Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cattolica International

Embracing cultures, enriching lives: Francesca's story

by Maria Elisa Bizzotto


As Francesca stepped into the vibrant classroom of class 1B at the Tanzanian orphanage, a symphony of excited voices filled the air. Children, their eyes wide with wonder and joy, eagerly rushed towards the volunteers. The room buzzed with energy and warmth as Francesca, with her infectious smile, embraced the eager students. Here, Francesca embarked on a transformative journey, immersing herself in the rich tapestry of cultural exchange, forming bonds that transcended language barriers and left an indelible mark on her life. It was within these walls, amidst the laughter and learning, that Francesca discovered the true magic of international exploration and the profound impact it would have on her life.

Meet Francesca Marelli, a passionate alumna of Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, whose story as a Worldbounder began while completing her Bachelors in Linguistic Sciences - Business Language Expert in Brescia. In 2017 she volunteered in Tanzania, working as a childcare and orphanage assistant through the International Volunteering programme promoted by Cattolica International and World Endeavors. World Endeavors is an organisation that provides immersive study, intern, volunteer, and group experiences around the world. Unbeknownst to her at the time, this transformative adventure with the company would lay the foundation for where she is today.

Francesca’s journey has been fueled by an overwhelming desire to learn and understand new and different cultures, build relationships, and make a difference. Since her studies, she has been driven by a passion for immersing herself in diverse experiences beyond the standard international fare. As a matter of fact, she dedicated her thesis to the understanding of different cultures, prejudices, and exchanges. It was this thirst for cultural exploration that led her to volunteer in Tanzania, seeking an entirely new cultural perspective and the opportunity to forge local connections.



Her gentle and caring personality illuminated every aspect of her experience transforming simple interactions into cherished moments of connection. Whether bidding “goodnight” in Swahili to the hostel staff each evening or starting the day with heartfelt greetings and high fives with teachers and children, she infused every encounter with her warmth and sincerity. These gestures fostered bonds that transcended language barriers. Small yet meaningful moments of connection made her exploration of cultural discovery resonate so deeply, perfectly complimenting her innate passion and dedication to uncovering and learning about new and different cultures. The following year, Francesca eagerly shared her experience at Cattolica’s International Week as an Outreach Assistant for World Endeavors.

When asked about the main messages Francesca would share with students hesitant to embark on their first international experience she replied with enthusiasm when detailing the strength that exists within the Worldbounder community. Explaining how from the moment you arrive they are always at your shoulders, offering guidance and encouragement every step of the way. Francesca emphasised her personal journey of integration into a new community in Tanzania, she stressed the importance of adaptation and reflection, noting that her experiences abroad were enriched by the support and camaraderie of fellow Worldbounders. Together, they navigated the challenges of cultural adjustment, fostering mutual understanding and resilience. She made clear that a part of being a Worlbounder comes from the moments of tremendous selfgrowth that are developed when faced with unique challenges.

One particular moment stands out in Francesca's memory – an observation of different cultural practices in the classroom. The teachers' strict disciplinary approach, while unfamiliar to Francesca, prompted her to reflect on the diversity of cultural norms and values. Despite initial difficulty accepting these practices, Francesca embraced the opportunity to learn and adapt, recognising the importance of respecting cultural differences. She emphasised to students the significance of being open-minded and listening to others' needs, rather than imposing one's own beliefs. "You are there to support them" she reiterated, highlighting the fundamental qualities essential for anyone interested in embarking on a similar adventure. Francesca cherished the beauty of living this experience with peers in the same situation, where together they could overcome their initial hesitations and push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

As Francesca transitioned into post-graduate life, the impact of her international experience remained prominently etched in her mind. Venturing into the fields of marketing, event planning, and communications in Milan and Brescia, Francesca honed her professional skills but felt a persistent longing to reconnect with her passion for international experiences. Francesca found herself yearning for the sense of cultural immersion and global connection she had experienced during her time in Tanzania. This inner conflict propelled her towards a pivotal moment in 2023 when she sought to align her professional endeavours with her values and passions. While navigating the challenges of these transitional pages Francesca became a part of a new community, embodying the essence of a true Worldbounder. Leveraging her international network and embracing opportunities for professional development, her journey led her back to World Endeavors, the organisation that facilitated her adventure in Tanzania. Through this reconnection Francesca became a Programme Advisor and Coordinator at World Endeavors. In this position Francesca plays a pivotal role in mentoring and aiding Italian students embarking on World Endeavors programme overseas. She acts as a reliable support system, offering guidance and assistance at every stage of their trip, from pre-departure preparations to their time spent abroad.

Francesca's transformation from a curious and adventurous student volunteer to a purpose-driven Programme Coordinator at World Endeavors underscores the profound impact of her international experiences. They not only shaped her professional trajectory but also enriched her understanding of cultural diversity and empathy. Today, Francesca thrives in her position, fostering meaningful connections between participants and diverse global communities. Having navigated the challenges of solo travel, language immersion, and cultural adaptation herself, Francesca understands the initial apprehensions students may face. However, witnessing their transformative experiences, strong connections with locals, and reluctance to leave fills her with immense gratification, reinforcing the impact of stepping beyond one's comfort zone and discovering personal growth through international experiences. Francesca reflects on her experience with profound insight, “having a flexible attitude, together with humility and an openness towards learning and personal growth, all paired with a desire to make a difference makes for the perfect recipe for students searching for themselves and what makes them happy.” She underlines how these soft skills can both translate professionally and help prepare you for future challenges. Her words encapsulate the essence of her experience, highlighting the transformative power of embracing humility, flexibility, and a willingness to learn. Moreover, Francesca’s involvement in different communities has added depth to her journey. From the existing community she became a part of during her time volunteering in Tanzania to her current position, where she's engaged with a new network of students, Francesca's experience is layered with diverse experiences of community integration and growth.

Francesca's story exemplifies the remarkable journey of a Worldbounder – someone who embraces diverse global experiences, fosters meaningful connections, and navigates challenges with resilience and empathy. Through her unwavering dedication to cultural understanding and personal growth, Francesca embodies the spirit of a true Worldbounder, leaving a lasting impact on those she encounters.