Ciao Italy!

Ciao! My name is Stephanie Folkmire and I am a freshman engineering student at the Swanson School of Engineering and I plan on majoring in Chemical Engineering next fall. I’m from Monroeville, Pennsylvania (about 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh!) and I will be going on the Plus3 Italy trip in May.

When I was first accepted to the program, I was filled with excitement, but I began to realize how little I knew about Italy, the supply chain, and travelling outside of the country in general. However, before we depart for our two week trip in Italy, we attended four pre-trip meetings so that we would be well prepared and educated when we arrive. These meetings delved into the specifics and logistics about our two weeks abroad and made me even more excited to depart. During these meetings, we became immersed in Italian culture, the supply chain and basic management, sustainability within the supply chain, specific companies we would be visiting will in Italy, and how to prepare for our two weeks studying abroad.

During my first meeting, we quickly learned the ins and outs of travelling to another country, such as how and what to pack, the best way to travel with money in Italy, safety, and the basics of Italian culture. Because I had never been on a plane, let alone outside of the country, this information was especially useful. I discovered that Italy is mostly a cash-country and some common practices in Italy— like they don’t put ice in their drinks and to always carry a pack of tissues in my purse! We were also introduced to the supply chain which supplemented our readings by Hugos. Right before the end of the meeting, we had a quick crash course on the supply chain and I got the opportunity to work with my group. We quickly realized during the impromptu assignment that there are a lot more elements to a supply chain than we had originally imagined!

At the next meeting, we delved deeper into the US fashion supply chain with group research project presentations on various clothing and accessory supply chains. My group did eyeglasses, and I was amazed at the detail that must go into creating my lenses. Every little piece must be created and purchased, which helped me gain a greater appreciation for everything I use in my daily life. We also discussed the differences in fashion and the supply chain after we interviewed older family members about their shopping experiences when they were younger. This assignment allowed me to gain a better appreciation for how the supply chain has evolved and adapted around our culture to give more options and opportunities to shop. We also discussed the various challenges the supply chain may face based off of Hugos’ characteristics of the supply chain.

The third meeting started off by discussing an important part of our trip— health! Dr. Duquin led a group discussion about the various types of health (not just physical!) and some challenges we may face during our time in Italy. We also used problem-solving to think of ways we can prevent or cope with these challenges to have a fun and successful trip. This was extremely helpful because there were many aspects of health that I didn’t think would be a huge issue! We also practiced some Italian, which was incredibly useful because a big concern of mine was communicating. We finished off our meeting by learning more about Italian culture and history through group projects. This was particularly fascinating to me because I was able to learn more information about how Italians socialize, their typical business practices, their core values, and even how their meals work (I personally cannot wait for the several courses during dinner!!)

On our last meeting, our groups presented on various companies that we would be visiting during our stay. This was particularly interesting because we were able to create questions for both our own company as well as other groups’ companies to ask when we tour each factory. I was able to find out a lot of background information on the companies which I believe will enhance the tours once we are there and has allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for how valuable this companies are that we get the privilege of touring! We had a class discussion about business models, and luxury brands as well.  In addition, we delved deeper into sustainability in the fashion industry. This discussion was especially intriguing to me, because I believe everyone forgets how wasteful we can be and how it is not difficult to find sustainable solutions and challenge companies to become more sustainable while still being fashionable!

The pre-trip meetings allowed me the opportunity to further build my group-project skills as well as gave me a greater appreciation for the fashion supply chain, and challenged me to think about sustainability in the fashion world. Being able to research and learn about companies will definitely pay off when we are touring their factories, and gaining an appreciation for their culture will allow me to enjoy the trip even more. Knowing what to expect in regards to daily life will also enhance the study abroad experience and make my stay more comfortable and enjoyable. I cannot wait to apply all of the skills and knowledge that I gained from the pre-departure meetings when we arrive in Italy next month!

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