How My Study Abroad Experience Helped My Professional Development

November 26, 2019

This past spring, I had the amazing opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I had never been to Europe before and didn’t quite know what to expect. I definitely knew that there would be some big changes: different food, a language barrier, and so much history right outside my front door. In addition to traveling and experiencing new cultures, studying abroad came with some difficult work. While I spent the weekends visiting new cities and the weeknights trying out new gelato, I spent my days in classrooms and at my internship. Traveling gave me memories to last a lifetime, but my experiences in classes taught by Italian professors and my internship with an Italian company gave me new skills and exposure to different types of learning as well as a new perspective on how professional work happens in Europe. 

The classes I took while studying abroad were very different from my typical classes but fit right in with my European experience. I took a photography class, a consumerism class, a fashion class, and an Italian language class. All of my classes were taught by Italian professors and taught in unique ways that encouraged me to learn and study differently. The lectures were very interactive. We went on many field trips and took our learning outside of the classroom. This kind of learning taught me the importance of being curious and that taking textbooks out of the classroom really enhances the experience. When we were tested in classes, we never had a single multiple-choice question;  everything was short answer. This was very new to me and changed my way of studying. Instead of just knowing the correct answer, I needed to know why. I needed to have a full understanding of the answer. This taught me to really dive deep into my classes and make sure that I comprehended the full story. The professors had a lot of stories to tell about their life in Italy and their experience in the professional world, which was interesting to hear about and compare with experiences in America.

Another area of the program where I got to develop important educational and professional skills was in my internship. I worked on digital marketing for ShippyPro, a service for making the shipping process easy and simple for e-commerce businesses. In my internship, we wrote articles and developed long-tail keywords to draw more people to the site. I was able to develop important marketing skills from this internship and learn unique ways to draw people in. I also had the opportunity to work with other study abroad students from America. I was able to develop my teamwork skills by working with them, and together we had to expand our communication skills in working with Italian mentors. There were many instances where we had trouble communicating with employees at ShippyPro because of the language barrier. Some phrases or ideas we had didn’t completely translate, and, in those situations, we had to learn to be patient and cooperative because we could not do much else. Working with people with totally different cultural and environmental experiences made me realize that even if we have different upbringings, eat different food, or have different economic backgrounds, we are still professionals who have the same goals. The techniques of marketing are the same no matter where you go or who you work with. 

Overall, my experience abroad opened me up to new opportunities that I never would have imagined. Being able to develop myself professionally and gain so many amazing skills while still have the time of my life is something I am so grateful for. I encourage anyone who is curious about the world to study abroad; it will help you develop so many skills that can be used in your professional career and beyond.