Upper Arlington resident Christina Bittoni hopes the months she will spend in Italy will give her a chance to immerse herself in the culture, improve her Italian and maybe sit in a stadium and yell, "Forza, Roma!"

Upper Arlington resident Christina Bittoni hopes the months she will spend in Italy will give her a chance to immerse herself in the culture, improve her Italian and maybe sit in a stadium and yell, "Forza, Roma!"

Forza is an Italian cheer that, translated roughly, means "Go, team!" or "be strong" in English.

Bittoni, 19, is an Ohio State University student majoring in international relations and Italian. She graduated from Bishop Watterson High School in 2012.

The trip to Italy is possible because she received a $10,000 scholarship from the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF).

"While in Rome, I definitely plan to visit the well-known landmarks such as the Colosseum and Vatican," she said. "What I am most excited about is the opportunity to explore Rome's not-so-famous sites – to hop on the metro and get off at a random stop without a map or go on a jog and stumble upon a beautiful view overlooking the city.

"I also hope to attend a Serie A soccer game – hopefully, Roma vs. Lazio."

Bittoni said the rivalry between the Roma and Lazio teams is every bit as strong as Ohio State's with "that team up north."

She will stay in Italy for four months, studying at the American University of Rome, located in the Gianicolo area of the city.

"I will take four courses, two international relations courses, one Italian course about Dante's Divine Comedy and one course titled 'Art History: Art of Rome,' in which we will learn by traveling to various landmarks," she said.

Bittoni will live in university-appointed apartments in Gianicolo.

"I also plan to ski in the Dolomite Mountains near the Italian-Swiss-Austrian border," she said. "I can't wait to integrate into the Romans' slow-paced lifestyle and speak as much Italian as possible.

"Rome is the Eternal City and I want to experience all of it. I also can't forget about the food – I'm counting down the minutes."

Bittoni will be back in Upper Arlington on May 22.

During her free time, she plans to travel to other countries such as Ireland, England, Spain and the Czech Republic.

"I would like to see for myself how complex the world is, becoming a more mature and well-rounded person along the way," she said. "I hope to apply what I learn and experience on this trip abroad to my international career and throughout my entire life."

At Bishop Watterson, Bittoni was an officer in the Italian Club, played basketball and was a member of National Honor Society and senior leadership team.

"I would particularly like to thank Signora Lucchin, my Italian teacher at Watterson for four years, who taught me more about the Italian language than I could have imagined and did a phenomenal job in preparing me for college," she said.

At OSU, she is a member of the Italian Club executive board and the Security & Intelligence Club. She also plays intramural soccer and basketball and works as a math tutor.

To apply for the scholarship, Bittoni wrote a couple of essays about setting and achieving both personal and career-oriented goals.

Her advice to other students applying for scholarships is "not to write what you think the readers want to hear."

"Instead, reflect upon where you truly see yourself someday and how you really believe you will get there," she said. "The second essay asked me to describe how my relationship with my heritage is different than my ancestors' relationship with their heritage."

For that essay, she said, she wrote about personal memories and experiences.

"The readers want to see something specific and different," she said. "If your words come from your heart, your essay will naturally turn out much better than if you write for the sake of completion."

Gabriella Mileti, director of programs for NIAF, said the foundation awards hundreds of scholarships each year to students of Italian descent who have grade point averages of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

"Specifically, in Christina Bittoni's case, she won the NIAF Jim Cantalupo Scholarship, which is a scholarship awarded to an Italian student studying the Italian language or business or Spanish," she said.

Mileti said after applications close each March 1, she searches through the applications to determine which ones fit each scholarship.

"After careful evaluation, considering the student's academic performance, essays and financial need, I decide on the top candidates for each scholarship and send their applications to designated members of the Education Committee of the board of directors of NIAF," she said. "The board members then come back to me with their final selections."