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An Interview with a CEA CAPA Insider on Their Internship Abroad in Florence

July 21, 2023
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

Interviewing a CEA CAPA Insider on Their Internship Abroad in Florence 

CEA CAPA interviewed Lydia Macnair, CEA CAPA Florence Insider, on their internship abroad experience with NOSOTRAS.

Q: What made you choose Florence, Italy as your study abroad destination? 

Macnair: If you asked me a year ago if I saw myself studying abroad in Florence, my answer would be no. Three of my four siblings all studied abroad. One of my older sisters even had her honeymoon in Italy. It was always something that my family encouraged me to do but I felt it was way out of my comfort zone. So, I attended a study abroad session at my school and saw a flyer for CEA CAPA. I talked to my family about all the study abroad destinations and everyone suggested either Florence or Rome. After doing research, I picked Florence because it’s a smaller city and figured I’d have a better chance to connect with the locals. From the food, art, history, and culture I’m in awe. The locals are so nice and want to help. They’re interested in getting to know you and where you’re from. Every street in Florence is unique and I enjoy how walkable it is! 

Student standing in front of Duomo in Florence

Q: How have you used social media to document and share your study and internship abroad experiences in Florence? How has it connected you with other students and locals?  

Macnair: TikTok and Instagram are my go-to tools for capturing and showcasing various aspects of my study abroad experience. Through videos and posts, I’ve shared snippets of my day-to-day life, offering glimpses into the beautiful city, cultural encounters, and the learning opportunities I've had. As a CEA CAPA Insider, I’ve been actively involved in sharing my study abroad journey. This involvement sparked engagement from fellow students who reached out through direct messages and comments, expressing their curiosity about my time studying abroad. I’m humbled by the messages I received, and I'm more than happy to share insights and provide guidance based on my personal experience. 

One of my primary motivations for documenting my journey is to inspire and encourage other black students to explore study abroad opportunities. By showcasing my own experiences as a black student studying abroad in Florence, I hope to break down barriers and demonstrate that this is a viable option for students of all identities  and backgrounds. It’s been fulfilling to receive messages from students who found inspiration in my content and expressed their aspirations to embark on their study abroad adventures. Social media has connected me with a diverse range of individuals beyond my immediate program. I've had the opportunity to connect with fellow students from different universities who are also studying abroad in Florence. Through shared experiences, we formed virtual friendships and exchanged advice, fostering a sense of camaraderie and support within the study abroad community. I’m grateful for the platform social media provides to not only document my journey but also to inspire and connect with others on similar paths. 

Student admiring Cinque Terre view

Q: Tell us a bit about your internship placement. How does it complement your studies and your understanding of the field?  

Macnair: I’m currently interning with a non-profit company called NOSOTRAS. They help immigrant women and boy minors aged 16-18 from various parts of the world. The company helps these women and boys by assisting them with housing, employment, enrolling in healthcare, and assisting them to doctor and hospital visits. Many of these women have experienced abuse, genital mutilation, and other forms of violence. The program acts as a crutch for them and the goal is for them to be able to self-sustain on their own. Some of these women even have children. NOSOTRAS helps these kids get enrolled in school and many volunteers assist with watching children who aren’t yet old enough to attend school. Internships in Italy compared to ones I’ve heard about in the U.S. are a lot less structured.  

It’s very relaxed with a laid-back work life balance here and it took time for me to adjust to this. I’m used to being met with a list of tasks or jobs that I needed to complete, and I didn’t get that here. After talking with CEA CAPA Staff, I realized that I had to take charge. Ultimately, I was responsible for what I gained from this experience. So, I did just that. This organization plays a vital role in addressing the multifaceted needs of these vulnerable individuals by providing them with housing, necessities, and support in navigating the healthcare system. I want to work in healthcare administration. Through my experiences at NOSOTRAS, I’ve witnessed the critical role that effective healthcare administration plays in addressing the complex needs of vulnerable populations. I’m committed to harnessing my passion, knowledge, and leadership skills to promote equitable access to healthcare, enhance organizational efficiency, and ultimately contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities. 

group of student interns and volunteers taking a group pic

Q: What are some of the unique challenges you’ve faced as an intern in a foreign country? How have you overcome these challenges and what valuable lessons have you learned? 

Macnair: One of the primary challenges was the language barrier. Communicating effectively with colleagues and clients in a language different from my native tongue required extra effort and patience. To overcome this challenge, I practiced conversational skills with locals and used Google Translate and nonverbal communication. Gradually, my language proficiency improved, enabling me to engage more confidently in professional settings.

Another challenge was adjusting to the cultural norms and work practices of the host country. Each culture has its own set of customs, etiquette, and professional expectations. Initially, I faced difficulties in understanding the local work culture and navigating social interactions. To overcome this, I observed and learned from my colleagues, sought guidance from mentors, and actively participated in cultural activities. By immersing myself in the local customs, I gained a deeper appreciation for cultural differences and learned to adapt my behavior accordingly. These challenges have provided valuable lessons that extend beyond the internship experience.

I learned the importance of cultural sensitivity, adaptability, and effective communication in a diverse and globalized world. I discovered the power of resilience and a willingness to step out of my comfort zone. Moreover, overcoming these challenges has fostered my self-confidence, expanded my problem-solving abilities, and enhanced my ability to thrive in unfamiliar environments. These lessons will benefit me both personally and professionally, enabling me to navigate future challenges and contribute meaningfully to a multicultural context. 

Fruit on display at market

Q: Can you share a memorable experience from your study and internship abroad program in Florence? How has it impacted your personal growth and cultural awareness?  

Macnair: One of my most memorable experiences from this program was an event that my internship director took me to. It was a presentation on a book called “Mapping Black Europe” The presentation was based on a chapter called “Black Italia” written by Kwanza Musi Dos Santos. It was hosted in a culture center in Florence called The Rediscovery Planet. I learned about racial injustice that black people have faced in Italy. I also learned about the first anti-racism protest that took place in Rome in 1989. I learned about Italy's history of racism and oppression.

I also learned about different monuments and statues, mainly in Rome, that have a deeper meaning than people think. One of these is The Monument to the Fallen of Dogali which is in Rome. The battle was fought in 1887 between the Italians and Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians lost their lives due to this. It’s kind of twisted they have a monument remembering the Italian soldiers who went there with the goal of colonial expansion. Many people don’t know the history behind this. 

I also heard the perspectives of black people who live in Italy and about BLM protests that took place in Italy as well. This experience was very impactful to me because I’m a black woman in Italy. It was amazing to connect with other black women and be in a space full of black history and archives. This had an impact on my cultural awareness because it opened my eyes and educated me on issues that I had no idea happened. As a black woman, I had doubts about coming to a European country, but this presentation and center gave me a sense of comfort. 

Student standing in front of Italian city view

Q: How do you think this study and internship abroad experience will affect your future – both personally and professionally? 

Macnair: On a personal level, immersing myself in a new culture and environment has enabled personal growth and self-discovery. It challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, adapt to unfamiliar situations, and become more independent. This experience gave me resilience, self-confidence, and a broader perspective on the world. Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds enhanced my cross-cultural communication skills and cultivated a deeper appreciation for global diversity. Professionally, studying abroad offered me unique opportunities to expand my network and gain insights into different healthcare systems, policies, and practices. By engaging with professionals, attending industry-specific events, and potentially undertaking internships or research projects, I acquired valuable hands-on experience and established connections within my field. These connections could lead to future career opportunities, mentorship, or collaborations. Additionally, the global perspective I gained through studying abroad makes me a competitive candidate in the job market, as employers increasingly value individuals with international experience and cultural competence. 

Beyond these things, the impact of my internship and study abroad experience extends far into the future. It has broadened my horizons, enhanced my adaptability, and equipped me with valuable transferable skills in an ever-changing globalized world. The memories, friendships, and lessons learned during this period have shaped my personal and professional journey, enabling me to navigate diverse environments, embrace challenges, and contribute meaningfully in my chosen field. 

Student standing in front of Pisa

Q: Do you have any advice for future interns? 

Macnair: My advice is to plan and embrace the opportunity for cultural immersion. Start early by researching programs, understanding student visa requirements, and considering logistics like housing and cost of living. Once abroad, make a conscious effort to immerse yourself in the local culture. Embrace new experiences, try local cuisine, learn the language, and participate in cultural activities. Being open-minded and flexible is crucial. Embracing differences and adapting to new situations will enrich your experience and foster personal growth. Take advantage of networking opportunities, connect with professionals in your field, and build international connections. Lastly, remember to balance work and exploration. While the internship is important, also make time to explore your host country, visit nearby attractions, and make lasting memories. Studying abroad and interning internationally can be a transformative experience, broadening your horizons, enhancing your global perspective, and equipping you with valuable skills for future success. 

Group of 6 friends take a group picture

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