Shaping A Cultural Identity

Having the opportunity to come abroad meant being exposed to new cultures and people, which meant learning new habits and ways of life that were unfamiliar from what I was used to. I knew that working and living abroad would be an amazing learning experience, but I also expected challenges to arise from this unfamiliar and unknown opportunity. Even though I anticipated these situations, I did not know exactly what I would be getting myself in to.

Coming into this internship, I made a list of goals that I wanted to achieve while working in this position; it included both hard and soft skills since you need a mix of both to be well-rounded in anything you do. I shared this list with my boss so that we would both be on the same page about my expectations, as well as hers, while I worked with her. 

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

One of my first skills that I had hoped to be more competent in was reading and interpreting data analytics. Having to run Tornbuoni’s social media platforms ensured that I would be practicing and enhancing this skill daily to understand more thoroughly who our posts were reaching, what content was doing the best and what wasn’t doing so great. I have learned how to read Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook analytics to learn when the best times to post are, where our audience is coming from, and what content does best so that we can continue to produce content our target audience would enjoy. This skill has allowed our social media accounts to grow significantly since I started in the beginning of September.

A main goal to accomplish during my time abroad was to shape was communication, specifically cross-cultural communication. Working with my bosses who are American and Albanian and coworkers who are from Portugal and Morocco with clients who are from virtually everywhere is a perfect environment to hone in on and practice this soft skill. I’ve learned to be more aware of who I am talking to and what they’re different cultural norms are so that we can get to solutions more quickly. I’ve learned to accept their different cultural ways of doing things instead of looking at their differences as wrong. This has helped tremendously when it come to talking to clients about products or even talking to locals when I’m out.

The Duomo

Communication is, in my opinion, the most powerful tool an individual can possess because it presents itself in one’s daily life. Living in Florence where I do not know the local language or customs, I have come to rely on daily communication to navigate tasks that would present themselves as rather simple in Pittsburgh, such as utilizing public transportation and shopping in a grocery store. 

Learning from those around me has shaped my identity in seemingly small ways, but these small differences are ones that I now appreciate and enjoy. For example, my Italian boss and coworkers view getting coffee at ‘the bar’ (which is what they call cafés) as a way of socializing and getting to know one another outside of the work environment. In the US, I rarely got breaks at work and would never consider coffee with my boss a normal occurrence. Now, I appreciate the slow-paced, laid back working environment and have even come to enjoy coffee breaks, despite my disdain towards the actual drink.

These daily interactions with the Italian culture has made me appreciate their way of life rather than viewing it as wrong because it is different that what I am used to. I even adapted and incorporate some of their customs into my daily life now!