Q&A: International Agriculture Certificate Student’s Internship in Italy
Kirsten Allen, a third year student majoring in pharmaceutical sciences with a minor in plant biology, spent eight weeks at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Piacenza, Italy.
Why did you pursue an International Agriculture Certificate?
I remember stopping by the study abroad fair at the Tate Center and someone recommended this incredible opportunity. I’ve always had an interest in global affairs as well as food poverty and I knew I wanted to incorporate that into my collegiate education. Becoming a certificate student gave me the perfect experience.
How did you decide on your certificate internship destination?
My goal was to incorporate elements of my plant biology minor into the internship. I knew I wanted to go on the Viticulture and Enology Maymester study abroad program offered in Cortona, Italy, so it made perfect sense to stay in Italy for two additional months to conduct my internship. I knew the language barrier would be tricky, but that was just another aspect of my self-growth. I aimed to use my background as a plant biology lab assistant to work on their plant pathology projects concerning different grapevines.
How was living in Italy?
Amazing! It was surreal to think I was practically 5,000 miles from all of my friends and family for almost three months. I loved the food and experiencing a different culture. I enjoyed trying to learn the language and engaging with people from around the world who were also visiting Italy. It was always exciting to visit new cities and explore on the weekends.
How did this internship affect your career goals?
My internship was focused on the study of various epidemiological and ecological aspects of grapevine pathogens. It’s not necessarily my targeted career field, but I learned so many technical skills and interpersonal skills that will make me a valuable member for any future research team. Throughout my internship, I was paired with a wonderful graduate student working on her PhD. It was great to be mentored by her and to learn about her work/school load.
What do you miss most about it?
I miss meeting and encountering new people with completely different accents and finding out their stories. I miss the subtle nuances that differentiate Italy from the United States, but are difficult to explain. I miss being able to hop on a train that will take me to Milan or Verona or Rome. I miss my internship too! It was fun to delve into an area of research that I’d never tried before.
Do you have any words for students considering the International Agriculture Certificate Program?
Do it! If you have the means, I absolutely encourage students to enroll in the certificate program. Even if you don’t have the means, there are so many scholarships and grants specifically to help international studies. Ask your family for help and others who you know support you! Don’t take anything for granted. Experience life and travel while you still have the time to do so. You won’t regret it. It's important that we get out and see how big the world is.
Do you see anything differently now that you are back? Notice any changed perspectives?
I am a much more relaxed person since returning from Europe. Their lifestyle is a lot more laidback. They take time for themselves and relax. I’ve noticed that most Americans are just so busy from day-to-day that they don’t incorporate this very important aspect of self-care. It’s changed my perspective on how I view my own self-care and the self-care practices of the people around me, like my loved ones.