Blog Post #1 – Pre-Departure Expectations

Buongiorno! My name is Marissa, and I am a rising junior at Notre Dame double-majoring in Biochemistry and Italian Studies! This summer, I’m embarking on the interdisciplinary venture of a lifetime, traveling to Milan, Italy to conduct research at Università degli Studi di Milano (UniMi) in organic synthesis, organic chemistry, and biochemistry under Dr. Daniele Passarella! My work may be studying organic and bioorganic synthesis, but my day-to-day life will be completely immersed in Italian city life and culture! As the child of a primarily Italian-American family (with other cultural influences from central and Western Europe), I am looking forward to living in a country where I can immerse myself in a new academic and social culture. The Foreign Language Internship program (FLI) at Notre Dame provides a student like me—who has a love for cross-disciplinary study—to challenge myself in both of my areas of academic interest.

Before departure, my FLI cohort underwent the IDI analysis which identified our perception of culture versus our actual level of cultural awareness, which allowed us to objectively look at where we were at versus where we would like to be in our cultural perception by the end of our FLI experiences. The IDI helped me more innately understand my role in a more multicultural environment, and moving forward towards my summer in Milan, my added awareness not only of my strengths in cultural appreciation but also areas I could improve will help immensely with my adjustment to life in Italy. My summer experience will place me in Milan for ten weeks—plenty of time to get a taste of Italian culture and learn about the differences between my life in South Bend, Indiana (and my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri) versus Milan. As a personal goal, I want to embrace asking questions and not shying away from admitting when things are unfamiliar to me. Being intentional in acknowledging my weaknesses in cultural awareness will help me get the most out of this experience.

At the end of the summer, I hope to reflect on this experience and how it has changed my cultural perception; I look forward to the challenges of living abroad pushing me to improve my Italian fluency! Because this cohort of FLI interns has two other Italian students, I am eager to discuss our individual experiences and learn even more from them about the cultural differences between the United States and Italy that we observe, as well as compare regional differences in Italian culture. With my departure date a little over one week away, my excitement is being redirected to productivity—packing for this summer, and for finishing my finals! It’s shaping up to be an amazing ten weeks, and I can’t wait to share this journey!