CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Isabella Verardi
Meet Isabella, a dual major in finance and supply chain management at the University of Pittsburgh who spent spring semester 2016 studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Below, she talks about her favorite classes and the professor who had the biggest impact on her experience, a quiet and sweetly-scented place with a great view over the city and two of the main ways she was able to build relationships with locals while abroad.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ISABELLA VERARDI: I am Isabella Verardi, a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh. I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and have lived there for my whole life. I am pursuing a dual major in finance and supply chain management, with interest in minors in Italian and international business. I greatly enjoy spending time with my family and friends, volunteering with and participating in activities held by several clubs I am involved in, running, and reading. Studying abroad in Florence, Italy during the spring 2016 semester was one of the best decisions I have made in my life thus far, greatly contributing to my admiration of Italian culture and the beautiful language within.
CW: Why did you choose the CAPA program and why Florence specifically?
IV: The University of Pittsburgh and CAPA withhold a strong connection and advise students to take advantage of the opportunities within. After touring Italy with my family about six years ago, I remembered Florence as my favorite city; the art, people, culture, and history is mesmerizing. After being informed of the program in Florence located in the heart of the city, I could not look past CAPA Florence.
CW: Talk about academics abroad: Which classes did you take in Florence? How were you able to connect your experience of the city itself and your academics?
IV: I was enrolled in five courses in Florence: "Italian 002", "Managing Global Supply Chains", "Understanding Modern Italy", "Cross-Cultural Psychology", and "Renaissance Art History". While my course load was not light, each class was enjoyable and unique. I had two favorite classes: "Managing Global Supply Chains" and "Italian 002". Both classes were very small in size, encouraging conversation and interaction within the classroom. Not only did my teachers incorporate Italian culture into class time, but also took us to explore around Italy. Identifying differences in business strategies, economics, and language in Italy compared to the United States was interesting and valuable.
CW: Tell us the story of someone in Florence who made an impact on your life in some way.
IV: My Psychology teacher in Florence, Mags, was incredible. She educated us on adjusting to a new culture with great advice, as she moved from the United States to Florence years ago. Not only was her course informative on Italian culture, but also understanding current events and global relations. The refugee crisis was further explained, differences in values across cultures were examined, and we even learned common Italian gestures and exclamations. Mags created a welcoming environment for students studying abroad, helped us adapt to daily life in Florence, and exposed us to common places Florentines visit! Her class was exciting, and Mags’ dedication to her students and their well-being was incredible and unforgettable.
CW: How were you able to build connections with the local community while you were in Florence? Why were these experiences important to you? Would you recommend them to other students?
IV: While I was in Florence, I participated in both the GANZO! and teaching programs.
GANZO!, connecting students with families in Florence, was an incredible experience. I met bi-weekly with a family with a mother, father, and two children. Not only did the family prepare and share delicious meals as traditional Italian families do, but also exposed me to what it is like to raise a family in Italy. With close-knit relationships, transitions between speaking Italian and English, and a true perspective of daily life as a Florentine, the experience was unforgettable.
I also taught at San Gaspare Elementary School on a weekly basis. San Gaspare exposed me to teaching strategies and classroom environments in Florence. Comparing my education in the United States to what I observed in Italy was interesting and beneficial. The differing systems have their strengths. I was most importantly able to personally connect with students in the classroom. Teaching the students English and learning Italian from them in return was an added bonus! I will never forget the experience with the fifth grade classroom, their bursting personalities, and their awesome English speaking skills at such a young age!
CW: As a finance and supply chain management major, what would you recommend as must-see or do experiences for other students who have similar professional interests?
IV: The experiences I found to be most beneficial in Florence ensued because of my choice of courses. I highly recommend taking "Managing Global Supply Chains"; my professor Lorenzo provided us with hands-on experiences, taking us to his warehouse and demonstrating the procurement and distribution processes. I did not take any finance courses in Florence, but acknowledged my surroundings while I was there to incorporate financial aspects of learning. I followed the currency exchange rates, budgeted the money I was spending, and acknowledged current events; especially when traveling. I highly recommend taking an Italian speaking course in Italy as well. My teacher dedicated her time and displayed care for her students at all times; her patience and genuine interest in teaching was admirable and beneficial! Learning foreign-languages is challenging, but a fun teacher with strongly planned lessons will lead you to success. CAPA teachers and the staff as a whole were incredible. Having an all-encompassing awareness of the foreign environment you find yourself in and following local and global events is necessary during study-abroad endeavors!
CW: Share your top 3 tips for other students heading to Florence this year!
IV: Three tips I have for students studying in Florence:
1. Travel outside of your comfort zone, and even out of the country! Don't only go to the recommended tourist attractions, but also places locals suggest – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
2. Frequent the same caffés and panino shops. The workers and owners will remember you and appreciate your business, and you may even establish a bond that you can re-visit when you return to your study abroad country!
3. Take advantage of every opportunity. You are in the most beautiful city in the world, full of astonishing art, history, and people; don’t take your semester for granted and waste time away, because it will be over before you know it!
CW: What do you see yourself doing when you graduate? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
IV: I am currently pursuing a dual-degree in finance and supply chain management at the University of Pittsburgh’s College of Business Administration. Studying abroad solidified my interest in an International Business Certificate and Italian minor. Career-wise, I am striving to enter a position that implements each aspect of my areas of study. A position employing finance, supply chain management, international business, and Italian is attainable, considering connectivity among the fields. I am determined to discover new interests and apply my experiences to internships and a full-time position! Ultimately, I would love to be affiliated with institutions in Italy as part of my position with an organization in the United States.
CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Florence" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
IV: I found a few viewing points of Florence, caffés, and restaurants to be my favorite, mostly because they were aside from the madness of tourism. One location was DolcéAmaro, a small caffé on Borgo la Croce. The quaint caffé had welcoming workers, a presentable and relaxing environment, and great coffee and pastries. Le Campane was a great restaurant recommended by my Italian teacher, freshly serving pizza from a brick oven and a variety of Tuscan dishes with authentic preparation. The boisterous Italian environment was exciting and a terrific experience with my family when they came to visit. My favorite view of Florence was from the Giardino delle rose, or rose garden. With a variety of rose species, a serene overlook, and calm and fragrant grounds to relax on, the garden was a sweet escape.
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
IV: Since I have studied abroad, my breadth of knowledge has expanded. My cultural awareness has increased, and my appreciation for unique people and environments has flourished. Not only do I enjoy meeting people from all over the world, but also realize how much you learn when doing so; we are all incredibly different yet simply alike. It is refreshing to meet new people and learn about their culture, allowing you to become a more diverse and educated person. Making connections with people around the world and sustaining them is exciting, and also initiates incentive to travel more! With discussion and collaboration, great progression occurs. Working with students, professionals and families from other colleges and global destinations inspired me to continue traveling. We think we know so much, when in reality we know so little. I encourage you to begin a life-long journey of learning by studying abroad in Florence and traveling a few times within! You surely will not regret it, and unimaginable beauty awaits you.