A summer abroad

I always knew that I would eventually study abroad while in college. The idea of living in another country and experiencing a different culture for more than a week...

I always knew that I would eventually study abroad while in college. The idea of living in another country and experiencing a different culture for more than a week or two intrigues me. I have been lucky enough to travel overseas multiple times since the age of 6, but this summer was unlike any other foreign experience. Last summer my family and I spent two weeks in Cortona, a village in the Tuscan countryside. I immediately fell in love with the Italian people and their way of life. As a result, when it came time for me to choose where to study abroad, there was not a doubt in my mind that Italy was the right country for me, which lead me to the internship at Florence University of the Arts.

The day I arrived in Florence, I had no idea what to expect. I knew absolutely no one and had no idea what my internship would entail. All I had been told was the address of my apartment and that I would be working as a design intern in the Communication and Marketing office at Florence University of the Arts, better known as FUA. A few hours after landing at Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola in XXX, I found myself unlocking the door to one of the smallest apartments I had ever stepped foot in. Yes, I had expected the space to be small, but I still could not believe what I was looking at. I could clear the whole living room in three strides, the bed made a twin-sized bed seem luxurious, and who knew a bench-like structure that could barely fit one person would be considered a sofa in this day and age. I had two days to myself before class and my internship began, both of which were spent recovering from jetlag and exploring the city I was going to call my home for the next seven weeks.

Fast forward to June 9: my first day on the job. I sat down with the office manager to go over the objectives and expectations of my summer internship with FUA. We went over my schedule and all of the projects I would be working on and I was introduced to the rest of the staff as well. The Communication and Marketing office’s staff is made up of five individuals: one office manager, one web designer, one PR specialist and two graphic designers. For the first half of my internship, I worked closely with one of the graphic designers, Federico Cagnucci, on the University’s summer newsletter. As a part of the internship, we were required to take three weeks of Italian upon our arrival in Florence. The class helped me gain a decent understanding of the language and I was able to practice daily at my internship. Surprisingly enough, the language barrier was not as much as of an issue as I had thought it was going to be. I was also able to help members of the staff with their English, too. I was asked to become familiar with the layout and stylebook and was added to their Dropbox account so that I would be notified when new content was sent in. In addition, I was asked to provide a photo essay that would be published in the newsletter.

As a Visual Communications major, I had a lot of fun receiving the content, reading the stories and being able to play the role of photo editor as well as designer. The process that I went through with Federico was very eye-opening and being able to compare it to the system we have at Backdrop was fascinating. The office of Communication and Marketing at FUA handles every form of communication from the University to the public ranging from print, web, visual, you name it. Seeing the team of five work together to complete different tasks was impressive. During every step of a project the staff always encouraged each other and were all such creative individuals in their own ways. To see them bring their own skills to the table and create content was something to behold. When a member of the staff was weak in one area, another member would come along and pick up the slack, creating an even stronger finished product. They were also very passionate about their work, which was made evident while working alongside them. Even though they each had a different title, someone would assist another who was not able to fulfill his or her duty during a project. Again, it was interesting to compare this to the process of Backdrop here at OU and how we have certain sections of the magazine that have specific duties. While here at Backdrop, we have a compartmental system and each section is responsible for a part of the final print. The work rarely crosses the lines between different sections, however, work can be shared amongst the students in that particular section just like the office of Communication and Marketing at FUA. With this being said, it was hard at first to adopt the “go with the flow” mindset.

After the summer newsletter was published, I was able to work on three other projects, one of them being a marketing plan for a local boutique. The other interns and I were asked to create and execute a marketing plan for a fashion event that was taking place at a student-run boutique in Florence. We created a series of social media posts that were strategically released as we got closer to the date of the fashion event. Throughout this process, I became very close with the two other interns from the office, and I really enjoyed working and creating content with them. As we worked together over the last few weeks of the internship, it was interesting to hear about what had brought them to this particular internship at FUA. We all had different majors such as visual communications, journalism and fashion merchandising. Personally, I think that is why the content we created was so successful— we all came from different areas of study and possessed our own skill sets. As a result, we were able to create something even stronger than if it had only been one or two students working together from the same field. In addition to a successful final product, we created a lasting friendship that went hand-in-hand with our hard work over the summer.

In the end, I learned so much more about myself as an individual and a designer because of my experience at FUA. The most life-changing lesson was how important it is to get to know and work with others from different backgrounds, because they will fill gaps you don’t even know you have. During my summer in Florence, I met a group of girls who became the best friends I didn’t even know I was missing. Travel supplies you with irreplaceable knowledge about yourself and the world we live in. Working at this internship abroad was the most influential and beneficial experience of my life so far, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

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