Molly Donnell- Cinque Terre

This past Saturday, February 17th, a group of 18 OUA students and some staff took a trip to Cinque Terre! Cinque Terre is translated to “5 lands” and is a group of towns off the Mediterranean Sea! We took an early train, leaving around 6:30. We had some troubles (missing our connecting train), so we ended up getting to the fourth town, Vernazza, to drop off our luggage around 1 PM! We grabbed lunch and went to look at the spectacular view from Vernazza. Then, we hopped on a train to go to the fifth town, Monterosso, which is a beach town. Since it was still February and cold, we just enjoyed the views and walked around the beach. A group of us went on a small hike up a hill to get this view!

It was a foggy day, so you can’t see the hilltops and the water was crystal blue. After we explored a little more, we decided to head back to Vernazza, where we had a group dinner and evening activities.

The next day, we woke up and had breakfast (eggs and bacon!) before we left for the day. There were groups of people doing different things, but I went on a hike from town 4 to 3! It was about a mile and it took an hour, but we had gorgeous views the whole way! This is an example:

When we got to town three, we took a train to town 1 and met up with some friends for lunch! We shared memories and pictures to commemorate our time in Cinque Terre! A small group of people, spent their day in town 2 seeing the famous views it has to offer and they shared their photos with us so we could all see! As we all loaded up to take an afternoon train home, there was a unanimous decision that we loved Cinque Terre and would hopefully get to come back again!

Padova e Venezia: By Thomas Marciano

This past weekend, OUA students went on an exiting trip to Padova and then Venice! We got up early in the morning in order to make it down to the train station by 7:20 and thankfully, we all made it. The train ride took a few hours. We passed the time primarily by sleeping and gazing outside at the beautiful Italian landscape. When we arrived in Padova, we went to the breathtaking Scrovegni chapel, which was painted by Giotto, the early Renaissance artist. Professor Kirk was quite passionate as he described how much of an impact Giotto had had on the art movement of the time, as he broke away from the traditional gothic style of heavy symbolism and limited sentimental appeal. Throughout his paintings, the people are often engaged in actions and expressing emotion that really helps connect them to the viewer and help them understand what is happening in the scenes.

At this point in time we broke for lunch. I went to a lovely pizza place with a group and then some fine Italian shopping. I just picked up a burgundy hoodie but there were definitely a lot of sales to be had with some items being a full 70% off! We then rejoined the group and we all went to the local university where Galileo taught and many advances in medicine were made. Our tour guide spoke English, and like Kirk, spoke with passion about the importance of her surroundings. The anatomical theater was easily my favorite, as it had been persevered very well since the late 1800s, when it ceased to be used. At around 7:00 or so we had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant.

Next was Venice! We all broke up into smaller groups and took the one-hour train trip to Venice. I was awe-struck when I had first left the station, as it was so full and bustling with “Carnevale” life. My group walked towards Piazza San Marco and on the way, we picked up some delightful masks. I was the only one to go with the full mask (which was a bit pricier) but in my defense, it looked freakin’ cool. We had lunch at a lovely outdoor café where we had meat lasagna and pizza whilst overlooking one of the many canals. Piazza San Marco was crowded, but it was still enjoyable to see how many thousands of people could fit in one small place. At this point our group split into two smaller groups and mine managed to visit the basilica and do some more exploring away from the crowds. We then took the 6:25 train back to Arezzo and after posting to Instagram about my adventures, I went to sleep (albeit at midnight).

Caroline Curtis– Siena

On Friday, February 2nd, OUA spent our first day traveling around Italy together. Our first stop: Siena! After jumping off the bus, we were lead immediately to the Basilica San Domenico. After hearing about some of its history (including the severed head and thumb of St. Catherine which reside inside!) from Kirk Duclaux, we entered into the church. We were left to explore the church on our own time, allowing us to take in the grand space, its multitude of altars, and all of the artwork that is scattered throughout the church.

We then ventured to the Palazzo Pubblico, located on the Piazza del Campo, of Siena. Nearly every major room in the town hall contained frescoes, each with their own unique story or message. Our last stop in Siena was the Duomo, or the Siena Cathedral. The façade alone was intricate enough to be stared at for hours. This Cathedral was absolutely breathtaking, grandiose in both stature and detailing. Never before had I seen a building as magnificent as this. We took our time exploring the Cathedral, making sure we observed every detail, every nook, and every artistic feature.

After a quick look around the city, our group headed back to Arezzo. It was a long day, but rewarding nonetheless! We were thankful to come home to the most delicious pizza, courtesy of our Center Coordinator, Leanna!

Welcome to OUA Spring 2018!

We arrived here in Arezzo, January 15th, after one of the longest, most exhausting flights we’ve ever taken. Thankfully, we had fellow OUA students to keep us company during the 12+ hour endeavor. The *monastery (it’s actually called the “Kathleen & Francis Rooney Family Residential Learning Center”, but we like to keep things simple & some/most of us can’t ever remember its name) welcomed us in (sleep-deprived, out-of-shape and all) with open arms after the 15-minute walk up *The Hill, from the bus that brought us from Rome. All 40 of us dropped our luggage off by the front door and collapsed in the *Great Hall (I know you’re thinking Harry Potter, but it’s far more quaint & there’s a gorgeous grand piano that time-to-time fills the monastery with classic Tuscan melodies).

After the rush of orientation week, the awkwardness of first impressions and the beginning of a fresh semester: we’re here now. We’ve found our place among one another—and we’re ready for adventure.

This blog is to commemorate our time here in Europe.


*The “monastery” (and will be referred to henceforth) is where students & faculty live during semester or summer programs! The 32,000-square-foot center was renovated from a 13th century cathedral and is supposedly haunted???



*The Hill is basically a huge hill and our only way to civilization and the Annex (where most of our classes are held). The 15-minute up-hill walk to the monastery has already proven to be enough exercise to burn off the 1,000’s of carbs we eat daily (oh, & a friendly reminder that we’re all desperately out-of-shape)!

Lisa Egede: Flexline Tech

Ever since my arrival in Arezzo, I have been observing and taking in the culture around me. From how Italians behave in restaurants to how Italians dress, every norm here differs vastly from what I am used to in the U.S. As I have begun to adapt to Italian culture I have also noticed I am beginning to follow some Italian norms myself.
There are a lot of unspoken rules and do’s and don’ts in Italian culture. A lot of rules can be learned in the work setting, which is where I have done a lot of observing through my internship. My internship for the Fall semester is at Flexline Tech, a software company in Arezzo. The software centers around photo editing with a specialization in jewelry in the commercial world. The atmosphere is very relaxed and my co workers seem very close because of the company’s small size. I am enjoying learning about the software and working on the blogs that the company runs. Its been a couple of weeks since my internship began, but I am already observing and enjoying some of the perks that come with interning at an Italian owned company. First thing, lunch time is important! My internship is open from 8:30-12:30pm. From 12:30pm to 2:30pm the office is closed for lunch. I found this somewhat shocking at first, but I actually enjoy the concept a lot. In America, stores usually do not close for lunch. Here in Italy, meal times in general are very important. With the 2 hour lunch break I notice my co workers come into work more refreshed and focused. The result is quality work and customer service. Another is that coffee is important. There is a free coffee machine at my internship, which I enjoy a lot.
Now that I have covered some norms and observations about the work culture in Italy, I will now cover some dos and dont’s in Italian culture.
1- I have observed that being loud in public, especially when drinking, is something that can be frowned upon here. In America, it is common for people to act loud and belligerent when there are even slightly intoxicated. Because the drinking culture here is so relaxed, and having beer with lunch is considered normal, Italians are much more in tune with the conversations they are having with each other.
2- Another thing I have noticed is that pets are everywhere! A long with this, pets are trained and obedient. This is something that is not common for most pets in America… which is why having pets in public in the US is not very common (unless the pet is a service animal). When pets misbehave in public in Italy, it is looked down upon.
3-A big “Do” in Italy is to have style! Even when Italians are making a quick trip to the grocery store, they dress up. It is definitely something I have grown to admire (and try to do). This is even similar in the work place. Even though my coworkers at my internship usually only talk to customers on the phone or via skype, they usually are aware of what they are wearing.
-Lisa Egede
“The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Oklahoma, OU in Arezzo, or any other affiliate entity.”

Seth Bryant: EU Strategic Planning

In this week’s internship meeting we discussed the concept of brain drain.  When I first saw this topic on the schedule I assumed it would be some topic regarding mental exhaustion.  I didn’t have any particular reason for this just an assumption based on the name.  I was surprised then when instead the topic was actually about the drain of talent and intellect from a country as its citizens go abroad to find work.  I had heard of the concept before but coming from America I had almost an opposite perspective on the problem.  Rather than being the place that people are draining out of America is, for the vast majority, where people are draining into.  This means that the US receives the positive end of brain drain, instead of losing skilled individuals America is far more prone to gain large numbers of individuals from places like India and China.  This is unfortunately not the situation that Italy faces.  Instead, Italy is the place from which, to be colloquial, brains are drained.  This means that Italy faces a shortage of intelligent laborers, which as we discussed last week are becoming and will continue to become the most important workers in the employment landscape of the future.  Part of the reason for this is that Italy’s youth unemployment levels are very high.  This leads to many younger individuals to leave the country to find work and not return.  This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Italy, like Japan though to a lesser degree, is an aging country.  This creates the problem that more and more positions will be filled by career employees who don’t want to leave jobs they are comfortable in to make room for new employees. While this is a worse problem in Italy it is not uncommon in America either.  A common critique for my generation is that we just don’t want a job enough to go out and find one.  This ignores the fact that given modern job-finding conditions, such as positions already being filled and higher initial employment requirements, this is not that feasible.  This problem has additional complications which pertain to my internship.  As you probably know my internship is at the town hall in Arezzo.  One of my first experiences was a conference in Bologna where the city was seeking out professional advice for a better performance evaluation system for their senior civil service.  You see in Italy senior members of the government are extremely difficult to fire.  This comes about from a combination of Italian laws and the power of unions in Italian society.  This difficulty is true even if a senior civil servant is performing below evaluations, a near impossibility given that many define their own objectives to be measured by.  This means that the Italian government is an even more difficult position in terms of trying to attract young talent because they are unable to be rid of even the employees they would like to be let alone the ones who actually do a good job.

-Seth Bryant

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Oklahoma, OU in Arezzo, or any other affiliated entity.

Sheila Kiley: OUA Social Media Marketing

The Social Media Marketing Internship position that I hold has everything to do with digital marketing, social media strategy and creative content. I want to dig more into what I am responsible for throughout this internship. My first duty is updating the touchscreen that we have at the Monastery. I am responsible for making sure a new schedule is posted every week of our upcoming activities within OUA, as well as informing the viewers of various happenings that are going on in Arezzo. Second, I am in charge of the Social Media Contest that allows students to show off their amazing travels, experiences and friendships. At the beginning of every week, I choose the winner from the previous week, as well as announcing the contest theme. Students enter the contest by tagging OUA’s Instagram account into their pictures or using the hashtag #OUASMC17 (OUA Social Media Contest). The winner of each week gets a fun, new prize; some examples include American snacks that I get from Florence or a free OUA t-shirt. Additionally, I help run OUA’s social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Every week, I choose a student to do a Snapchat Takeover where they takeover OUA’s Snapchat account for a day. I often post to OUA’s various social media outlets about the student activities that happen here, delicious food that we experience, as well as reposting some of the students’ pictures. Lastly, I am in charge of OUA’s website. I choose someone every week to write a short blog post about life in Italy or some activity that they loved. This way, people are able to read detailed versions of how amazing Arezzo is.

Although I get to work at the Monastery – with OUA students and faculty – there are many cultural aspects that have opened my eyes to the way social media works. I have the opportunity to express to students back in Norman about the amazing opportunity that awaits them in Arezzo. Social media is constantly growing and becoming one of the most widely used ways of advertising and marketing for a product or brand. By using each media outlet, people are able to see what life is like in Italy, as well as get a taste for the culture that we embrace here. It also allows OUA to be recognized by locals and become more integrated into the Arezzo community.

Coming to Arezzo, I had no idea that I would be interning. I did not have an internship coming here, but when I knew the OUA Social Media Marketing Internship position was open, I jumped on the opportunity. One of the cool things about this internship is that I have the opportunity to work with Eneida, a University of Siena student, who sometimes helps me with various projects. It is so fun to work with an Italian student! I do not know much Italian, but most of everyone that I talk to absolutely loves practicing their English by talking to Americans. Since they are always learning the proper way to speak English in their classes, they like to engage in conversations that include different slangs and idioms. I have noticed that they always ask questions of how to say something, and it is really fun to be able to teach people the way we think and speak.

Personally, I believe this internship was made for me. I have said before that social media is such a big interest of mine, because I love being able to use my creativity in different ways – whether it’s creating advertisements or flyers, writing blog posts or captions, or producing content for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I am a Public Relations major, so this internship was right down my alley. Digital marketing and strategy is a growing business in today’s world where technologically is rapidly advancing. It is really fun for me to have a lot of control over OUA’s marketing strategies, as well as working with other people to create the best account content.

One of my favorite parts about this internship is being able to work directly with OUA faculty. It is very apparent that they believe in my work ethic; they seek my advice for various concerns, they treat me like a professional and they support my work throughout challenging tasks. This is definitely not one of those internships where you run to get coffee for someone or stuff folders. This is a very hands-on experience that fully submerges you into the digital marketing field. While this internship is great experience for someone who is studying PR or Advertising, it is also great for someone who is just interested in working with social media or creative content. There is a wide range of things to be done, and I feel that this internship is good professional experience. It challenges you to use your time wisely, bring out your creativity and work on a team with professionals to enhance your brand.

One of the best parts about working with OUA is just that: working with OUA. It is convenient, flexible and comfortable. I am sure working as a social media intern at another company or brand would be just as beneficial for me as OUA’s internship is, but working with the very program that brought me to Italy automatically holds a special place with me. Before accepting this internship position, there was also another PR position open at a local museum. To be honest, I did not give much consideration to that one. The OUA Social Media Internship was something that fit my professional path like a puzzle piece, and I had no doubt in my mind that this was the internship that I wanted.

Social media marketing can be a stressful job at times. I am a very laid-back person that likes to go with the flow, but when it comes to the workplace, I like to have a schedule. If I could change one thing about this internship, it would be having a schedule. I like to know what I will be working on each day, or even each week, because it gives me time to prepare and come up with multiple ideas that could be used. With a short amount of time, it is difficult to be confident that the content I create is my best quality content. Having a schedule would allow me to brainstorm ideas and have more time to create the absolute best digital content for OUA. However, being allotted limited time allows me to practice my time management skills, as well as thinking and acting on my toes.

This internship has been incredibly beneficial for me. It is great experience in managing many types of media outlets at the same time and working with a team of professionals who also want the best branding. It is no question that this internship will strengthen my abilities. I am excited to see what the rest of the semester has in store!

-Sheila Kiley

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Oklahoma, OU in Arezzo or any other affiliated entity.

Lauren Romero: Museo Archeologico


The longer I stay in Italy, the more evident their economic crisis becomes. Fedderico confessed to me, one Sunday afternoon as we took a break from playing Scarabeo (the Italian version of Scrabble) with Lavinia, that he was worried about his daughter’s future. Lavinia, the vivacious eleven year old I teach how to paint on the weekends, attends school from Monday through Saturday and studies on average two hours every day after she gets home from her classes. She is perhaps the hardest working eleven year old I have ever known, and yet her father worries that it won’t be enough by the time she graduates from college. The current generation, my generation, has the highest average levels of education Italy has ever seen, but it also faces the highest unemployment levels of any generation currently living in the peninsula. Lucio Bianchi explained that it is a snake-biting-its-own-tail situation: Italians are having fewer children, the children currently attending school are not receiving an education that will prepare them for jobs after graduating college, there are so few jobs available for young adults because the older generation refuse to give up their positions based on a poor economy, young adults then become unemployed which further harms the economy, these same young adults have fewer kids because they simply cannot support them, and the cycle continues anew. What this has seen has been a massive emigration movement as Italians look abroad – usually Switzerland, as I’ve come to discover. In 2015, about 107,529 Italians between the ages of 18 and 34 moved out of their home country to look for jobs. Typically, they end up staying, and the generation gap back home continues to grow.


Olivia, my coworker at the Museo Archeologico asked me this morning if I wanted to come back to Italy to work after I graduate. I confessed that I really enjoyed the thought, and would be happy to do so if the fates allowed. She then frowned and her eyebrows furrowed. We spoke in the broken-English/broken-Italian way that has become our own sort of game as we try to meet each other partway to communication. She expressed, in not so many words, that the Italian economy was not so great right now, as lovely as the thought would be for me to return. She then pointed up with one finger, gesturing to the rest of the continent, “There are better opportunities in Europe.” A smile then crossed her face. “Like France”, she teased, knowing how much I love the language. Olivia mentioned two of her nieces. One is twenty eight and has been out of college for a while; she’s been searching for a job since graduation, with no luck. The other is twenty one and is exceptionally nervous about graduating because she fears the same fate.Olivia and I agreed that many millennials run themselves through the ground in student debt in order to stay in school longer, usually by taking up a minor or double majoring, and to delay the fear and – quite frankly the reality – of unemployment.


I admit it is a fear that I also hold. And I am not alone in this. Walking across OU’s campus, it is an undercurrent within every student I come across. Our futures are not as guaranteed as our parents’ were. In Italy, the average child does not leave the home of their mother and father until their late thirties.This is because they simply cannot afford to support themselves alone in such an economy.  In the United States, society still tries to force teenagers out of home at the ripe young age of their late teens, whether or not they have a job, and to spend the next four years of their lives accumulating debt that stacks up to well over 40,000 dollars. The possibility that many of them – many of us – will never be able to pay that off is absolutely terrifying. In America, my generation grew up during the housing market crash. In Italy, they are still living in an economic crisis.


All that I can say thus far is that it has built inside of us a resilience. No, a determination. If we cannot rely on what once was, we must make our best lives in what is. Or better yet, make improvements for what will be. An unguaranteed future does not mean an unguaranteed present. We are extremely conscious of our decisions, and the consequences of them over the long term. I think an effect as well is that we enjoy the present moments more. We cherish them. It is something I have been very reflective of during my time here in Italy, and my time here at the museum as well. Maria Gatto has invited me to an international museum conference in Firenze next month. I plan on attending. With my whole heart, I want to be there and I want to learn as much as I can from that experience. These incredible women have inspired me to branch out, make connections, and to aim high in spite of all this. On November 15th there will be speakers at the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio from the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, the Danish Centre of Arts & Interculture in Copenhagen, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among many other museums across Italy itself. The future is certainly in flux, but I do not doubt that these experiences make for a better life. That is, after all, what I aspire to most of all.

-Lauren Romero

The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Oklahoma, OU in Arezzo, or any other affiliate entity.

Jessica Garner: Ivan Bruschi

Casa Museo Ivan Bruschi: Multiculturalism

As this internship has progressed, and I have been more assertive with my communication and insight, this museum has evolved into a home in Arezzo for me. I am comforted by the history that surrounds me, blown away by the hardworking nature of my supervisors, and have seen the impact that my internship has on the community. I feel more confident in the opinions I can share, and I am being utilized more and more each day as I am learning the ins and outs of this unique and eclectic museum.

These past couple weeks I have moved from working on a visitor response survey, to restructuring the tours given at the museum, and also creating a workbook for kids so they can have an engaging experience with the antiques. I am getting to work with research, how guests perceive the museum around them, demographics, social media, and trying to quantify feelings, and it has so far been very fulfilling work. My next steps will be working on giving the tours myself, and gathering and interpreting the data from the surveys that are being completed. At times planning can be difficult; it is always a puzzle when we are comparing my class and meeting schedule to the museums hours and event schedule… But when I am working in the museum, I am lucky to be very passionate about the work that I am doing, and I always leave feeling accomplished.

Over the past few weeks of trial and error, I believe I am settling into the “feeling at home” phase of the cultural adjustment process. My “honeymoon” phase was quick but sweet as I was touring the museum and gallery, and getting to learn about the antiques that I would be writing about. The “culture shock” hit very quickly… As I would be greeted by guests, but could only hold small talk in Italian, it hit me how out of my comfort zone I was. My “gradual adjustment” to this new home of mine grew when I started to focus on the work that I was trying to complete, and challenging myself in phrases of Italian as I would hear them being spoken in the work place.

It Italy there are many phrases that can be useful in a working environment, such as simply saying “In bocca al lupo,” to wish someone good luck. “One example of a workplace conversation could be as follows:

Jess: “Vuoi che venga domani presto?”

Elisabetta: “Sì, Chi dorme non piglia pesci!”

Jess: “Va bene! Perché spero di finire il mio progetto.”

Elisabetta: “Uomo avvisato, mezzo salvato.”

Jess: “Vero, e questo progetto può richiedere tempo!”

In this conversation, Elisabetta is using a common Italian saying to let me know that I should come in early tomorrow, “because he who sleeps cannot catch fish.” And, if I know my project is going to take a long time, I should be in early to prepare, because it is best to be “forewarned to be forearmed.”

It is sometimes very difficult to feel at home when you are in a foreign place where you do not speak the language. Trying to learn a language is hard from scratch because “tra il dire e il fare c’é di mezzo il mare.” It is one thing to say you are going to learn another language, but it is a much harder task to commit to practicing it often and being open to embarrassment.  It is all about perspective when you are learning or teaching something new. When there is miscommunication, or you are not understanding what your supervisor is trying to convey, it is important to not take things too personally. Work hard on what you can, memorize phrases and a lot of hand gestures, and be proactive and assertive in your learning. You will start to feel at home in no time.

-Jessica Garner

“The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Oklahoma, OU in Arezzo, or any other affiliate entity.”

Kash Money

Greetings Earthlings, my name is Kash Barker, and I’m an Associate Professor and an Anadarko Presidential Professor in the OU School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. You may have seen me, and for part of the time, my wife Nina, hanging around from late September to late October – I was the cool guy.

Nina and I have been to 15 or so European countries, and some personal faves are Vienna, Barcelona, and Prague. And when I’m not thinking about my next lecture or eating at Pepe Delgado’s, I’m probably pining for an orchestra concert.

I’m originally from a little town called Pawhuska, OK (for better or worse, now known for The Pioneer Woman). I went to OU for BS and MS degrees, left for a PhD at the University of Virginia, and joined the faculty back at OU in 2008. I teach courses in applied engineering statistics and systems engineering, and my research interests lie in the reliability, resilience, and economic impacts of disruptions to infrastructure networks.

My 2017 trip to Arezzo was my third of hopefully many more to come. My classes, in Norman and in Arezzo, always end with pieces of advice from Uncle Kash, and one of those is “If you have a chance to go somewhere and experience life, do it.” As you’re living in central Tuscany for a semester (or longer), I’m preaching to the choir. But even in Arezzo, it’s easy to just hang out in the monastery and watch the new season of Stranger Things. Don’t do it! There are sights all over Italy to visit, and brand new experiences are a short train or plane ride away. Think about how much your plane ticket cost to get to Rome from Oklahoma City – you’ll have to pay that amount to come back to essentially any European city in the future (as opposed to the cheap weekend flights on Ryanair that you could buy now). You’ve got an opportunity that most students don’t have – take advantage of it!

-Kash Barker