Ciao ragazzi! My name is Diana James and I am happy to be writing to you from Florence this semester! I am from outside of Philadelphia in Montgomery County, but at Pitt I am a junior majoring in Marketing, Global Management, Supply Chain, and getting a Certificate in Sustainability. Since the start of my time at Pitt, I have been a member of Phi Beta Lambda and served as Vice President of Service last year, have become president of PIST Ski & Snowboard Club, and have been a member of AMA’s public relations committee. Last spring, I was able to participate in the International Consulting Projects program with a company in Puerto Rico, and this past summer, I was a Digital Marketing Intern for Shift Collaborative, a small marketing agency in East Liberty! I love being involved on campus at Pitt, but I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity I’ve been given this fall.
I have chosen to participate in GBI Florence for a number of reasons. Aside from it being a lifelong dream of mine to study abroad, this program provides me with an academic, professional, and personal experience that I can’t find anywhere else. I love having the ability to take classes, with students from all over America, that truly immerse me into a new culture. I am grateful for the ability to expand my network and to have a marketing internship for a food tour company while I am here. And personally, I knew that this program would really open my eyes to the way life works in other parts of the world and give me an intercultural competency that can’t be taught in any classroom. Coming into college, my only goal was to study international business, so I am so thankful to finally be able to do so in the best way possible. That being said, my goal while I am here is to make the most of my time by doing well in classes and making an impact at my internship so I can come back with valuable knowledge and experience that I can carry with me through life and the rest of my career.
Life in Italy is certainly quite different from life in Pittsburgh. For starters, school does not feel the same at all. I take classes in a beautiful historic building and I am one of 26 students here (quite a bit smaller than Pitt). It’s an adjustment that my classes are so small, but I like how personal it makes them feel – especially since we’re all living in the same unknown environment. Additionally, the classes themselves are so unique and interactive. For example, one of my classes is Renaissance Art History, so we are able to visit cathedrals and museums, but this class would look a lot different if I was taking it in Pittsburgh. All of the classes are just as interactive as that one, with activities and field trips, if you will, and I’ve found that it’s already made a huge difference on how much we’re learning.
As for what it’s like living here, it has been quite an adjustment, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. I live in an awesome apartment, about 10 minutes from school, with two girls from Bentley University in the Santa Croce neighborhood of Florence where I am surrounded by plenty of locals and open air markets. Some of the biggest adjustments, however, have been the amount of walking, the food, and the language (of course). I’ve walked a lot more than expected, but I am okay with that. As for food, I’ve had to get used to eating a bunch of Italian cuisine and shopping for groceries in a completely different way. But of all things, the language has definitely been the hardest to acclimate to, and I am still working on it. Many people speak English here, but communication is still difficult and you don’t don’t realize how much you hear people talking just in passing on the street until you can’t understand the language they are speaking.
But despite any challenges and differences, I have really been doing my best to embrace the Italian lifestyle. I know that there will be hard days, but I have nothing but excitement to see where this journey continues to take me!