To the editor:
I write in regard to the feature story about Rotary International's group study exchange team. I was part of the team's recent trip to Italy. While the article was nicely sufficient in touching on some of the places we visited, it failed to include any information from Larry Jackson, a local Rotarian and the leader of our team.
Jackson, who is fluent in numerous languages including Italian, began preparing the other team members months beforehand by insisting that we study Italian language and culture. When we arrived in Italy we discovered, contrary to popular belief, that almost no one speaks English outside of Rome and the usual tourist circuit. Jackson provided constant translation and guidance to our team since, despite our best preparations, our mastery of the language was rudimentary at best. There were long stretches of days when we visited small villages where Jackson was our only hope of communicating with our hosts. While we would have been fed and cared for without him, we would have had a mediocre and wasted overall experience instead of an informative, enriching, educational one that we understood -- one we can learn from and apply to our careers here in the United States.
His input was vital to the story, and it's a shame it wasn't included. Without Jackson's leadership and linguistic expertise, our time in Italy would have been much like your article on our time in Italy: quite a bit better than nothing, but more or less having missed the point.
Editor's note: When contacted by our reporter, Larry Jackson directed her to interview other members of the exchange team.