Last Updated on July 30, 2019 by Catherine Slabaugh
When I was first looking to study abroad, I knew I wanted my experience in Italy to be different than the average American girl’s in Florence. I wanted a unique experience, something that would challenge me to step outside of my comfortable world at home and would push me to grow through the adversities I was bound to have.
What better way to experience this than to do an internship in Italy at a company I knew nothing about and no one at!
My internship in Italy with Your Place in Florence at the Palazzo San Niccolò, Palazzo Belfiore and Palazzo del Moro has been an incredibly unique and eye-opening experience. Few 20-year-olds are given the opportunity to obtain an internship abroad, so I went in open-minded and full of curiosity as to what I’d be doing, who I’d be working with, and how an Italian business may be different from what I’m used to.
For some context, this internship in Italy is the first position I’ve held where I entered a company knowing absolutely no one. This is also the first position I’ve held that has not been in the religion industry. Thus, I was walking in rather blind and uncertain.
I can’t say that I had too many of the initial hurdles that may come to mind when you think of an American doing an internship in Italy. My boss’s first language is English, the work I do — primarily social media — is something I’m quite comfortable with, and the structure of a work day in Italy is similar to that in the United States.
However, the first couple of weeks at the Palazzi were quite the adjustment period. My supervisor was learning what I was capable of and I was learning where I may fit in to the company. The most difficult adjustment for me initially was adapting to the Italian work style, a slower pace with time for conversation and time between projects. This was difficult for me; not accomplishing a million and one things each day made work days seems unsuccessful. In the past, I’ve always been given a rather extensive and ongoing to-do list in a work environment and I’ve been comfortable enough with the company to create my own tasks. However, stepping in to a company you just heard of a few weeks prior, with people you met just last week, in an industry that is quite literally foreign to you takes away some of this autonomy.
But as I developed a rhythm with my work, trust was established between my boss and I, and my day-to-day became much smoother. I found the importance in taking time to talk with coworkers and develop a more personal relationship with them. I found it okay to only accomplish five tasks in a day instead of my usual ten. I found myself dreaming up projects and carrying them out with positive feedback, as well as receiving critiques that have pushed me to look at social media in a much more professional way. This is my first time working for a larger company and, as social media develops more and more each day, it takes a much stronger role in the development and outreach of a business.
Looking back on the past 12 weeks at the Palazzi, my greatest takeaways have to be some of the unique Florentine experiences I’ve been granted. The two that stand out the most are my visit to a local tea shop to showcase a partnership they have with our Palazzi on social media, and a private tour I took of the oldest pharmacy and perfume shop for a blog post I wrote. Representing an Italian company on social media that prides themselves on providing unique Tuscan experiences has encouraged me to truly dive into the Italian lifestyle and attempt to see Florence through the eyes of locals. I often talk with my boss about local events coming up, Tuscan delicacies she and her family prepare, and local artisan shops scattered throughout the city.
Interning with Your Place in Florence was a leap of faith into an industry I had never worked in before that has ultimately provided me with clarity on what I aspire to do in the future. I don’t necessarily think I’ll find myself working in the hotel industry or returning for permanent work in Florence, but sometimes we learn the most about ourselves through experiences that we may never have again. It was an eye-opening and incredibly unique internship to say the least, and perhaps the most cherished gift I’ll take with me as I return home.
This post was contributed by Catherine Slabaugh, who is spending her fall semester studying and interning abroad with AIFS in Florence, Italy.