I think everyone has a little bit of fear surrounding the unknown and what “could be”. Coming into my international internship and this global experience as a whole, this fear is exactly what plagued my thoughts. I didn’t know anyone on my program except for one person, and I had no prior knowledge of the Italian language, let alone know how to operate in the Italian business industry. I was terrified of falling flat on my face and feeling alone while doing so; little did I know how wrong my initial judgement was.
If there is one thing that three months of working for Italian employers who cater to foreign consumers can leave you with is the confidence and knowledge to grow and expand in your personal and professional life. This experience threw me into the midst of a foreign culture that I had to navigate which allowed me to adapt and flourish; I even made lifelong friends along the way. I always considered myself an outgoing person, but this experience definitely made me question my abilities. in balancing school, work and my personal life.
If you would have asked me what type of person I would have considered myself to be before embarking on this journey, I would have told you that I like to stick to my routines. But having been thrown out of my normal routine and preferred eating habits (which did not previously include eating croissants every morning), I learned how adaptable I could be in different situations and I even came to appreciate the unknown aspect of new situations; this allowed me to think on my feet and come up with unique solutions to problems that I otherwise may not have realized.
The phrase “la dolce vita” is not just a saying for when you see Italians having an aperol spritz at 11 am, but it stands true in their professional culture as well as. The whole idea of a 9-5 job was non-existent and the boss and employee relationship was similar to that of an older cousin. Italians believe in getting to know coworkers outside of the office, which includes getting coffee or lunch together and talking for hours about topics ranging from what trips I was planning while abroad to my end goal in life (which has yet to be figured out, and I am not sure that it ever will be). I was surprised at how close I would get with my supervisors and how much I could learn from them.
My supervisor would give me a loosely described task and allow me to figure out the process needed to complete it on my own. She did not push or scold when a task was not done the way she saw fit; of course, if I needed, she would offer input and guidance. This let me enhance my skills by trying, and sometimes failing, until my boss and I were satisfied with the end result. No one pushes you to complete things by strict deadlines or to put in hours of overtime; everyone understands that things will get done.
I wish that I could go back to the beginning of September and tell myself to take a deep breath and slow down, after all, that is mainly how Italians work. I wish that I could tell myself to trust in my ability and instincts because that is what allowed me to thrive in my professional and social life while abroad.
This experience has given me a lot of learning and growing opportunities, which I will carry into my personal and professional life back in the States. Despite learning a plethora of information and skills, the main takeaway I learned from Italians is the absolute necessity of enjoying your life. No amount of pay or success is worth it if you’re miserable in your daily life. Stop, take a deep breath, slow down, and enjoy everything life throws at you because that is what it is all about. Learn to love the unknown.