FAIRFIELD — On her first trip to Italy this summer, Sacred Heart University student Lauren Celentano didn’t have any grand expectations. She didn’t expect to launch a career, or be noticed by television executives.

Celentano, a member of SHU’s Dance Company, was one of 12 students to travel in July with Director of Dance Kari Williams to Bari, Italy, to participate in World Dance Movement, an annual international dance workshop.

At that point, Celentano, 19, had never heard of the Italian reality show, “Amici.” But shortly after she arrived, she had received an offer to move to Italy and compete on the nationally televised talent show.

“It’s definitely been a little overwhelming,” said Celentano’s mother, Felicity. “It was a huge decision when it was presented to us, because it wasn’t something she was seeking out. She just happened to be at a dance convention, was seen and asked to audition, and next thing they were asking if she’d be on the show.”

Celentano, a sophomore at SHU double majoring in education and theater with a minor in dance, was recently home for the holidays, but from November through March, or until she is eliminated, she’s living with other contestants in a country more than 4,000 miles away from her Cheshire home. Though she began taking lessons after being offered the show, she left her home country with only a cursory knowledge of Italian.

According to her mother, Celentano started dancing recreationally when she was 4, but started competing soon after. Through high school, Celentano competed and won national and regional titles, dancing with Dance Unlimited in Hamden under Janet Gambardella, before joining the SHU Dance Company.

Williams said Celentano excels at all styles, but is particularly strong in jazz, tap, commercial dance, classical ballet, contemporary, hip hop and musical theater. In fact, Celentano’s mother said her daughter not only dances, but also sings and acts, and has dreams of one day performing on Broadway, or a similar venue in which she could display her multifaceted talents.

But it is in the dance category of “Amici” that Celentano is competing.

“She is one of the most talented students that I had coming in. But she’s also the most humble and the most willing to develop artistically and find out what she doesn’t know,” Williams said.

Though Celentano’s selection was a surprise for her and her parents, Williams had been working behind the scenes to help get Celentano noticed. Before leaving for Italy, Williams contacted her friend, Michelle Assaf, the artistic director of World Dance Movement.

“I had multiple conversations with Michelle before going, just because we didn’t know what to expect, about the faculty and the opportunities that would be presented,” Williams said. “She talked to me about scholarship opportunities that would be available. She told me that Royal Caribbean was holding an event and offering contracts. Then she told me about ‘Amici’ and how casting directors were coming and scouting for this talent show. I had never heard of it.”

Once producers noticed Celentano, she was called in for two auditions and, shortly thereafter, was offered a spot on the show. She and her family had less than 24 hours to make` their decision.

“Lauren was in total shock. It was difficult for her to make that decision so quickly,” Williams said.

Ultimately, Celentano and her parents, who had been to Italy once, on their honeymoon, decided to go for it.

“It’s been really exciting, and life-changing for her. I think no matter what happens at this point it’s been a great opportunity in performing, but also as a person to take this leap of faith and go to a country where she doesn’t speak the language,” Felicity Celentano said. “She’s been very brave.”

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1