My first week in Italy was filled with both excitement and anxieties. I traveled along with a group of other students from Wiesbaden, Germany to Brescia, Italy. It was an 8 hour long train ride with a stop in Switzerland to check passports and a stop in Milan, Italy to switch trains. However, one of the students realized she had lost her passport once we arrived in Switzerland. It was an excruciating few hours waiting for our passports to be checked and to see what would happen to our friend. Fortunately, it wasn’t until crossing the border and getting close to Milan that our passports were checked by the Italian police. I guess they couldn’t really send her back to Switzerland on Italian soil for not having a passport (because Italy is part of the European Union, there is no need for a passport if you travel between member countries). In the end she was able to cross with us.
Our first day was spent on our own, however, I couldn’t spend it how I wanted it for the first part of the day. It would have been helpful to know that Italian restrooms have the tendency to get stuck, thus locking the occupant in, which happened to me. My prison time in the restroom would not have lasted two hours if I would have been told that a tiny red ball tied to the ceiling was a switch to call for help (which, anyways, would not have worked for someone as short as me to grab and pull). However, the day ended well when I was finally able to jam the door open and was able to get on time to the walking tour of Brescia.
The rest of the week consisted of lectures in the morning and group project meetings in the afternoons. Our main assignment during the whole two weeks in Italy was to prepare a presentation for PratoRosso, an Italian Brewery, on how to use social media to their advantage by offering them recommendations. We had in advance finalized our presentation, but at our client meeting with PratoRosso we realized how wrong we were in our assumption of Italian culture and business. Our recommendations were too advanced and irrelevant at the stage the business was at that moment. During our two weeks in Italy we spent most of the afternoons restructuring our presentations and changing our content. It was truly a real life scenario of how working for an “international” business is more complicated than it seemed.
During the first week we made two site visits to Beretta, an Italian international weapons manufacturer and Ca del Bosco, a Prosecco (champagne) producer. FYI: The Italians take serious offense if you consider Prosecco as champagne (although it obviously is the same in taste and texture, my professors and all the students agreed privately), and according to the Italians, the French stole their idea and renamed it champagne.
The week ended with a team building activity at Lake Iseo and a day trip to Venice. At Lake Iseo we were taught team building through learning how to sail. Sailing in a small boat is truly team work. All members had an assigned task to oversee and execute when the captain (leader) commanded an order. If not all members cooperated, the result was the capsizing the boat. The last section of the team building activity was to get the sail boat back into sailing position if the boat did capsize.
I noticed that the Italians organize their waste according to categories. The food goes to the food waste, the styrofoam and plastic goes in another bin, carton in another, and so forth. However, the Italians are not as enthusiastic as the Germans in regard to recycling bottles. That does not mean they don’t recycle bottles, just that they are not as verbal to foreigners about leaving behind empty water bottles to be recycled. They do, however, have many beautiful water fountains that are safe to drink from, which my be the reason why not many natives purchase water bottles.