Sindelt Flores ’18, a Business major at Marymount Manhattan College and member of the College’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), recently completed a semester abroad at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad institution in Perugia, Italy. Before leaving Perugia, Flores sat with Umbra staff to talk about her time in Italy, a conversation that emphasized her experience learning Italian while also placing importance on being culturally aware when conducting business.
In an increasingly globalized society, students are often advised to study languages and cultural values and norms, with the Hofestede Analysis being a famous first step toward gaining a cross-cultural understanding in the business classroom. This framework helps future business people learn to handle challenges such as communicating with a host society and providing products/services that are valued by a host culture without losing opportunities or engaging in cultural faux pas. Though Flores did not take a business course during her summer abroad, she studied the Italian language with the goal of gaining insight into Italian culture. Her first-hand experience in Italy gave her the opportunity to observe and participate in the intricacies of Italian culture that could not otherwise be attained studying a textbook.
“It is important to get a grasp of the fundamentals of a new language,” Flores shared. She described her course as going beyond the foundational level of language learning, stating, “My professor made everything fun and very hands-on. I honestly think that is the best way to learn.” In her Italian class, her professors spoke Italian from day one, and class time was used to teach both grammar and Italian culture. Flores described learning to food shop in Italy, visiting a local café, and even riding public transportation as some of the practical experiences of the course. Her Italian professor described the Italian emphasis on the importance of family, as well as the relaxed nature of time and schedules in Italy. In addition, adapting to Italian recycling laws and living in a culture committed to Slow Food ideology taught Flores about a worldview that is conscious of health and waste, and that has instinctively collectivist habits. For a business student, this offered a stark contrast to the fast-paced American culture of individualism.
Flores shared that she felt Marymount Manhattan played a significant role in her decision to go abroad. “Being a liberal arts school, they don’t want you to just study for your specific major, they want you to explore and learn from other things,” explained Flores, before describing the study abroad office as helpful and encouraging. With the guidance of MMC faculty and staff, she has embraced an interdisciplinary approach to her education, enabling her to confidently relate to people of diverse backgrounds. She now feels more prepared for her future career in the business field.
About the Umbra Institute:
The Umbra Institute is an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Perugia is an ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, and the Institute offers a wide variety of fine arts, psychology, business, and liberal arts courses. A range of service-learning offerings, including seminars, practicums, and community-based courses, are also available. For more information about the Umbra Institute, please visit http://www.umbra.org/.