Ciao! My name is Gordon Bryson, and I am a bioengineering student in the Swanson School of Engineering. I have been to Europe several times before, but this will be by first trip to Italy, and I am very excited for the new experiences in store for all of us. Before travelling abroad, the Plus 3 Italy group met four times at Pitt so we would have useful information about the businesses we would be seeing, the itinerary we would be following, and the new culture we will be experiencing.
One of the purposes of our pre-departure meetings was to familiarize us with supply chain management. Students came prepared to meetings by reading from an introductory textbook of supply chain management. Dr. Patzer then led discussions about the chapters we read. We discussed transportation, suppliers and distributors, inventory, and sustainability. Each group used what they learned about supply chain management to model the supply chain of a different item, anything from a cell phone to a cup of coffee. My group researched the manufacturing and distribution of polyester fabrics. To acquaint us with the businesses we will be visiting while in Italy, each group also researched the supply chain of a single Italian business we will be meeting. My group looked into the structure of the Consorzium della Moda in Verona and the decisions this company makes for their clients. We all prepared questions to ask the business representatives of the Italian companies. This aspect of our pre-departure meetings, learning about supply chains, was crucial because it will allow us to have meaningful conversations with the business representatives in Italy.
Another purpose of the pre-departure meetings was to discuss the itinerary of the trip abroad. Professors Patzer and Duquin showed us that we will be visiting Milan, Florence, Verona, Lake Como, and Venice throughout the two weeks. We received the contact information and addresses of the hotels we will be staying at in case our families need to get in touch with us. An important part of this meeting was the notice of travel warnings and procedures. Some students were not accustomed to travelling abroad, so information about flight boarding times and travel advisories was helpful in making sure we felt comfortable traveling abroad. In addition, these meetings were useful because they gave us an overview of the time we would be spending in each city so we can plan our free time accordingly. It was also important to see how strict our travel schedules are as we take the train from city to city so we make sure to be ready to part on time.
Finally, the pre-departure meetings introduced us to the Italian culture. At one meeting, each group presented a different aspect of Italian culture, specifically how this aspect differs from our customs in the United States. My group presented about Italian business customs, which are notably warmer and more familial than the direct manner of American business. Other groups presented about specific geographic differences between northern and southern Italy, social and meal customs, and night life in the city. Another assignment we completed was a list of the top ten attractions in each city we will be visiting. This is important because it will save us time planning our free time. My group learned about the plazas, cathedrals, and bridges in Verona we thought were the most worthwhile attractions. Finally we had an introduction to the Italian language. Though we only learned the basics of pronunciation and some common words, we all have “Ciao, il mio nome è…” burned into our memories (this means “Hello, my name is…”). We learned that many people in Italy speak English, but it was still handy to know a few common phrases.
The pre-departure group meetings were valuable to know what we should expect in Italy, whether in the businesses we will be visiting, the cities we will be seeing, and the culture we will experience. I think the most important part of the meetings, though, was meeting the nineteen other students I will be spending the next two weeks with. We come from a variety of backgrounds with differing experiences abroad, but this diversity is what will make the educational trip so much more fun.