Six weeks in Italy was everything and more that I could have hoped for. Having the amazing opportunity to immerse myself in a culture so different from my own is one that I will never forget. One of the many lessons I learned was that it is crucial to get out of your comfort zone and explore. Trying new foods, speaking a foreign language, or even using public transportation systems are all small things that granted me with insights that I could not have been granted with here in the U.S.. I think it is these seemingly minute aspects that really made my trip memorable; I will always think back to two hour meals had with friends or that one cappuccino I had while watching Florentines go throughout their day on the narrow cobblestone streets.
Something that surprised me was how easy it was to acclimate to the Florence lifestyle. I was originally terrified of being so far from home and away from my family; however, it only took a few days for Florence to start feeling like home. The people were so kind, and the coffee and food made it hard to complain. The month and a half spent there flew by, and I could not imagine spending it anywhere else. Another surprise for me was the ease of public transportation, especially the trains. Between traveling to Rome, Pisa, and other Italian destinations like Cinque Terre, I ended up using the train on over ten different occasions. While this was daunting for me at first, it became something I barely even thought to worry about by the end of the trip. I believe this will definitely be of use when I graduate and start working, likely also in a city where I will be using the public transportation system. Lastly, I was surprised by how almost all Florentines in restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops spoke English. While I tried to use the Italian that I was learning in my language class, it did make me feel more comfortable and definitely made day to day life easier. However, I say this with a great sense of appreciation — I think it is important (for Americans especially) to remember that it is not expected for foreigners to be able to speak English everywhere. Again, I attempted to use Italian as much as I could, both for my own practice and as a display of respect for their culture and language.
I have experienced immense personal and professional growth throughout my time abroad. The communication and analytical skills I gained have allowed me a new sense of perspective on business that will help guide me throughout the rest of my collegiate career and beyond that. Personally, I have a newfound respect for European culture and I feel that having the time to grow in Italy has made me mature in a way that only studying abroad could have allowed. Academically, I definitely went out of my comfort zone. Taking a Renaissance Art History class was something I likely would have never done in Pittsburgh. However, it resulted in a new appreciation for art, and I feel that going to all of the museums was crucial to understanding the significance of Florence as an international city.
I intend to bring all of these takeaways with me to Pittsburgh, and integrate what I have learned with my future courses in Pitt business. I believe studying abroad is something all Pitt business students must do, and would even recommend making it a requirement. Ultimately, the sense of perspective and cultural respect is vital to personal and professional growth.