Learning AND Teaching: The “Study” in “Study Abroad”

Wait- remember the “study” aspect of “study abroad”?

As much fun as it is to be immersed a whole new culture, and even explore others on the weekends, I really do go to school- I even enjoy it. With the CAPA program I am taking two art classes: Oil Painting and Foundations of Drawing, as well an introductory level Italian course and an International Marketing course. While my international marketing course obviously advance me in my major, the reasons I am taking two art classes are to 1) encourage and satisfy my own, personal creativity, and 2) advance me in my Digital Media certificate that I have paired with my Marketing major.

My art instructor is from Cleveland, Ohio and has been living in Florence for the last 30 years. Her style of teaching is ideal because she gives direction well, but also accommodates her advice based on the style of the student. She does not see our “mistakes” as errors, and does a great job at getting us back on the right track. It is so great to have the opportunity to take art classes in Florence because the inspiration is endless. Our homework includes sketching our surroundings and doing observational studies of the culture, which is just another great way to truly delve into the customs, ideas, and behaviors of the people around me.

My Italian teacher, Jenny, is a Pitt instructor and has also lived in Florence for quite some time. While our curriculum comes straight from the Pitt Italian Department, it is more unique because we simultaneously learn the foundation of the language while learning more accessible and convenient terms and phrases to ease our everyday-life here. Jenny does a great job at having the class participate so we are not only writing the language but really learning to speak it and understand it.

While most of my professors are American, I do have an Italian-native professor for International Marketing, her name is Silvia Ranfagni. Even though her class is on a Thursday NIGHT (the struggles of a study abroad student) I especially look forward to her class because she not only delivers useful content, but she brings in marketing coordinators of companies to present projects they have had to deal with. Presentations from real companies always excite me because I get to learn to think like they do and brainstorm my own ideas if I held their position… which I will eventually. I have gotten to learn a lot about the process of rebranding when entering an international market, and I have seen the way my Digital Media certificate and artistic eye plays into international marketing.

Since I did not pursue an internship abroad, I did look for ways to be more involved. CAPA actually offers extracurriculars, and I am proud to say that year after year, Pitt students show the most enthusiasm with volunteer work. Some of the extracurriculars include: Teaching English at an elementary school or high school, picking up trash and cleaning around the city, and meeting for dinner once a week with an Italian family at their home. While all the activities sounded great, I decided to teach elementary school kids. The children are so lively and energetic, and they so eager to participate in class. It is such an amazing experience because not only are they learning from me, but I learn from them!

Every single day I am so grateful for the opportunities that studying abroad has opened up for me, and I intend to continue taking advantage of every one as best I can.