As an Italian American, my summers in Italy have always revolved around the familiar warmth of close relatives, rekindling old memories, and crafting new ones. However, this summer, I stepped into the unfamiliar waters of Italy. Leaving behind the coziness of Trapani, Sicily, my journey took me to Trieste. Over the span of three intense months, I dived deep into a myriad of volunteering experiences, each offering insights into the nuances of working and living in Italy.
My background, marked by tutoring sessions in Italian on campus and virtually teaching immigrants, led me to believe that transitioning to an in-person setting would be a breeze. Reality had other plans. From my past experience of teaching English-speaking immigrants, predominantly from Central African countries on Zoom, I was now faced with a cosmopolitan classroom. Students hailed from almost every corner of the world, each bringing unique learning styles and diverse backgrounds. This posed challenges, from teaching some unfamiliar with their native alphabets to those already proficient in English. But, teaching in person had its own charm. The rewards were palpable. One instance remains in my mind of when a student I had taught in June, recognized me in the city in August, waved me down, and showcased an immense linguistic progress that I would have never thought possible.
My aspiration to become a physician made my time with DONK Humanitarian Medicine the most anticipated part of my trip. The stories of patients, and their arduous journeys to Italy, coupled with the unwavering dedication of medical professionals and volunteers, reshaped my perception of medicine. It helped me understand that being a physician incorporates genuine care and the desire to do good regardless of personal gains. The commitment, kindness, and relentless pursuit of doing good at DONK will forever serve as my beacon of inspiration in my future career.
However, Trieste also presented its set of challenges. One of my main objectives for the summer was to lead a study on psychological disturbances in immigrant patients in Italy. This venture, born from months of rigorous preparation prior to my arrival, seemed ready to take off. My proposal had been scrutinized, fine-tuned, and reshaped multiple times. Yet, destiny had a different story to tell. Despite the relentless efforts, regular meetings, and continuous revisions throughout the summer, my study never got off the ground. This setback, albeit disheartening, provided a silver lining. I learned resilience, adaptability, and the art of finding value in the journey rather than the end goal. As the study now starts to take shape, I remain hopeful and determined to see it materialize during my upcoming semester in Rome and the subsequent summer in Trieste.
In retrospect, mere words falter to capture the depth of my gratitude. My genuine and heartfelt thank you goes out to the CSLC, the Glynn Family Honors Program, the Italian Department, and the Rome Global Gateway. Your unwavering support – financial, developmental, and emotional – was a cornerstone of my transformative journey. Trieste wasn’t just a summer pit-stop; it marked a pivotal chapter of personal and communal growth. Grazie mille 🙂
I’ve had a frustrating couple of days this week because I’ve had trouble understanding my role in the organization I’m working for. I see that things move slower than I expected and I am often sitting there not doing much. This week alone, I have received a text from my boss saying I can take a “dia de folga”, twice.
Folga is the Portuguese word for the time allotted for rest (yes, they have a word for that). So a ‘dia de folga’ simply meant a day off work. Of course, I enjoyed these days off at first but it came to a point where I wasn’t working as much as I expected.
I keep talking about how impressed I am with the pace of life in Portugal. I think this is a recurring theme because I have had a very difficult time feeling like I’m investing my time in something valuable when I’m moving at such a slow pace. My patience is reduced. It’s hard to convince yourself that what you’re doing is worth it when you spend a lot of your time looking at your phone in the office and asking if there’s anything you can do every 10 minutes.
I have taken this as an opportunity to try to create my own initiative to present to my boss and after working on it during my ‘free time’ for a week I presented it to her and it doesn’t seem like something that the organization wants to prioritize at this time. This has only brought more frustration to me.
I’m not sure if the experience of the very slow-paced life I am living right now is completely cultural or if it is an array of factors that add up. Thinking about Portugal having a slow-paced culture and adding a lack of organization and resources to that equation has led to an uncomfortable situation. I have communicated my needs and I know I’m being heard but I’m not seeing any change and that is hard and, for lack of a better word, extremely frustrating.
I think I have learned a lot from this experience. I have learned about patience, communication, cultural differences, acculturation, and the challenges these qualities entail. I hope my repeated reflection on this situation can allow me to put things into perspective and take from this experience a lot of valuable skills that can be helpful in future situations.
As I prepare for my third year at Notre Dame, reflecting on this summer and all the opportunities it has brought me is a unique privilege that I am so grateful to have experienced. Before this summer, I had never left the United States—not for a family vacation, not for a study abroad experience. Initially, I felt very out of my element, nervous and apprehensive, not entirely sure I was prepared to live on my own all summer, much less in a foreign country. Through my internship cohort, I was able to prepare quite heavily for my experience and knew better what to expect, but one thing I could never have predicted was how amazing the relationships I developed would be.
I remember landing in Milan, thinking about whether or not I would make friends, whether or not the research I was doing would be something I liked, what I would eat for dinner every night. After only a week with my research cohort in Milan, I already felt like I was building strong relationships. The cultural differences I expected upon my arrival, while still present, were not nearly as daunting as what I expected.We all had similar music tastes and interests, and it became increasingly easier to find things to talk about every day during laboratory experiments. During the weekends, my new friends and I would even hang out, and exploring the sites and sounds of such a bustling, beautiful city was an experience unique to my particular location—I got a lot of my cultural experience through just living my day-to-day life.
A lot of people say that studying abroad changes them for the better. I think that sentiment rings true for the most part, but I don’t necessarily feel different; rather, I feel like a more improved version of myself. I am able to connect on a whole new level with those outside of my culture and those that I normally would not have the privilege of meeting had I not taken the jump to study somewhere new to me. Every piece of my Italian experience has made me a better global citizen, and I am so excited to take my newly-improved linguistic skills and better understanding of cultural differences to experiences back in the USA and abroad someday soon.
Well, I am back America after one of the greatest adventures of my life, but I think one thing that I hope to remember after all of this is that this is just the beginning of my biggest adventure of all. “인생은 모험이다,” or “Life is an adventure,” so it is my goal to make the most of every moment of it, while taking all the lessons and the growth from all of my past adventures to make each new one even better… I am getting ahead of myself, though. Since I have been sharing some Korean songs throughout my time in Korea, now that I am back in the States, I think it is fitting for me to share an American song that is on theme with the post. So, without further ado, I hope you all enjoy one more song that my brother had shared with me in the past and that I believe to be rather fitting for what I will be covering in this final blog post: “Figure Me Out” by “The Summer Set.”
So, as I have alluded to with my recent song choice, this post will be all about wrapping up my experience abroad by discussing how, exactly, it has affected me and by setting the rest of the foundations for how I will move forward into the long and daunting future of figuring myself out. I believe that I mentioned in my first blog post that this summer internship actually marks the start of my senior year at the University of Notre Dame. In a romantically poetic way, my story in Seoul started the end of my Notre Dame experience. While I still am fully against overly-idealizing things, I believe everything in my life seems to have lined up way too well when it comes to my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Korea. I will forever be grateful for every aspect of my time abroad during this foreign language internship, and I am sure that I will always hold the memories of my time in South Korea in my heart as highlights for the rest of my life.
Firstly, I would like to revisit my first post, where I wrote about my goals for this incredible internship experience. In order to provide a quick recap, one of my goals was to set up a basis for my own cultural identity, and my other goal was to better understand how my personal cultures are interrelated with the Korean culture as I learn to interact with the community. As a general, overarching goal, I had the hope and great expectation that this summer I would help to start myself off on the long and winding road to “figuring myself out,” hence my final song choice. It would not be an understatement to say that my expectations in this area were greatly exceeded, but I am pretty sure that it happened in the most unexpected ways imaginable. After all, not everything on this trip could be considered a success. Because of everything, both the successes and failures, that I have experienced during my wonderful weeks in Seoul, I managed to learn so much about myself: my values, my strengths, my weaknesses, and my hopes and dreams for who I hope to become. With all of this invaluable information, my confidence has grown, and, for the first time in a long time, I feel as though I have a greater sense of purpose and direction in life. At the very least, I now know for a fact that I definitely want to return at least once to the beautiful Republic of Korea~! It is important to reiterate that this experience, as with every other experience in life, was not absolutely perfect, and I definitely have my regrets, but the critical part is that I learned from each and every moment and memory I made, even the mistakes. In this internship, I got to know myself in ways that I never have before, and I also found myself growing in genuine love for my true self while I was “falling in love” with Korea and the Korean culture.
Armed with the vast array of new knowledge that I have gathered during my time in Korea, I know for a fact that I will be living my life much more authentically from this moment on, especially since I have a much better understanding of who I am and my own, personal culture. Because of this, I can easily claim to be one of the cliche people who, though it may appear overly exaggerated at times, can safely say that “study abroad changed my life” and sincerely mean every word of it. During this entire journey of an internship, I truly grew in body, mind, and spirit. I learned so many, different, new lessons on independence, determination, creativity, and the general concept of self from every, single person I met, whether they were American, Korean, Filipino, or otherwise. I have come to experience so much more than ever before and have grown in sincere appreciation for every single aspect of both my own, personal culture and that of the country of South Korea. The increased confidence in myself and the greater appreciation for both myself and for Seoul that I have acquired during this internship experience are absolutely priceless, and I would not trade them for anything else in the world. I will be holding onto and treasuring each and every one of the memories I have made in Korea for the rest of my life, and I can confidently say that my life will never be the same because of them.
I can also safely say that my world viewpoints — my “cultural lenses” — have been forever affected or “tinted” in the best ways possible by my time abroad. I have learned such a large amount about the elusive and complex concept of culture through both the instruction of my foreign language internship cohort and through unforgettable firsthand experiences, and this new understanding is something I could not have attained anywhere else. In immersing myself fully in my new Seoul lifestyle, I learned a lot about the many similarities and differences between American and Korean culture through personal experience, and I gradually came to realize that culture is much more complicated than what many people originally believe. Culture is not merely a social tool that is cognitively constructed to categorize other people (even though, technically, according to some fields of study, this would be a more correct definition). Rather, I now believe that, while big Cs — or general cultures — may exist, every human being is so much more than just one of these general cultures. Due to the incredible beauty behind the presence of individual differences, it is absolutely key to look at each person as a unique culture in and of themselves and to learn about them as a full person instead of only focusing on one aspect of their little culture — or the smaller cultures that they are a part of and that make up mere bits and pieces of who they are. In other words, while “culture” may initially seem like a big thing, to see the even bigger picture of who an individual truly is, you have to look at them as a unique combination of many cultures or even a custom-chosen culture of their own. If we could learn how to view others in light of this perspective and thus appreciate the complex nature of every person around us, I believe it could easily lead to a more comprehensive understanding of others which, in turn, may overall result in a more loving and open society in the future.
I am honestly rather hesitant to write this as a “final” post, since, even though this is the last post I am technically required to write, I truly think that my Seoul adventure is just the start of a much greater adventure: a journey of self-discovery and true exploration that will last throughout the rest of my life. In fact, as I am writing this, I have started taking a “teaching English as a foreign language” class; I got the idea from foreign English teachers in Korea. This means that, even though one chapter of the story has come to a close, my novel adventures around the globe are only beginning, especially in relation to Korea. I miss Seoul so much, and, honestly, with each passing day I seem to miss it — and every little, unique detail that makes the South Korean lifestyle special — a little bit more (for, as they say “distance makes the heart grow fonder”). However, it is also rather nice to be able to reconnect with my roots after traveling so far for awhile. Having time to reconnect with my family, both in the Philippines and at home in Minnesota, after my time in Korea has only solidified and built upon everything that I have learned so far, and it has helped me to grow in appreciation for each and every one of the cultures that have come together in a unique combination within me; I have come to a much better understanding of how they relate to and interact with each other, both externally, in their perspective cultures, and internally, within myself. I will carry the memories of Korea close to my heart forever, and I believe that, somehow, my relationship with South Korea is only just beginning. After all, there are still so many cultural connections to make and people to meet, and, with my limited time abroad, I was only able to just start establishing a global network. I have a lot of faith that my story is far from over, which is why I will not necessarily say goodbye with this particular post. Rather, I will just end the blog with another genuine note of gratitude for every single person who has in any way supported me or followed me throughout this entire experience as part of the inaugural Foreign Language Internship program and simply sign off with my usual greeting. I really hope to see everyone again very soon, in one way or another, and I look forward to staying in touch somehow! May God bless you all!!!
From my time volunteering in a clinic in Italy, I’ve come to realize how prominently a society’s core values are reflected in its healthcare system. In the clinic for refugees, I’ve seen Italian physicians embody a “care for all” mentality, making accessibility and comprehensive care their top priorities. Contrastly, in the United States, where I’m involved in epilepsy research, the focus in healthcare often leans toward cutting-edge innovation and a forward-looking approach. Although both systems are deeply committed to patient well-being, the paths that are followed to achieve these values are noticeably different.
On my very first day at the volunteer clinic in Italy, the communal well-being approach was evident. What struck me most was the fact that each physician here provides their care for free and operates independently of government subsidies. Equally remarkable was our ability to see 20 patients in just 4 hours. In the US, a typical patient visit can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The difference in Italy showed a focused, efficient approach as opposed to the often time-intensive and individual-oriented consultations I was accustomed to back home.
Drawing from Hofstede’s D6 model for national culture, Italy’s approach aligns closely with the “Collectivist” dimension, where the welfare of the society takes precedence over individual achievements. In stark contrast, the U.S. tends more toward “Individualism,” with an emphasis on personal rights and achievements. This dynamic begs the question: how might a collectivist perceive an individualist, and vice-versa? Coming from an individualistic background, I initially regarded the Italian approach as less progressive. Concurrently, I sense that my Italian colleagues might view my keen enthusiasm for innovation as somewhat impersonal, potentially prioritizing scientific advancements over genuine human connection.
This distinction in cultural dimensions brings to mind the heterostereotype of Americans being “driven” and “forward-looking,” while Italians might be seen as “community-oriented” and “nurturing.” Though stereotypes can be overly simplistic and reductive, they can stem from real, observable cultural traits.
Recognizing these differences has been a transformative experience for me – I’ve gained further perspective beyond the American lens through which I initially viewed Italy’s healthcare system. I have grown to deeply appreciate the heartfelt care central to Italy’s communal approach. I’m now an advocate for nurturing patient relationships as a priority, while holding onto the belief that there can be a harmonious balance with technological and medical advancements.
I find myself hoping for a deeper understanding of how these cultural dimensions have historically evolved in both nations, and how these values have permeated other sectors of society. Moving forward, this newfound awareness doesn’t complicate, but rather enriches my perspective on both cultures. It serves as a reminder that various approaches can coexist, each contributing its unique strengths.
Last week, a patient arrived at our clinic presenting a deeply concerning injury. At first glance, his nearly absent tricep, seemingly the consequence of an unsuccessful surgery, propelled me into a series of rapid assumptions about the quality of care he had received. Guided by my cultural and professional expectations, I mistakenly surmised this as a clear case of medical neglect. I even wondered if he might have received inadequate treatment in another country en route to Italy. Little did I know, the truth was that he had tried to self-care for a gunshot wound.
But as I delved further into his medical background, a distressing story came to light. This wasn’t merely a surgical oversight; it bore testimony to a gunshot wound he endured during his difficult journey to Italy. The scar became a silent testament to the traumas many refugees face. Realizing the depth of his trauma, both emotional and physical, weighed heavily on me. My initial view was constrained, focusing primarily on the external injury. However, deeper reflection revealed that my initial biases had clouded my understanding. The methodology emphasized recognizing the broader context of each patient’s experiences, rather than just their obvious symptoms.
Upon introspection, I found myself grappling with intense feelings of empathy and remorse. Empathy, recognizing the profound physical and psychological anguish he had been subjected to, and remorse for my premature judgments. Now, when I look back, I am filled with gratitude for the invaluable lessons learned and the evolution of my patient care approach.
When consulting with the lead physician, he highlighted the importance of comprehending the origins and implications of such injuries. His expertise illuminated not just the tangible effects of the wound but also the psychological implications. This newfound knowledge has refined my approach, making me more receptive to the subtle stories that patients might bring with them, ones that might not be instantly evident.
The D.I.V.E. methodology (Describe, Interpret, Verify, Evaluate) has been transformative in my professional journey. It champions introspection and a comprehensive evaluation of circumstances, preventing hasty judgments. I am committed to incorporating it into my professional interactions, whether they be routine or as intense as this one. Moving forward, I know that I will be able to utilize my experiences in the clinic such as this one to cultivate a more informed and compassionate approach to patient care.
The above photo is of one of my Italian students and I after seeing me walking through the city. Yesterday, he had stopped me to express his gratitude for having the ability to sustain conversations in a language completely foreign to him a couple months back. He further wanted to take a picture with me so he could remember his journey seeking to settle down and assimilate to his new life living in Italy.
After an incredible summer, I am currently 3 days away from flying back to the US on my way back to university. I have been home for a little over a month now, so have had plenty of time to relax and reflect upon my time in Italy.
My goals for my time in Italy where to speak in Italian with my co-workers, learn about the region in which I was staying, ask questions about new cultural phenomena and vocabulary, all of which I can proudly say I accomplished. I spoke to all my co-workers in Italian, with the exception of translating a couple of words for them to learn the English or when they had very nuanced meanings and the literal translation was a figure of speech. I learnt a lot about my local area by visiting surrounding cities, trying local foods, experiencing the customs and reading about the history of the city. For example, pigeon and unsalted bread are delicacies in the area. I learnt about cultural phenomena, for example, I was given an explanation of the correct way to use a bidet; and finally, I asked about words that I was unsure of. My lab’s personal favorite was ‘sharks’ which translates to ‘squali’ in Italian.
If I could go back and redo the experience, the only thing I would change would be the amount of gelato I ate – I didn’t eat enough. I made great friends, explored beautifully, historical cities, ate incredible food and learnt lots about what it’s like to work in a lab. I challenged myself to go outside my comfort zone by asking questions and going on adventures and it definitely paid off – 10/10 experience! If there was one piece of advice that I could give to potential future recipients, it would be to say yes. Say yes to applying, say yes to going and say yes to all the adventures. There’s no point going if you’re just going to go to work and go home each day, you need to explore! Go into the cute shops, buy tickets to the museums, take yourself out on a (terrifying) solo dinner. Challenge yourself and you will have the most incredible time!
Saludos! I have been back home for around two weeks now, soaking up the Texas sun, relishing in the 105 degree heat, and visiting my family members. Although I am overjoyed to be reunited with my family, I definitely miss my host family, my students at Sifais, public bus rides, and the fresh fruit served every meal.
Reflecting on my six weeks in Costa Rica, I am more than satisfied with my experiences. Through the visits created by Praxis Center, I gained more understanding of the history of Costa Rica and its resilience against Spanish colonization, as well as U.S. imperialism and exploitation of natural resources. Such excursions included visits to Monumento Nacional Guayabo in Cartago, a finca (farm) of the Bribri (an indigenous group) in Cahuita, Balvanera Vargas Park in Puerto Limón (one of the places Christopher Columbus landed). For me, one of the most meaningful aspects of these excursions was at the end of the finca tour when we all gathered together in community for dinner and listened to the head of the finca explain the significance of respecting and caring for nature. Hearing her passion for nature has made me reflect on how I can become more environmentally conscious and utilize more sustainable practices, especially in my future career field of architecture. Furthermore, I was able to really understand the majesty of nature during my trip to Volcán Poas with my host family. Feeling the mist blow onto my face as the clouds below moved to unveil the rich blue lagoon below was absolutely beautiful. These trips have provided me with indescribable and unforgettable experiences that I will cherish forever.
However, the most enlightening and enriching part of my time in Costa Rica was definitely the time I spent with my students at Sifais. I cannot fully describe the pure love, enthusiasm and vivacious spirits of the kids in Montessori. I enjoyed every second guiding the little toddlers through their activities and watching their minds develop as they learned how to solve the puzzles all by themselves. In addition to Montessori, I LOVED teaching my Spanish and English classes. (Again) Words cannot express how happy I was when two of my students finally mastered the alphabet. As mentioned in a previous blog post, in my Adult Conversational English class, I learned just as much from the students as they learned from me. Each class day we had conversations covering a variety of topics, ranging from cultural displacement and how we culturally define ourselves to Disney movies and princesses. Through our discussions, I learned so much about Costa Rica, including traditional dishes, places to tour, typical architecture, socioeconomic issues, and some of the flaws in its public educational system. Nonetheless, there were times I found it quite difficult to teach. When I focused on the dried-out whiteboard markers, lack of paper and technology, short attention span of the children, or the unequal educational obstacles my older students had to overcome, I felt defeated and incapable of teaching. Yet, when I moved my concentration from certain obstacles to the beautiful smiles, bright minds, creative souls, and warm hearts I encountered, I was able to creatively think of more engaging lesson plans for the children and could only focus on their growth and how to assist in continuing it.
Moreover, my experience caused me to look at my Latinidad and Latin America through a different lens. As mentioned in a previous blog post, one thing that continually surprised me throughout my time in Costa Rica was how different Panamá and Costa Rica are despite being neighbors. Differences in tone, food, and foreign influence really stuck out to me. This observation was quite significant to me, because I feel as though oftentimes we, as a United Statesian society and myself included, forget that cultural boundaries do not match the national boundaries imposed on the Americas by colonizers. For instance, upon visiting the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum in San José, I discovered why Chiriqui (in Panamá) and eastern Limon (in Costa Rica) are far more culturally alike than they are to their respective countries: they share the same indigenous. The Bribri and Ngäbe peoples have territory in both east Costa Rica and west Panamá; thus, certain cultural practices have been confined in one region but have “bled” into two countries. In the same way, although Costa Rica is in the middle of both Panamá and Nicaragua, Costa Rica shares more similarities with Nicaragua due to Costa Rica being colonized differently than Panamá.
This experience has truly taught me to live in the present, soaking up my current surroundings no matter my location and showing gratitude to nature. Additionally, I have been provided with a new outlook on how architecture can better reflect culture while addressing socioeconomic issues. Gracias (otra vez) to CSLC, SLA, and Praxis Center for such an unforgettable experience! Pura vida, mae!
One of the best things, in my opinion, to cool yourself off on a warm summer morning is iced coffee. Walking around Lisbon at the beginning of the day; what I craved the most was a cup filled with iced cubes and freshly brewed European coffee. However, it wasn’t long until I realized that this is not common in Portugal.
I was walking to work one morning and saw a beautiful traditional-looking coffee shop where I decided to stop for a quick break and a refreshing iced coffee. I had been in Lisbon for around four days at this point and had my first iced coffee in Portugal at Starbucks as I left the airport. The thought of iced coffee not being available hadn’t crossed my mind.
I walk into the coffee shop and confidently say what I thought was the Portuguese way of asking for an iced coffee: “Bom dia! Eu queria um cafe gelado por favor?”. The barista gave me a weird look. I rephrased my order and said “Posso ter um cafe com gelo por favor?”. He, as the Lisboetas usually do at a hint of an accent or wrong phrasing in Portuguese, quickly switched to English asking “Is it better if you order in English?”. I accepted and explained that I wanted a cup of coffee with ice in it. Everyone working at the cafe was confused as the barista hesitantly replied “Yes, that’ll be 1.25 euros”.
I got what seemed to be an attempt to make an iced coffee by confused Portuguese baristas and left feeling confused myself and, a little embarrassed about what had just taken place. Thinking back on that situation I realize that what happened was that I had ordered a way of making coffee that they didn’t seem to understand.
There are many ways in which, at that moment, I interpreted the situation. At first, I thought, this person is a new worker but once I saw everyone in the shop’s reaction I changed it to: ‘I’m not saying this correctly in Portuguese’. Then, once I switched to English I thought through the situation a little more and understood that maybe iced coffee is simply not something that this cafe didn’t do. Slowly, a scary thought poped to my mind: ‘what if, this wasn’t just something that happened at this cafe but in Portugal in general?”, or even scareir “What if iced coffee wasn’t a thing in Europe as a whole?’.
I had so many questions so, I got to work and voiced my concerns to my colleagues. I told them about the experience I just had and checked with them about some of the conclusions or interpretations I had reflected on as I walked from the coffee shop to my workplace. Everyone had a good laugh and explained to me that iced coffee is not common in Portugal and that people like enjoying a warm cup of coffee, even in the summer. This is when I confirmed one of my interpretations and understood that some of the other conclusions I had arrived at weren’t completely correct. My Spanish co-worker laughed as well and explained to me that she had the same experience when she first got to Portugal. She told me that iced coffee is common in the summer in Spain and that it wasn’t necessarily uncommon in Europe as a whole. I sighed in relief at understanding the situation better. I simply accepted the fact that I would have to either learn to enjoy warm coffee during my (very warm) stay in Lisbon, learn to ditch coffee as a whole (who is she?), or, accept that I would look like a crazy person trying to explain that I wanted a delicious cup of warm coffee with a whole bunch of ice in it.
This conversation was very interesting and it led to a longer discussion about what things were and weren’t normal for us in our different countries of nationality and cultures. I think that there are small things in our day-to-day that we accept as normal and it becomes so interesting to be able to experience how people in other cultures and countries go about these common day situations. The way that my colleagues and I were able to connect as individuals and share our own experiences to create a small community of shared knowledge was captivating to me and it is one of the main reasons why I love discovering new places, cultures, and people.
This was a confusing yet interesting experienced that helped me understand a little more about the Portuguese culture and about intercultural skills that can be very important to develop.
I arrived back in my hometown two days ago and it’s been so nice to be back. I hadn’t seen my brother since I left for Portugal (over two and a half months ago), so I’ve been spending some quality time with him, my family, and my close friends.
I was so lucky to spend my full summer in Portugal. I feel like I got the best of all worlds: I spent two weeks beforehand hiking the Fisherman’s Trail along the coast, I got to hone my Portuguese skills working at a popular brunch spot, I explored Lisbon, Portugal, and Europe with friends I met through the program.
I’ve never been so fully immersed in a country and culture that isn’t my own. My only real goal for the summer was to practice my Portuguese and to get a break from the academic and social stress of the school year. I think both those goals were met. I’m coming home speaking better Portuguese than I’ve ever spoken and I feel like I’ve inherited a bit of the more relaxed Portuguese outlook on life. I’m a pretty competitive, focused, and straight-laced person, but being in Portugal taught me to let loose a little, be spontaneous, and just have a little more fun in my life. I’m hoping that this will help me forge a better school/fun balance when I get back to Notre Dame.
My internship wasn’t anything “impressive”. I didn’t work at a law firm, or a consulting firm, or a lab. I spent 8 hours a day taking orders, busing tables, and making smoothies. But I think it was exactly what I needed after my first year at Notre Dame. I learned other life skills: how to make mistakes and not perseverate on them, how to push through even when you’re exhausted, and how nice it is when someone cares enough to be kind to you. Working in the service industry was harder than I thought. I’m used to academic challenges, but this challenged me physically and emotionally. I’m glad I got to experience that, and I’m glad I got to do it while practicing a language that has a special place in the heart of me and my family.