Program Review: Deb's Internship in Florence

Alex Paisner

Deb, a graduating senior at Salisbury University, spent her fall semester interning in Italy for academic credit. Check out her experience and top tips for an internship in Florence!

Why did you decide to take on an international internship?

Well I found out about Global Experiences from my school because it was a way to earn required credits abroad, and it just fell in my lap. Not a great story, but I do believe it's meant to be that I ended up in Florence and with GE!

Deb in Florence

What were your biggest concerns at the beginning?

I was definitely concerned about the language barrier. Studying a language is one thing but having to use it daily at work and in social settings was a challenge! The best advice I can give to interns is to practice- most locals will be thrilled that you are making an effort and will help you improve! Plus, it makes you feel more like a local and separates you from tourists.

What is your favorite part of Florence? What was your favorite spot to relax/hang out/go out? Favorite place you went outside the city? What’s the best way to meet locals/get to know the local lay of the land? Any transportation advice?

Florence is incredible, it's hard to pick one part. What I love about Florence the most is that I learn something new every day. It's full of history and (despite all the tourists) feels frozen in time. It's hard not to feel inspired walking down the streets where incredible artists and thinkers created their best works! The atmosphere is amazing and you can just feel the sense of pride that the Florentines feel for their city, and they want to share that with you.

Deb with her interns group

The best way to meet locals-

  1. Become a regular at a trattoria or gelataria. Get to know the employees and owner and they will tell you about their favorite local spots!
  2. Participate in a language exchange. There are several ways to do it, but I met a girl who wanted to practice English and helped me with Italian. We became good friends and both gained a lot from each other, culturally and linguistically.

Florence is 100% a walking city- heels are nearly impossible! Bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes! It is super manageable to get and learn the lay of the land!  My favorite place to get work done is ITIT- most coffee bars are in-and-out, but you can actually sit and stay for a while here so it's great to study or for breakfast with a friend. We loved hanging out by the carousel at Piazza Republica after a long day of work- of course with some gelato! Try as many aperitivos (happy hours), pastas, pizza, and gelato as possible! And my favorite place I traveled to outside of the city was London, but within Italy the Amalfi Coast! I recommend a mix of traveling on your own (we did London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Barcelona) and with student travel groups- there are a few and it's nice because it's all planned out for you. We went to the Amalfi Coast, Prague, and several day trips with these companies. Don't be afraid to take trips with the language school, it is a great way to see some hidden gems in and around the city and get to know your classmates from around the world.

Deb attends a Fiorentina game.

What was the most drastic difference you encountered that was not what you expected?

The pace of life is a lot slower here. In America I am always on the go and everyone is in a hurry. Here it is more relaxed. They take more time for dinner to enjoy each other's company and don't complain when they have to wait an extra few minutes for coffee in the morning. "Italian time" is very real- people are late to meetings and dinners, it's almost expected- but that doesn't mean you should be late, especially not for work!

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment during your time here?

At my internship I was assigned to work on the company's website, including HTML, translating, and a lot of work in Italian which I haven't done before. I was completely overwhelmed but worked my way through it thanks to my coworkers. I am proud of the finished product and the company is pleased with it too. So no matter how big or small the tasks you are assigned at your internship are, stay positive and ask for help and you'll do great!

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done since you arrived?

When I went to Capri, I went into the blue grotto which is such a cool experience and like nothing I've seen before. And as cheesy as it sounds, a gondola ride in Venice is a must in any trip to Italy!

If you could create a hashtag (#) that would sum up this experience, what would it be?

#GoGlobal- because when you go abroad with Global Experiences, you gain a GLOBAL perspective and I can't imagine having the same enriching experience with any other company!

What advice do you have for future interns doing an internship in Florence?

Read about the culture and history of the city before you study abroad or intern abroad. Pay attention in language class. Practice the language with locals. Try the local food dishes anywhere you go. Get to know your program advisor and location coordinator, they are your best resources. Travel as much as possible, but save some weekends for exploring your city. Take a minute every day to look at the big monument or scenery in your city- it reminds you how lucky you are to be here. HAVE FUN, the weeks fly by. Oh, and put in your best effort at your internship- your attitude towards the job makes or breaks it. And for Florence interns, eat gelato every day, and tons of pasta and pizza!

How has Global Experiences made the biggest impact on your journey through this experience?

Living the dream in Italy

Going abroad with Global Experiences has been the best decision I've ever made. I've gained so much through this experience. But I couldn't have gotten here without the amazing program advisors in America who were there every step of the way to answer any and all questions I had. I felt very prepared coming here with all of the great resources GE provided, but of course there are some things you just don't anticipate and that's where my location coordinator stepped in. I can't say enough how wonderful Rachel has been- I wouldn't have gotten through these 12 weeks without her! From showing us local hangouts to taking us on awesome trips and helping me resolve issues at my internship, she has been so helpful! My internship placement director worked hard to get me the best possible internship, which wasn't too easy for my field. But most of all, the other interns on my trip truly did make my experience. I can't imagine this experience without the people who came to Florence with me. It was always an adventure with them! We really did become a family and this experience would not be the same without them!

How will this international work opportunity will affect you in the short term and long term?

I have very specific career goals, but my amazing location coordinator was able to find me a company in my field. Just working in an international environment, where businesses are run differently, is something that gives you a lot of perspective that you can't get at in internship at home. This definitely separates you from other candidates for jobs or school!

What’s next for you?

I will graduate from Salisbury University this spring and am currently applying to graduate school, so hopefully I will be there next fall! And of course, I hope to travel more :).

UPDATE: Deb was accepted into a graduate program and is headed to the University of Michigan for her masters degree in the fall!

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