Senior Emma Murray enjoys travel and experiencing different cultures, and a summer study abroad opportunity in Italy allowed her to do just that. The Aiken native studied for three weeks at the Florence University of the Arts through the Center for International Studies (CIS) Abroad.
A business administration major concentrating in marketing, Murray aspires to have a career marketing luxury brands. In Florence, she took a class in creative advertisement, where she and students from all over the world learned about Italy's consumer branding and marketing strategies.
"The class gave me a different perspective on marketing," she says. "We learned creative advertising strategies and the importance of brand reputation. For example, Italy has created a brand for itself centered around luxury and fine food and wine to sell its products to consumers."
While in Italy, Murray lived in an apartment with eight other female students. The CIS Abroad program offers direct enrollment as an international student, and credits are transferred back to USC Aiken. On-site counselors guided students through their journey, helping them adapt to life outside of the United States through orientation sessions and daily check-ins. They also coordinated and led weekend field trips.
"The program coordinators were amazing," Murray says. "They were extremely helpful and would send us messages about places to go and things to do."
Some of the sights Murray experienced included The David, Pitti Palace, the Uffizi Gallery, The Colosseum, and the Ponte Vecchio. She also enjoyed visiting Piazzale Michelangelo, where she could watch the sunset from a hilltop offering views of all of Florence.
Dinnertime was one aspect of Italian culture she particularly enjoyed, describing the meal as a huge social event involving many courses and spanning several hours. "We have a hustle culture in America, but in Italy they are very relaxed and focus on friends and family. It was very cool," she says.
While many students traveling abroad encounter a language barrier, Murray explains that most Italians know English and, while she did have to use simple terms, she didn't have difficulty communicating. However, she does wish she had learned more Italian before her trip. "Particularly in Northern Italy, the people seem to respect you more if you at least attempt to speak their language," she says.
Murray's biggest adjustment to life in Italy was perhaps the most rewarding: learning to adapt to change. As an Aiken native, she is accustomed to familiar faces and surroundings. "In Italy, the biggest adjustment was doing things on my own. I had to figure things out by myself," she says. "Being able to adapt to a new culture and tackle the unknown was the most rewarding experience."
Despite these minor adjustments to overcome, Murray's travel abroad experience ended with no regrets. "I have always been interested in learning how life is outside of America and seeing a different culture," she says. "I think it's also great for business majors to see firsthand the business operations in other countries."