After returning to the US, I have been able to reflect on how well the pre departure meetings we had at school had prepared me for my trip. I first reflected on this some while taking the post travel survey, but I have been able to think about it further after being at home. There are many aspects of the meetings that allowed me to get a feel for what to expect while I was in Italy; however, there were some things that maybe could have been touched on more or in greater detail.
First, I think the lessons on sustainability were very helpful. We were able to learn how some companies affect our environment negatively and then were able to apply this knowledge and ask questions on our site visits. Some companies such as the Montero Spa seem to recognize that sustainability is an issue in the fashion industry, but struggle to define exactly what makes their company particularly environmentally friendly. Others, such as Linea Pelle, were very clear in their sustainability mission. For example, Linea Pelle stressed that all of their leather comes from either byproducts of the food industry or from animals specifically raised for leather production. Also, the lessons on culture, food, economics, and government were very helpful. This allowed us to get a feel for the dynamics of the country we were visiting and how these may differ from ours. When we were in Italy, it was helpful to already know things such as: you do not tip waiters or taxi drivers, there is a table fee at restaurants, you have to ask for your check at restaurants, and that you must be mindful of your purse and wallet in busy areas. These facts and others about Italy’s customs allowed me to fit in a little easier and not have as much of a culture shock. Finally, the group projects in which we researched a specific company we were going to visit were very helpful. Before entering a business, we already had some background knowledge of what they did and what their role was in the fashion supply chain. This knowledge helped us to be able to ask informed questions of the businesses and to be able to understand them better. I am thankful for these aspects of the pre departure meetings.
On the other hand, there were some things that my peers and I would have preferred to have known more about before going abroad to Italy. First, during the first few days of our stay, we did not know how aggressive the salesmen were toward tourists and how they gave you things and then expected money for them; they make it seem as if they were giving things away for free. I did not take anything because the “salesmen” did seem suspicious, but some of my peers did. For example, when the men were handing out corn seeds in front of the Duomo in Milan and practically forcing them into peoples’ hands, everyone pretty much assumed they were free; they were only corn seeds. Some people took them, and then the salesmen became a little aggressive and demanded money. I felt bad for the people who kind of got swindled that day. It may be helpful to have a little lesson about these aggressive sales tactics in the future, especially as we do not really have that happen in the US. Also, as I mentioned in my survey, it may be important to stress the caliber of walking that is done. I knew we were going to walk a lot, but I had no idea it would be several miles a day or for hours on end. I was really not prepared for that, and I wished I had brought more sneakers. Some days I was so tired from all of the walking and my feet hurt so bad that I had to go back to the hotel and rest. I recognize it is my fault for not wearing sneakers every day, but I really just did not know that we would be walking that much. In fact, one day we walked the equivalent to a half marathon. I think maybe in the pre departure meetings in the future, the itinerary could be discussed more in detail in which the length of the walking tours are specified so students have a better sense of what to expect in that regard.
Overall, I am thankful for the pre departure meetings. While there are some things that me and my peers most likely wish were discussed in a little more detail, we did learn many important things that we were able to apply daily while abroad. Grazie!