Fear of the Unknown

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, but this could not be farther from the truth of the situation.

Creating Content For Tornabuoni

I think that the main lesson I learned from this experience was how much I could grow and learn in three months. I believe that I am a more confident person overall after this experience, forcing myself into the midst of a foreign culture and making many friends along the way. I always considered myself an outgoing person, but this experience reassured my ability in a lot of different aspects: school, work, adapting to new conditions.

 I have definitely been thrown out of my normal routine and eating habits, which was my biggest worry; I like to think that I am a very routine person, but this experience challenged that identity. I learned how adaptable I could be in different situations and I even learned to like that unknown aspect of situations; this allowed me to think on my feet and come up with unique solutions to problems that I otherwise may not have realized.

Traditional Florentine Hot Chocolate

I was concerned with having no real idea of how to proceed in Italian business culture or that every interaction I had would be a difficult one due to cultural barriers. I was psyching myself out and believing that I was incapable of such a different working situation before I even stepped off the plane. 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. 

I was scared that my boss may be strict or demanding in tasks and that the workload between school and the internship would be impossible to balance with my personal life. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Italians believe in getting to know coworkers outside of the office, which includes getting coffee or lunch together and talking for hours about anything ranging from what trips I went on 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 supervisor and how much I could learn from them.

Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo

Another aspect of Italian work culture that I had not anticipated was how relaxed it all was. My supervisor would give me a loose task and allow me to figure out the process to complete it on my own. This let me enhance my skills by trying, and sometimes failing, until I completed it how my boss and I saw fit. No one pushes you to complete things by strict deadlines or to put in hours of overtime just to complete a task; everyone understands things will get done.

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. The main takeaway I learned from Italians though 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.