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Global Immersion in Italy Blog by Marin Olson

Global Immersion in Italy Blog by Marin Olson
Marin Olson, a junior marketing major from Julesburg, Colorado, is studying abroad June 11-July 7 in Italy as part of the College of Business Global Immersion program Italy: Analyzing Supply Chain Management Around the Amalfi Coast. She and her classmates will learn about the supply chain management systems in both Italian and multinational companies, tour Italian businesses such as an olive oil factory, go on excursions to places like Pompeii and more during the four-week trip. She looks forward to experiencing a different culture, taking herself out of her comfort zone and seeing the world outside of Colorado and Nebraska. After the program, she plans to meet her brother and cousin in Florence and from there, explore more northern parts of Italy and possibly make a trip to Croatia.

8/3/2017 – Coming Back

Surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Surrounded by beautiful scenery.
"How was your trip?"  
"It was really awesome."
That is about all I have been able to say to anyone who has asked me about my time abroad. Obviously I have so much more to say, but it is way too much to just ramble off in small talk. So for my final blog, I will attempt to describe my experience here for anyone who would like to read about it.
I wish God would let me share the pictures I have in my head with the world because the pictures I took do not even compare to what I saw in real life. I am thankful for the physical pictures, though, because going through them has allowed me to re-feel the emotions I felt when I first saw them.
After a few travel complications, gate changes and delays, some other students and I finally showed up at the Naples airport to meet up with a group of strangers who I would be spending every day with for the next four weeks. We all piled on a shuttle and were quickly laughing at the bus driver's lack of ability to drive up a hill but simultaneously amazed at Italians' ability to drive fast on two-lane roads the size of an American one-lane road and not crash. After miraculously making it to our school in Sorrento alive, it was hard to come to terms that we would be spending the next month in a resort town about 50 yards from a beach. 
Our first meal was a four-course meal on the marina at a four-star restaurant with four bottles of wine at our table for nine and a fork for each course. Apparently, Italians eat like this at every meal. Something we thought we could definitely get used to, but also knew we could not afford. Because we were in a resort town, eating out was even more expensive, so we spent most days eating like broke college students making average pasta and €1 sandwiches. At the end of our trip, some of us made it a point, though, to splurge on €25 (approximately $31) lobster. 
It seemed like we did everything on our first week there. We were eager to familiarize ourselves with our new home and walked about eight miles each day. We even contemplated hiking down a closed-off over-grown path just because we had already spent an hour or two searching for the destination. 
Our group was fortunate to have many different personalities on the trip: one who had everything planned to a T (Thanks Mallory!), a few "go with the flow" kind of people, some that liked to lay low, some who loved the history, and some who just wanted to have fun. However, we were all there to learn about supply chain and were lucky that the university had planned out several tours to supplement our class. 
Our tours included a vineyard, olive oil factory, limoncello factory, tourist agencies, pasta factory, coffee factory and mozzarella factory just to name a few. It was interesting to see how businesses vary from culture to culture. Every business we toured was a family owned and operated business that was now in at least the third or fourth generation of the family. Many of the businesses were actually started or taken over by women in the family, although men are still considered "superior" when it comes to business. The businesses ran by three or more generations showed that their business practices are successful; however, they spent most of our time talking about the history which shows their culture values history and reputation rather than efficiency.
Bonding over gelato!
Bonding over gelato!
Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius were everyone's favorite excursion. Everyone knows the story of Pompeii, but it is different when we are literally walking the streets of the town once completely covered in ashes from the volcanic eruption. Almost everything was preserved well enough to make out what houses belonged to wealthy people, what rooms were used for what, all the way down to what restaurants served pizza. How ironic it is that they built their town square to perfectly frame the mountain that would eventually erupt and destroy their entire city. We were a little like the people of Pompeii as we spent the first week in Sorrento on the terrace looking across the pond and marveling over the fact that we had a perfect view of an active volcano that could actually erupt any day. It was breathtaking to climb to the summit of Mount Vesuvius, look back towards the rest of Italy and realize that our backyard was literally a mountain range, even though the Mediterranean Sea was directly out our front door. 
My favorite overall part was the architecture that is so different from what we see in America. Almost every building was built in or before the 15th century. Even the youngest tree at the olive oil factory was older than the United States. The crime rate in Naples takes away from the beauty of the city, but the castles, palaces and even the mall of the city are so incredible that they brought me to tears. I have a completely new appreciation for architects and the builders who designed and built those buildings with little to no technology or machinery. 
I changed a lot as a person even after just a few weeks in Sorrento. As a very independent person, spending every waking moment with at least one other person should have drove me crazy. There were a few moments of exhaustion and frustration, but we all became close pretty quickly. There was not a lot of alone time but I grew to appreciate the company more than the silence. 
Where was the most important place during our time abroad? The balcony. We got to know each other best up there engaging in deeper conversations than we could have imagined. It was a place where we talked, sat in silence, hung out laundry or went to spend some time alone on the off-chance that nobody had that exact same idea at the same time. I think my homesickness was also cured by that balcony many times when all I had to do was step outside and think, "I'm in Italy. I'll be okay."
It is hard to complain while sitting in a country most people I know may never get to see in their entire lives. Our living situation was far better than my expectations; however, they probably hated us for cranking up the air conditioning to American standards. We had a few bug problems in our rooms (probably our fault for keeping food in there), but I would live in a tent if it meant I could spend another month in Italy. 
I think I am all “museum-ed out” for a few years, but I could definitely use a couple more pizza festivals in my life right now. 

7/5/2017 – Fourth of July in Italy

Fourth of July in Italy - Viewing Positano from the boat.
Fourth of July in Italy - Viewing Positano from the boat.
Our Fourth of July was spent differently than what the typical Independence Day looks like in America.
We set this day aside for our Civic Engagement Day to give back to the Sorrentine society after so many days of taking advantage of the experiences the town has given us.
We were on a bus by 6:45 a.m. and on our way to Positano for beach cleaning. To our surprise, we were dropped off on the side of the road where we then had to hike down steep rocks to the three beaches we were to clean. The first beach was occupied by a fisherman's family who lived very differently than I do in the U.S. Their house was full of garbage, and they didn't seem to mind. The young boy who lived there ran out to offer us coffee while we were working. We hiked around a rocky point to get to a big secluded beach. After picking up close to 20 large garbage bags of trash by 9:30 a.m., we hopped on a boat and rode the rest of the way to Positano on the water.
The guys went with a marine biologist who led our beach cleanup to snorkel in a cave. The girls took advantage of our free day by renting four spots on the beach and laid out after getting an early lunch. After a few hours, we headed out for gelato and then took a bus home.
We studied hard for a few hours for our Italian test that we took this morning, and all passed (woohoo!). Then we celebrated America's birthday the only way we know how to from 5,000 miles away – we chowed down on the best burgers in Italy.
There weren't any fireworks to help us celebrate, but we are thankful we got to spend the day contributing to the Sorrentine society. We know we are fortunate to come from our homes in America.

7/3/2017 – A Weekend in Rome

Panoramic view from the top of the Vatican.
Pompeii City Square with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Panoramic view from the top of the Vatican.

A weekend in Rome was just what we needed after three weeks in Sorrento. We were lucky enough to get class canceled for us on Friday, which allowed us to leave Thursday night for Rome via the train for a long weekend. 
Fireworks for an Italian national holiday welcomed us, but we all wanted to believe it was just an early Fourth of July celebration for the tourists. I think fireworks here are even more popular than back home. We get a show almost every other night from our terrace. 
The restaurant served us their special Roma pasta – caccio pepe (spaghetti with cheese and black pepper sauce) – that we'll be trying to perfect for months after we get home. We strolled through the city streets, admiring all of the major attractions at night. The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Pantheon are all breathtaking after dark. Of course, it wouldn't be right to end our first evening in Rome without gelato.
The atmosphere and hustle of Rome were a nice change of scenery from the resort town of Sorrento. The humidity of Rome in the evening and the fact we were off the coast for the first time in three weeks made it feel a little like home. We even got to step onto American soil during our tour at the U.S. Embassy, which we got to do thanks to Ellie's father. 
After our Embassy tour, we made our way to the Colosseum. As an obvious must-see and with no reservations, the lines were long, but thanks to a severely sprained ankle suffered by Nathan Hill (one of our fellow students) we were able to skip the line and cut the wait time to less than five minutes. It's so hard to try and describe the beauty of all these architectural and historical buildings and sculptures, as even pictures can't do them justice. After a long day, we lived every college student’s dream: we bought four euros worth of some of the best pasta Rome had to offer and enjoyed it by the Spanish steps. 
We explored Vatican City, which is a whole different country than Italy that is located in Rome, the next day. Nathan's ankle couldn't get us through the line this time, but the Vatican was well worth the wait. We saw one of Michaelangelo's sculptures which he made when he was 24-years-old and portrays a powerful image of Mary holding her crucified son. This was the only piece of art that he signed himself. The main floor alone took us almost two hours to get through, but a few of us decided to climb to the top of the cathedral and get a better look at the city. It was a total of 519 stairs and more than 30 stories through narrow spaces that at times required a rope in the middle of the spiral staircase because there was no room for an actual railing. Many people were turning around because the elevation and tight spaces were too overwhelming. After many moments of debating whether or not to join them in turning around, we made it to the top and were even more overwhelmed with the beauty and aesthetic of the city beneath us. 
The pure exhaustion and not eating for six hours led us to the nearest McDonald's - another great decision despite my hesitation to eat McDonald's in Italy. 
We returned to Sorrento after visiting almost everything there is to see in Rome. Ahead of us is a week of finals and, unfortunately, some temporary goodbyes. 

6/23/2017 – Capri and Pompeii

Pompeii City Square with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. The People of Pompeii didn't know that Mt. Vesuvius was a volcano at the time. The town square was built to frame the mountain, not knowing that the ashes from the same mountain would later destroy their civilization.
Pompeii City Square with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. The People of Pompeii didn't know that Mt. Vesuvius was a volcano at the time. The town square was built to frame the mountain, not knowing that the ashes from the same mountain would later destroy their civilization.

The adventures have continued through our second week in Sorrento, Italy. We had a once-in-a-lifetime weekend that consisted of traveling to the island of Capri, and then on to exploring the ruins of Pompeii and climbing the volcano that caused the destruction to the city.

Capri (which actually translates to “goat” and was named accordingly because herds of goats populated the island when it was found) is an expensive destination and home to several celebrities. We were taken there by boat and then bussed around the island where we would stop and explore the cities for a few hours. In Anacapri, we took a ski lift up to the highest point of the island where we could’ve seen a panoramic view of the whole island if the whole north side wasn’t covered by a cloud. We spent a few hours in Anacapri walking through high-end shops, which turned out to be cheap compared to what we would see the next hour walking through Capri. In Capri, we were able to walk through the beautiful Gardini di Augusto that overlooks the coast full of yachts. We spent the last hour in town searching for a store where we fit in (meaning it was not Gucci, Chanel, Moschino, etc.) to get out of the sun and into an air conditioned building.

The next day, despite our exhaustion from Capri, we trekked to the train station and boarded a train to Pompeii. We were prepared for an emotional experience but were mostly amazed by the history. For example, the Romans had built an entire city over the top of Pompeii, not knowing that under the hundreds of feet of ashes was the city that was destroyed by the volcano in 79 A.D. An unbelievable amount of the city has been salvaged and preserved by archeologists. My favorite part of the town was the town square, where in the distance you can see Mt. Vesuvius framed perfectly. It really hit me how powerful that image is now.

From Pompeii, we took a packed bus to the base of Mt. Vesuvius where we switched to a more efficient van to go up the mountain. The van took us to a point where we then got out and hiked the remaining mile to the peak. We were lucky in that it had rained the day before and was rather windy so there wasn’t any haze in the sky, allowing us to see clearly for miles.

Our adventure to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius has been our class's favorite experience so far. This weekend we are setting out to a vineyard and then to the Amalfi Coast on Sunday. Our trip is half over, and none of us are ready to accept that just yet.

6/15/2017 – Can We Stay Here Forever?

Mt. Vesuvius just across the pond from Sorrento.
Mt. Vesuvius just across the pond from Sorrento.
After four days of wandering Sorrento and learning Italian and four nights sitting on the balcony of my dorm with new friends I’ve spent every waking moment with, any hesitation or second thought I ever had about studying abroad is gone. On our way back from the beach after sunset, we all agreed we would live here permanently if we could.

On Sunday we were greeted with a full Italian meal, which includes four courses – and had a separate fork for each course – appetizers and salad, pasta course, meat course and dessert. Dinner in the Italy starts at around 6:30 p.m. and doesn’t end until 11 p.m. at the earliest.

Each day begins at 9 a.m. with an Italian language class and is immediately followed with a Skype call to Lincoln at 11 a.m. in Sorrento, but 4 a.m. in Nebraska for our supply chain management class (huge shout out to Mr. Clyde Davis for being so dedicated to our education)! Once class gets out at 1 p.m. we set out on our next adventure for the trip.

So far we have walked more than 25 miles around Sorrento, visited a lemon orchard, an olive grove and olive oil factory, and a museum full of belongings of a Noble Family of Sorrento. We took a gelato class and got three free cones, accidentally ordered seven whole pizzas when we thought we were all just getting one slice, and have seen four of the most unforgettable sunsets that pictures can't quite capture.

I’ve already learned so much in just one week, but more than anything, I know this scene isn’t going to get old anytime soon!

6/9/17 – My First Real Adventure

Ready for adventure.
Ready for adventure.
The girl who absolutely refused to take a weekend trip to Washington, D.C., with her grandparents in high school because of her fear of missing out on events with her friends at home is now packing for a month-long trip to a different country.
That girl is me. So I got to thinking – what happened between now and then that gave me the desire to travel?
I’ve traveled before with my family to destinations like Cancun and Punta Mita in Mexico, Hawaii and Turks and Caicos. The common trend is they were all just tropical vacations. I say “just” because although they are beautiful destinations, I found myself sitting at the beach for a week instead of exploring.
So now, when I think travel, I think adventure.
Adventure (noun): an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience of activity
Studying abroad for a month with a group of people I barely know is both an unusual and exciting opportunity. Although I haven’t thought of it as hazardous before, I guess it would qualify as a bit of a risk.
Before college, I missed out on traveling opportunities because of my fear of missing out at home. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized I’m only missing out by staying at home and not taking every chance I get to travel the world.
In fact, Oxford Dictionaries uses the sentence “her recent adventures in Italy” to exemplify the noun adventure. What better place to go than to Italy to start my first “real” adventure abroad?
Published: August 8, 2017