Hello! My name is Jen Stolakis and I am an accounting major (for now) in CBA. I can’t wait to go to Italy!
I believe the pre departure meetings helped me prepare for the trip to Italy in many ways. First, although I learned about supply chain management in managing in complex environments last semester, the pre departure meetings helped me to gain a better understanding of just how intricate supply chains can be. There are many things to consider when building a supply chain, such as transportation, cost, efficiency, sustainability, and many others. Additionally, I was able then to specifically link my new knowledge of supply chains to the retail industry when we did our projects on the US fashion supply chain (my group did our project on eyeglasses). I think learning more about the retail supply chain will help me better understand the businesses we visit in Italy. When they speak of their unique supply chains, I will be able to understand what they’re referring to, for example if they mention component suppliers or direct customers. I will also be able to ask the employees of these businesses educated questions based on my knowledge about their supply chains if I feel they left something important out. As a business student, it is important for me to not only have extensive knowledge of how supply chains work, but also of how they operate on an international level. In the business school, we always emphasize that all business is global, which makes the field increasingly complex and difficult to understand. With my knowledge from the pre travel meetings, I will be able to build upon what I have learned in the US and be able to apply basic knowledge of supply chains to the global market.
Also, the pre departure meetings taught me a good deal about Italian culture that I had not known before. I have never been to Italy, and some of their customs that I learned about during the Italian culture group presentations were quite surprising to me. For example, it is very different from American culture that waiters and taxi drivers in Italy do not expect to be tipped. In the US, if you do not tip a waiter, they may spit in your food the next time you eat at that restaurant. Also, getting coffee to go is not a normal thing to do in Italy; it is part of their culture to stand at coffee bars and talk while they drink their beverage. This is very different from what I am used to, as Starbucks and other coffee chains in the US thrive off a business model centered around getting coffee “to go” (I also go to these places often). In fact, getting coffee on the go has been a large part of American culture; almost everyone you see on the streets in the morning is holding a disposable coffee cup. This says a lot about the basic differences between Italian and American culture: Italians like to take their time and enjoy the little things in life, while Americans are always moving fast and trying to get things done hectically. This may be hard to adjust to on my trip.
In addition, in the pre departure meetings I learned many things I had not known before about sustainability in retail supply chains. The article, “The Clothing Insurrection: It’s Time to Take On the Fashion Supply Chain,” really opened my eyes to the issues that materialism can cause. In America, our culture consists of buying more than we need; commercials and advertisements convince us that we “need” things that are not actually necessities. Also, the ease of online shopping caused by sites such as Amazon has increased consumerism in American culture as well. This increase in consumerism has caused a strain on various components of the supply chain. For example, in order to meet the materialistic needs of our society, water and other natural resources are overused in the production process of our clothing. Also, the increase in online shipping of our products has lead to the overuse of packaging (such as plastics and cardboards). My knowledge of this from the pre travel meetings will allow me to ask educated questions of the businesses I visit in Italy of how they are considering sustainability in the products they make. It is a very important issue that we need to be aware of globally.
In conclusion, learning about the fashion supply chain, Italian culture, and consumerism related to sustainability are all important concepts that will help me have the best experience possible in Italy. I will be able to ask educated questions of Italian fashion businesses, allowing me to learn as much as possible and get as much out of my experiences there as I can. Also, my knowledge of their culture will help me fit in a little better and will also help me not to offend their customs.