While most 13-year-olds want to visit Disney World or Universal Studios, Sarah Cate Patten Scaduto IT’04 wanted to go to Prague. Using money that she saved from babysitting in her hometown of Signal Mountain, Tenn., she flew solo to visit family friends who’d relocated there to do missionary work. Not surprisingly, when an SYA admissions representative visited her high school freshmen Latin class at Baylor High School (Chattanooga), this spirited teenager told her parents that she was going to study at SYA’s newest campus in Viterbo. And, she did just that. As a high school junior, Sarah Cate ventured off again, but this time with 51 classmates, to spend a year at SYA Italy to experience a new culture and way of life.
“The impact that SYA has had on me is written all over my life,” said Sarah Cate. “I met my Italian husband, Benny, while I was studying in Viterbo, and I still talk to my best SYA girlfriends almost daily, 15 years after our year abroad. When it comes to personal relationships, SYA absolutely changed the trajectory of my entire life.”
In what seems like a fairy tale, it all started once upon a time . . . in Viterbo. Even though it was now two years after the September 11 terrorist attacks when Sarah Cate and her classmates arrived, the City of Viterbo continued its cautious, good-willed security protocol and placed two military guards at the school’s entry to ensure safety. Each time she entered and left the school, Sarah Cate took the opportunity to practice her Italian with the guards. In October, an unlikely friendship developed. Benny, a young Sicilian soldier, was filling in for another guard. He would only be in Viterbo for a short three days before finishing his military assignment to return home.
After years of phone calls, messages and transatlantic visits (including an American high school senior prom!), Sarah Cate and Benny married. She said, “The years that have followed those perfect nine months studying in Viterbo are chock-full of amazing, beautiful, heart-aching, and, yes, at times, hilarious, vignettes of love, culture clash, frustrating bureaucracy, delicious food, entrepreneurial dreams that just won’t quit, but most importantly, they’re the years in which we have built our improbable, almost impossible, family.” Ten months ago, they welcomed their first son, Enzo.
But more than the relationships that continue to mold Sarah Cate on a personal level, the real-world skills and experiences she garnered from her year at SYA have given her the confidence to forge her own path and create a career and business that perfectly blend the very things that drew her to SYA in the first place: travel, foreign language and human connection. A few years ago, Sarah Cate and Benny brought the flavors of Sicily to Chattanooga through cooking classes. But cooking in an American kitchen wasn’t the “immersion” experience that Sarah Cate dreamed of.
“I now have the privilege of sharing my favorite region of Italy, Sicily, with travelers from all over the world,” says Sarah Cate of her travel company, Sicily South.
“Each time we’re driving from Palermo’s airport into the city, I smile as we pass by the hotel we stayed at with the school in Isola delle Femmine where we enjoyed our makeshift Thanksgiving feast together. I still get chills as we approach the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, just like I did the very first time we visited with SYA. And when we visit Taormina, I always make a point to sit on the bench where Santo Sammartino [SYA Italy history, Latin and Greek language teacher] took one of his famous naps (well documented by photo).”
“Every trip I lead with Sicily South is a beautiful full circle moment, a reminder of the impact that travel and cultural immersion can have on the world. It’s an honor to be able to share that with my clients. SYA truly helped me claim my place in the world. “
About Sarah Cate Patten Scaduto IT’04
Sarah Cate attended Baylor High School in Chattanooga. Owner of travel company Sicily South, she and her husband Benny strive to provide travelers an authentic Sicilian experience. Sarah Cate is also a marketing and copywriting freelancer. Read her South Sicily blog posts.
- Featured Alumni