Sarah completed her internship and classes (based in Florence and London) remotely this past semester. She notes what she achieved as an intern at a new Italian handcrafted luxury brand, including a meaningful partnership with NAACP for a Black Lives Matter campaign. Sarah also talks about how this experience challenged her to translate her global marketing coursework into tangible actions cross-culturally, as well as her deepened interest in her minor in Italian. Want to know what particularly shocked her about this first-time experience? Read on!
This month marks the end of my first ever remote internship and online classes. Going into the program with CAPA, I had no clue what to expect – all I knew was that I wanted to seize an opportunity to learn more about Italian culture while boosting my resume at the same time. By the end of the internship, I did exactly that and much more. I am most notably satisfied with the skills I learned and applied in relation to international marketing. Both my internship and my classes taught me how easy it is to both form and maintain relationships while working remotely.
A selfie from my work-from-home desk.
For some background, I interned with a company called Batog that was based in Florence, Italy. Batog was founded by Alina Roxana Batog, and she handcrafts luxury headwear, specifically in the form of hats and headbands. She started the company in 2019, so it is almost brand new, and she hired me to provide insights and give advice on ways to gain brand awareness, specifically from luxury shoppers in London, Dubai, the United States, and New Zealand.
Going into the program, I was more prepared to carry out regular, small, everyday tasks to make my supervisor’s life a bit easier. However, she put a lot of faith in me and gave me much more important responsibilities. These included: coming up with a company motto to advertise on the website, contacting and establishing a partnership with the NAACP as a part of their Black Lives Matter campaign, and suggesting and implementing formatting changes to Batog’s official website as well as on their social media profiles.
Most of my applied academic coursework came from my marketing classes taught at Pitt, but I had to take much of the coursework and do further research on specifically marketing luxury products. I also learned a great amount about marketing internationally, and I now have a much deeper understanding of what exactly goes into global selling. Most of my skills developed were centered around communications and brand/social media management, but it was interesting because I learned these skills in a completely new context. It was challenging to consider the role a luxury brand would play in terms of social media, and much of my posts were meant to be catered towards celebrities and wealthy individuals overseas – definitely not my usual demographic on my own Instagram posts. Overall, I think this gave me insight into the different techniques and strategies behind using social media to market internationally.
My biggest challenge was adjusting to working both remotely and without a rigid schedule. I’m typically the type of person who relies on the structure of having very specific class times, so I had to adapt to my supervisor’s very loose schedule. She would often tell me, “It’s not the number of hours you put into the job. It’s the quality of the work you do.” I found that to be a very big cultural difference between the United States and Italy in that sense. Many professionals in the states are focused on logging a specific number of hours each week, while those in Italy care much more about how effective one is when they do work.
My biggest accomplishment was helping with the Black Lives Matter collection through the collaboration with the NAACP and structuring the posts to promote the campaign. This was meaningful to me in the sense that it gave my work a purpose – I’m much more passionate about helping others obtain justice and equality than I am about selling luxury hats. This project was the most memorable one for me during my time interning for Batog.
By the end of my internship, I decided that I’m not interested in pursuing a career in marketing or, really, the luxury industry at all. However, it did make me much more interested in learning about Italian culture, and I’m excited to continue pursuing my minor in Italian at the University.
My classes went by incredibly smoothly - honestly, a little too smoothly because it felt like the summer flew by way too quickly. I took two classes through CAPA, Analyzing and Exploring the Global City in London and Cross-Cultural Psychology in Florence. The classes were small, and the class structures made me feel comfortable to engage in conversations and discussions constantly. My professors made themselves readily available any time we had any questions or issues with the course, and all my emails were answered almost immediately, which I really appreciated.
I particularly enjoyed having conversations with my Cross-Cultural Psychology professor, Dr. Runge. She initiated so many conversations and ethical questions in class, and she was happy to discuss more ideas with me over email. We’d email back and forth throughout the summer term discussing our thoughts on the topics, and it made me feel very connected to her. I could easily see myself visiting the CAPA center when I inevitably visit both Florence and London, and I will absolutely stop in and say hello to my professors from this term.
Overall, my experience with CAPA completely shocked me in the best way possible. I went into the program knowing nobody, and I left after 6 weeks having connected with people from all over the United States as well as London, Florence, Sydney, and Dublin. Although I was hesitant at first, I am overwhelmingly glad that I took part in both the remote classes and the remote internship. I can’t wait to take part in a program in real life in the future!
Sarah Harmon is an official CAPA vlogger for summer 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Global Management, Political Science, and French major from the University of Pittsburgh, she is remotely studying abroad and interning in Florence this summer.
Sarah's journey continues so stay tuned.