Living, studying, and working in a foreign country is guaranteed to give you a new set of skills that you can’t get anywhere else. Everyday I challenge myself to get better at something or learn something whether it is practicing my Italian, being more outgoing, finding a new street, or learning something in my internship. There are definitely days when navigating cross-cultural situations is difficult or frustrating, but there hasn’t been anything I can’t handle.
As for some of the specific soft skills I have developed, among them are communication, being able to manage stressful situations, and a new degree of cultural competency. I have become so much better at communicating in general for a number of reasons. For example, I’ve become accustomed to communicating with a language barrier which can often be a challenge. I’ve also become better at communicating through my peers because there are only 26 of us here in total, so these are the only 25 other people I knew I would have for the duration of the program and there was only one way to get to know them. My ability to manage stressful situations, while it still isn’t perfect, has grown a lot from things like ordering a sandwich all the way to planning weekend travel. Managing stress has always been a problem of mine, but this program has been a good reminder for me to just stay calm and do what I can in times like those. Lastly, is my level of cultural competence. I am very happy that I can say that I would feel confident walking into any unknown culture. Not only have I been able to learn the local Italian culture, but I have also learned what it takes to be able to understand or fit into any other given culture.
As for some of the hard skills, I’ve developed a handful from both the program itself as well as my internship. First and foremost, I can say I’ve learned a decent bit of the Italian language from taking a class in addition to just being surrounded by it. From my internship, some things I have become more skilled with are social media marketing in general, Google Ads, and general market research. These are all things that I had a level of understanding of coming into this, but from a foreign country, as is the case with most things, there is an added challenge. Nevertheless, I am excited to see what technical skills I can continue to learn through my internship and for the rest of my time here.
Like I said, navigating cross-cultural situations can be frustrating, but again, I am proud that I have gotten a lot better at it. From the beginning of the program, I have tried to embrace the local culture as much as I can, which has been very helpful. When times do get hard, however, I just have to remind myself to try my best and ask one of my teachers or the staff at school if I need help with something. Another thing that I learned very early on is that the locals here can tell who the American students are without us even saying anything, so while it sounds funny, I know I can take comfort in knowing there isn’t much I can do about that and the only way to go from there is up.
All things considered, through every interaction and experience I have had, my personal identity has grown quite a bit. The biggest way in which my identity has changed is through my confidence. Coming into a program where I didn’t know a single person, didn’t speak the local language, and came thousands of miles from home was certainly daunting. But everyday I become a bit more confident in myself and my abilities to communicate with people, be independent, and navigate difficult situations and I am very happy with how far I’ve come. Here’s to the final month!