Local student travels to Italy to pursue her studies

Breanna Vassar of Chester is traveling abroad to Rome, Italy on Sept 11, where she will be a junior. She said she was inspired by her Italian teacher Janae LaGroue at Plumas Charter School to learn about Italy and its culture and people. Photo by Stacy Fisher

Like all young people looking to expand their horizons and make their way in the world, 16-year-old Breanna Vassar of Chester has some big plans ahead of her.

As a student attending classes first at Chester Jr./Sr. High School and then at Plumas Charter School, Vassar is traveling abroad to Rome, Italy, on Sept 11, where she will be a junior acquiring her general education over a 10 month period from teachers that don’t speak much English — bound to be a substantial challenge for a girl still working on her Italian, she said.

Vassar said she was inspired by her Italian teacher Janae LaGroue at Plumas Charter School to learn about Italy and its culture and people.

“I took Italian for two years through her, but I’m still not yet fluent in the language,” she admitted. “But I hope to be by the time I come back home.”

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Originally from Fresno, Vassar moved to Chester with her mother and siblings about three years ago.

Having never previously traveled out of California, Vassar said that while in Italy she plans to take in the sights while visiting various cultural destinations in between her studies. “This will be an adventure for me,” she confessed. “I’ve never been away from my family for more than two days at a time.”

Her host family consists of Raffaele Somma and Carla Marchione, as well as their daughter Sara Somma, age 18. Both the father and daughter speak English well, which will be a great help while she’s there she said.

The high school she’ll be attending in Rome is called Primo Levi, named after an Italian-Jewish chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor.

Vassar admits that the thought of air travel is a bit terrifying for her. In fact, she’s never been on a plane before, so 15 hours in the air will be a huge challenge. “I’m afraid of planes, but on the other hand I’m so excited that I’m determined to overcome my fear of flying.”

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To save money for the trip, which includes a number of significant expenses such as airfare, passport and visa, books and tuition, plus room and board as well as money to spend on miscellaneous sundry items, Vassar got a summer job at the Bidwell House in Chester with additional help from her mother who also saved up for her daughter’s trip.

In order to conserve money while going to school in Italy, Vassar said she will be using the bus or possibly buy a bicycle to get around and plans to take lots of pictures.

“My mom is really bummed to see me go, but she’s also very happy for me. … I’m so thankful to have my mom, because without her contribution and support I wouldn’t have been able to make this journey.”

Vassar said she wants to create a You Tube channel documenting her experiences while in Italy, hoping to find someone there who knows how to edit.

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“I have no clue what I’m walking into,” Vassar confided. “But I’m open for anything and everything that comes my way,” as part of her growth. “I can’t wait to meet the wonderful Italian people and learn how they live.”