From Italy to Provo

Everyone has a unique story about how they got to BYU but, Mariolina Esposto Johnson’s story is the stuff Nicolas Sparks'  books are made of.
Maria (what she goes by) grew up in a little town outside of Rome. Her life was normal there, until she meet the Mormon Missionaries. Then you know how the story goes... she was the only one in her family to join. But her family was accepting of her choice and her beliefs. Her family also noticed that Maria was partial to one of the missionaries that baptized her.  
So for Maria’s 21st birthday she was given a plane ticket for a six week vacation to Provo, Utah, to visit her missionary, Mark. But after the six weeks, Maria didn’t get on the plane to return home.
During her six week  visit, she stayed with Mark’s family. While Mark went to BYU, Maria learned English from Mark’s mother. Within the six weeks Maria knew she wanted to stay in Provo with Mark. Soon all of Maria’s family were buying plane tickets to Provo for Mark and Maria’s wedding.
Maria (left) with her daughter Alex.

Now Maria and Mark both work at BYU. Mark is a professor in the Visual Arts department and Maria works in the Italian Lab.
Maria didn't  have too hard of a time adjusting to the American culture, but her biggest complaint is, “people think that I am Mexican and speak Spanish to me, I have to tell them, 'I don’t speak Spanish.'”
Maria also works at a local clothing store, she said she put Mariolina instead of Maria on her name tag to help people recognize her ethnicity.
Maria misses Italy, but is lucky because every summer Mark does an art history study abroad in Italy, one of the art capitals of the world. Maria feels that it is the best of both of worlds for her. She gets to spend the summer months with her family in Italy, and then come back to live in Utah.  
Like most Italians Maria knows how to cook, her family says her specialty is her lasagna. But if Maria doesn’t feel like cooking but wants authentic Italian she goes to Terra Mia.