Emma Smith has been living and working as an intern at the UW Rome Center since last summer. She will continue her journey in Italy in the fall as an intern with the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Department at the U.S Embassy in Rome. Below Emma reflects on the year she has spent abroad, and gives advice about balancing your personal, work, and social life while employed in a foreign country.
"While being in such a romantic city can be distracting, I have spent most of my time working on creating a future for myself. I have taken this opportunity abroad to not only expand my cultural awareness, practice Italian, and enjoy the dolce vita, but to also start creating a network of contacts, apply for jobs, and combine the experiences gained working and living in Italy, with what I am currently studying or have learned from previous Italian courses.
"The most rewarding experience I have had has been working in the office here at the Rome Center. I get to practice my Italian daily, running errands, organizing program trip details, and I am constantly forced to practice Italian. I have learned so much business and office vocabulary in Italian, that I feel would not have been possible otherwise. I have also been given the amazing opportunity to explore a career in international student services or global studies for the future, and have decided that I would love to continue down this path. I have enjoyed the aspect of working with international students and faculty to help create the best study abroad experience possible for them. It has been really eye opening being on the other side of a study abroad experience, that is, to now be organizing many details for these programs, instead of being a student on a faculty led program.
"The biggest challenge I have found while living in Italy, is trying to find a job. I am realizing that the high level of unemployment for recent graduates in Italy which I studied about in previous courses, is much worse than I ever imagined. I have friends who have been searching for jobs for over a year, and the opportunity to work as a low paying intern is about as good as it seems to get between your 20-30's in Rome. Add on the fact that I am an American, looking for a visa sponsor, and you've got a recipe for not finding a job! However, I will continue to be resilient in this search, and will never give up my dreams of having a career and future in Italy. That being said, I am more than thrilled to have been offered to work as the 2017 Fall Intern for the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Department at the U.S Embassy in Rome. I am currently undergoing my security clearance, and will hopefully receive my final official offer in the next few months. I plan to come home and visit my family for 2 months, and then come back to begin my new internship in September.
"The second biggest challenge for me, has been finding a balance between school, working, tutoring English, and applying for jobs. While I cannot speak for everyone, I think what has helped me the most is having an amazing support system. Firstly, my professor Beatrice Arduini, has been tremendously flexible with me, allowing me to work at my own pace on my projects and assignments, and giving me amazing feedback on the work I have done. Without this flexibility, there is no way I would be able to handle this balancing act. Secondly, Sabrina Tatta, my undergraduate advisor for the French and Italian Studies Program has gone above and beyond to assist me with graduation requirements, and with helping me navigate both the transition I made into this internship, and my future transition into the internship with the U.S Embassy in Rome. She is also the person who informed of both of these internships, and I would not be in the position I am today without her! Thirdly, the staff here at the Rome Center has been of tremendous support to me. Laura Tagliapietra, along with our new Interim resident director, Amity Neumister have been completely flexible- allowing me to go to various Embassy appointments, interviews, etc when it has been necessary to prioritize these tasks. Fourthly, without the support of my own family and friends back home, who are constantly checking in on me and encouraging me in my dreams and goals, it would not have been possible to get through this year. And lastly, my boyfriends family has been the biggest support of all, since they are physically here in Italy and have been able to give me a breath of fresh air and time to relax and recuperate every few weekends in their hometown in Puglia. They constantly check in on me while I am in Rome, and take care of me as if I am a part of their family when I go visit them. I think the only real advice I can give for a future intern, or for a student in a similar position trying to balance all of these components while abroad, is to surround yourself with a positive and encouraging support system in all environments- school, work, friends, and family. I also think that it is important to remember, that while all of these pieces are important in creating a successful future for oneself, it is also important to enjoy where you are! I am not afraid to take a night off, go eat a huge plate of pasta, or spend a few hours with my phone turned off in a quiet piazza or a big park to watch the sunset. Success is only possible if you allow yourself to enjoy life itself, and not always focus on the future."