So that was a crap shoot.
Now, let me be honest here, the idea of Italy Reads is wonderful. I think it's a wonderful idea that allows for students to interact with each other on a level that they would not otherwise seek, and about something that may not be the most immediate option. So generally, this is a fantastic idea.
The trouble is that there are some major flaws in execution.
1) I personally think that they are marketing this to the wrong people. Much of the time they spend trying to get study abroad students here for a semester to commit a substantial amount of time to preparing for something that in theory should only take a few hours. Therefore, although they should not exclude the study abroad students, I think that the better candidates for this project are the degree-seeking students that are looking for a volunteering opportunity.
2) Organization. I'll say it again for clarity, Organization. The funny thing about recruiting study abroad kids is that their schedules fill up fast. And I'm talking like a large portion of these students travel every weekend, or just don't physically have the time with their class schedules to do something for 4 hours in the afternoon. Therefore, as a volunteer organization, you need to be on your A game to win a slot in these cramped calendars. And although it may be time consuming, it's not terribly hard to do. And here are some basic ways that this desired amount of organization can be achieved:
a) Set up a master schedule, and make sure that it is readily available to those persons involved, as well as those interested. That means a link on a website (JCU website is a totally different rant), an email with an attachment, as well as the repetition of upcoming events at every meeting.
b) Prompt email replies. When travel schedules have the potential to change on a dime, it's important to make sure that you are willing to work with and talk about any upcoming questions or concerns. This is also imperative because when you send students out as representatives of your school, as well as your program, and they don't speak Italian, they are going to be worried about just walking into an Italian high school. Support them, and they will likely be just the ambassadors that you want them to be.
c) Make obligations clear from the beginning. Don't try to hide that the volunteers should actually read the book twice, or that it's nearly impossible to get to the school, that doesn't reflect well on your program.
d) When you actually do plan to send students out on these school visits, call the school that morning and confirm with them that the teacher is there and still expecting volunteers.
Unfortunately, none of the above things were implemented, and consequently, Kate and I spent 15 minutes waiting for our fellow students to meet us before going to this campus. Then when no one came, we went up to see Gina (not Gina who sings, other Gina) who gave us a free t-shirt, and a special letter and sent us on our way. Ok, so then we waiting for the H bus (I've taken that bus a lot this week...) and after bout 30 minutes of waiting for the bus, Gina called us and said that the visit was cancelled. With in that time we could have been walking into the school. We could have been walking into a classroom that wasn't expecting us, whose teacher was gone for the day. Not smart.
So instead of talking to an classroom of Italian high schoolers, I'm writing a blog post. Adventure adverted: boo.