service, social clubs, or a social life) you will work for it.
2. I don’t ever want to settle for anything I am not happy with.
3. I have no qualms with making mistakes and moving on. So long as there is forward motion, I don’t count something as regret.
4. Be conscious of your choices – as many as you can. Be conscious of your habits – good and bad. Don’t let these four years pass by simply being.
5. Not everything is going to be perfect or easy, but practice being continuously conscious.
6. When things are bad, recognize that and learn from it.
7. When things are good, recognize that and be grateful. Don’t ever forget to be grateful because it is a massive opportunity to even be here.
8. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
9. Go to the Italy Center. Experience Bologna. Challenge yourself.
10. Learn a language or two. Being able to understand others – more than just their words – is so important. Studying someone else’s languages help you do that. And I think it a huge sign of respect to try to even speak another language. It’s like meeting someone halfway.