To the Heart, From the Stomach

My internship this semester is with Eataly – a company that many of my friends are and were familiar with because of the two New York City locations. Though, having not been to New York more than twice, it was still very new to me when I first started.

I have come to learn, though, that similar to every Eataly location around the globe, the Florence location allows for customers to eat, buy, and learn – the three main components of its business model. In other words, customers can buy local, high quality food products from the grocery store (the bread is famous for being especially delicious), they can eat traditional italian recipes made with those same ingredients that they purchase in the store within the restaurants, and finally, they can learn to make these recipes themselves with Eataly’s various cooking classes.

I work within that third component – the Eatalian classroom – or, didattica. Primarily, I create marketing materials for American college students in Florence, edit existing marketing materials, and help to host events that promote and involve Italian cooking classes.

While I had gone into the job thinking that, because of the briefing that I had recieved on Italian culture, it would take some time for my coworkers and supervisor to open up to me, I actually found the opposite to be true. Immediately, they were excited to share everything they had to know (which was a lot) on Italian cuisine – and I was even more excited to hear it. And since those first few weeks, we have only grown closer. Actually, this weekend, my coworker Silvia is showing me around her hometown, Pescia, just outside of Lucca.

Possibly the biggest obstacle that I had to adjust to in the Italian workplace was the alarming lack of direction – its true what they say about Italy being a high context culture. There were even times when they would expect me to come into work without saying anything to me, even though we discuss my work schedule weekly. My advice to anyone who may encounter this same problem is this – just ask. We’re used to very little room for uncertainty in American work culture, and if you’d like to be more certain, your Italian coworkers will never not answer your questions.

But on the whole, despite any obstacles you might face, interning abroad is incredibly worthwhile. Not only does it look good on a resume, and you learn an entirely new component of your home abroad, but its an invaluable opportunity to make lasting relationships with real people. I can genuinely call all of my coworkers friends, and I know that I’ll keep in touch with them after I’ve returned home. Of course, I had the advantage of working around Italian cuisine – the easiest way to build relationships in any country is behind a plate of food.