For Spring Break, I was very lucky to have my family come and visit me here in Europe! We visited Vienna and Prague, two cities with their own unique past, rich culture and beautiful sights. I met my family in Florence, which let them have a little taste of Italy before we headed off on our adventures!
Our first stop was Vienna, Austria a city full of music, beautiful architecture and good food. We watched the incredible Lipizzaner horses, at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, as they performed movements of classical dressage, dating back hundreds of years. Afterward we enjoyed a show from the Vienna Boys’ Choir, one of the most known boys’ choir in the world; it only consists of sopranos and altos, it was truly beautiful hearing them sing. Later we visited the Hofburg Palace and the summer home of the Habsburgs, Schonbrunn Palace. The Vienna Easter market was one of my favorites, since there were so many hand-crafted Easter eggs to choose from. It was a busy few days in Vienna, but I had so much fun exploring with my family!
The second half of Spring Break was spent in Prague, a city definitely worth visiting. It has so much character, every building is a little different everywhere you turn. We went inside Prague Castle, once the seat of power for Bohemian kings, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia. It was enormous, yet so intricate with one of the best views of the city. We visited the Lennon wall and enjoyed strolling across the Charles Bridge to the Prague Easter market where we enjoyed live performances and tasty Czech food!
Both cities are so magical and special in their own way. Since no one in my family had been to Vienna or Prague, it was so much fun exploring both cities with them!
Hello, I am Harrison Williams and I am a junior marketing student here this semester with OUA. The Price College of Business students recently took a group trip to Milan and I will tell you all about it. I have never taken a strong interest in fashion, but it was incredibly difficult to go to Milan during fashion week and not be mesmerized.
As a group we all got to see the duomo Milano, which is one of the most pristine and captivating cathedrals in the world. It was so much grander than I had ever expected, I caught myself getting left being from my group because I kept stopping to stare. Luckily for us, all of the incredible stores were right around that square. We got to tour through all the high-end stores like Versace, Gucci, and Prada, while I was sweating just thinking about the damage I really wanted to do to my bank account. My personal favorite store was Ferrari, where when you would open a door there would be some wind followed by the sound of a Ferrari zooming by. Italy’s elections are going to happen March 4th, and we actually got to see everyone gathering to hear Matteo Salvini give a speech for his presidential campaign. It was a phenomenal experience getting to witness a scenario like that out of nowhere.
The whole city was at a level of fashion that I have not ever seen, the sheer amount of style and availability to it was very infectious to us, we could not help but dress up and buy new clothes. Throughout this whole experience our professor Ron Davison gave us great insights into our classes through firsthand experiences. We are taking the class selling and negotiation, and Ron actually let us watch him use the tactics he was teaching us in class to negotiate with the saleswoman at Versace to obtain a great discount. Overall, we had such a great time and really got to enjoy the city and we still got to learn some new things while we were here, I would say that is a successful trip!
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!
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).
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!
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)!
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.
“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.”
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.
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.