“What are you mastering exactly?” These were the innocent, yet thought-provoking, words of my 16-year old cousin who responded to my email updating her on my Master’s program studies abroad in Italy. Even if she may not yet grasp the concept of graduate education, her question made me think, what am I mastering?
Instead of trying to break down my last 2 years as a Hopkins grad student, I focused on the Bologna experience which has fast-tracked me to what I am specifically hoping to “master” upon completion of this program. My elementary Italian (ok, just hi, bye, toilet and wine) vocabulary is now perfected, I have clocked time in over eight cities in just two weeks where I experienced a plethora of sights, cuisine, art and culture (with over 400 photographs as proof), and have come to find comfort in the soft hum of Vespas.
So, really, what have I mastered while in Bologna? To most reading this, you would probably argue craziness due to gelato overdose. But, besides returning to the States with a few extra pounds courtesy of the heavenly fresh bread/Nutella combo and a bag of new shoes, Bologna will allow me to return home – recharged as a graduate student and as a working professional, with a much-needed, new perspective on my education and career ahead. The past two weeks have given me a fresh outlook on life, learning and opportunity, a renewed appreciation for intellectual, yet enjoyable conversation, a substantive understanding of the ever-changing European political and economic climate and ultimately a better understanding of cultural and international communication as a whole.
Living in a foreign country, where you don’t speak the language or understand simple mannerisms, forces you to break down contributing factors of public relations to the bare bones of communication. This simplification allows individuals from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds to communicate despite their diversity. My time is Italy has helped in my attempt to master just that…