Sadly, I am now back in the States and have left Italy behind, for now at least. Before ending my blogging career, I would like to end on a summary of my study abroad experience in Italy regarding the fashion supply chain.
First, the greatest challenge that I faced while in Italy was definitely the language barrier. Often times, waiters and shop keepers spoke at least some English. However, the farther away from tourist areas you ventured, the less likely it became that you would be understood. This made it a little bet hard to communicate, but the challenge was not too great. I was able to pick up a very small amount of Italian that really only helped me convey that I did not know Italian. But, I never had a real problem with communication since I could always point and gesture in a way that I could convey what I needed to say. Also, it was definitely useful to learn a few key phrases such as “check please”, and “do you speak english?”
If you read my other blogs, you will be filled in on the specifics of the company visits that our group took. But in general, the site visits were to very interesting companies that played various roles in the fashion supply chain. It was interesting to see both the similarities and differences between different companies that fall into similar niches of the supply chain. I was surprised by how many roles needed to be filled in order to get a finished product to a customer. There are a lot more behind the scenes processes going on that I had thought. We got to see some of them in the form of service providers, training schools, producers, designers, and retailers. Visiting these sites in person made their importance in the supply chain 100% clear, and gave me an appreciation for the intricacy of the grand scheme of fashion.
Another one of my favorite parts of the trip was interacting with the locals. I got to have some very unexpected conversations with various people I met on the trip, namely our tour guide. He explained many of the cultural differences that we should expect, and he gave us his opinions on various topics that we asked about. We found that we share a common taste in movies, but could not agree on sparkling water, which is drank entirely too much over seas. I also had the pleasure of talking to some of the other locals who weren’t so accustomed to tourists. I spoke with one of my waiters who was also a fashion designer. Talking to him made me realize that the fashion industry is not all about the companies at the top, even though that is ho it seems. He made me realize how important fashion was to his culture even at the individual level.
I also learned that being an American abroad has a certain connotation to it. Some people were interested to know about the United States. Others seemed to dislike us for simply being American. And some were pretty indifferent. The one thing that really stood out was that we were targets for pickpockets. Our tour guide really stressed this so that we would be careful, he said that as American tourists we were the perfect victims. I also ran into tourists of many other nationalities as well. We talked about our experiences in Italy, and the main thing I took away was that for me, the Italian culture was a big change from what I am used to. Other European tourists still felt more at home in Italy than I did, so I could really see some major cultural differences separated by the Atlantic ocean.
The thing that surprised me the most about my study abroad experience would have to be how well I got to know the other students on the program. We started barely knowing each other and having no idea what to expect. But by the end of the program it was hard to say goodbye to each other. For anyone planning in studying abroad in the future, I would advise you to be social and talk to people, because experiencing a new country with your friends is a great time.
I cannot say that studying abroad has changed by career, academic, or personal goals. However, after speaking with some of the business students on the trip, I realized that I could be doing a lot more investing to help myself out in the long run. Again, this is something I learned from the people I met and not the program itself, but I guess that’s why Plus 3 puts business and engineering students together.
And Finally, the major differences between Italy and home world have to revolve around familial ties and the food culture. Families in Italy seem to do everything together, whether work or play, the family is central. Also the food culture was very different. Meals in Italy usually take two or more hours to eat, and their dinner usually takes place after eight o’clock. Also, eating is a social experience in most cases. And of course the food was much better in my opinion.
And thats Italy!