From Milan to Omaha

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By Nicholas Sauma, Reporter

Martina Saltamacchia stumbled into the study of history. Since starting out in Milan, her career has been on the fast track. It brought her to UNO where she hopes to find a permanent home for her professional career.
She started out studying economics. While working on her economics thesis, she made a big discovery in the field of history. After that, she decided to switch to history and was invited to Rutgers in New Jersey for her doctorate.  
“My focus is on medieval history,” Saltamacchia said. She’s even writing a book on the topic.
Saltamacchia has started her second semester teaching at UNO. She teaches a graduate seminar in medieval history and World Civilizations I. Students aren’t the only ones learning. Saltamacchia is learning what teaching methods work best for students.
“For a 1000 level course, it is very difficult for students,” she said. “It doesn’t help that so many people take it because it is required. I am experimenting with the class to make it more interesting and informative for students.”  
Saltamacchia is passionate and excited about teaching history. She wants to help her students feel the same way about the subject.
Things weren’t always so easy. When she first arrived in the United States, she had only studied some British grammar and English. She would sit in lectures for hours and not even understand the theme of the class.
Improving her English skills took time, and she did it in phases. She started by reading as much as possible, using her dictionary to translate words.  
“After about six months I could understand most of what I read,” Saltamacchia said. “Then I would go out with people and realized that spoken language is different in English, so I started watching television shows to try to pick up expressions.”
After another six months or so, she said she could communicate better. Aside from her accent, she said most people can understand her now and she can understand the majority of what is said to her.  
“Acronyms can still be hard,” she said. “I remember people telling me to do something ASAP, and wondering what kind of word that was.”  
Besides English and Italian, Saltamacchia reads and speaks Greek, Latin, French and Spanish.  Fully learning a language takes a lifetime, she said.
Coming to Omaha was a bit of a culture shock for her, as well, but one that she has fully embraced.  
“People in supermarkets ask ‘how are you?’ and then wait for an answer,” she said. “In the city, people kept their heads down and just walked fast.”  
Saltamacchia said that she has never been in a city where people were so happy to be living.  
“I think that ‘The Good Life’ is real, not just a slogan here,” she said.
Saltamacchia was hired on the tenure track and has no plans to leave Omaha anytime soon.  
She hopes to be able to stay at UNO and already has plans for new courses, one on the Crusades and another on castles and cathedrals.
She still goes to Italy at least once a year to work on her research for her book and to see family and friends.  
“When I go back to Italy, I miss all my friends here,” Saltamacchia said. “But then, when I come back to Omaha, I miss all my friends and family there.”

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