Friday, January 4, 2013

Developing Cultural Competence in Florence, Italy

Shiney David, a Psychology major in the Verrazano Class of 2013, will be spending the winter intersession in Florence, Italy.  Shiney received a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship to help support her study abroad experience.  Read her introductory post below.

Words cannot express how excited I am to be studying abroad this Winter session in Florence, Italy. Being one of the most historic destinations in the world, Italy has been the top priority on my list of places that I would like to visit. However, the context in which I imagined my trip was not the same as reality. I always imagined myself going to Italy for a vacation after I had established myself as a successful physical therapist. I never thought that I would be studying in Italy to help myself achieve the goal of becoming a physical therapist.

I have realized through experience that interaction with patients is an important aspect of any physical therapist’s job. As a physical therapist, you have to deal with your patients on a one-to-one basis; therefore you get an opportunity to know them on a personal level.  I have noticed that when the therapist does not speak his patient’s language and requires a mediator to communicate, the sessions do not turn out to be as interactive and productive as they could be. Knowing this, I decided that I wanted to learn a foreign language because when I become a physical therapist, I want my patients’ therapy sessions to be as fruitful and beneficial as possible.

When I was contemplating learning a foreign language, I realized that studying abroad would be an exciting approach to pursuing this desire. However, I never came across any suitable programs that would convince me to stay away from home for a long period of time. Then I learned about the Winter Session Study Abroad Program in Florence, Italy. It is not a secret that Italy is one of the most beautiful and most historic countries in the world, and since I always wanted to see the Colosseum in Rome, visit the tower of Pisa in Tuscany, and take a Gondola ride in Venice, it took me no time to decide on studying the Italian language in Italy.

I see many benefits to my decision. For one, my education will not just be limited to my classroom; I will have an opportunity to apply my learning to the real world.  I will learn more than just what I learn in class because I will be interacting with an Italian population outside of my classroom. This will significantly increase my ability to grasp the new language. Other than these benefits, expanding my cultural understanding seems valuable as well; learning about a new culture and other peoples’ perspective on life will further aid my interactions with my future patients immensely.

This academic trip will also prove to be very beneficial to me personally.   I have always been intrigued by different cultures. I believe that being knowledgeable about different beliefs and customs aids you in many ways; not only does it help you to better understand and respect other people who follow a different tradition than you, but it also helps you to uplift your own life in a positive direction. For example, yoga, a traditional mental and physical discipline which originated in India, is practiced worldwide in today’s age for better mental and physical health. Individuals in different countries are now living a healthier lifestyle because they have learned of a tradition which is not of their own country, but regardless they have chosen to follow it because it benefits them. This is just one example; there are so many different things that we can learn from different cultures which can help in our own lives. This is what I am hoping to learn when I go to Italy. I am sure there are different traditions that I will acquire during my stay there and I my be able to incorporate them into my lifestyle. Furthermore, I believe that this opportunity will help me build a stronger relationship with my Italian friends and colleagues here as I will have a better perspective of where they come from and how they live after my trip.

The decision to study abroad was not an easy one to make. I have never ever been away from my family for a long period of time, and even though my venture is only going to last for about a month, it is still a pretty big deal for me. However, The Verrazano School has been very supportive and encouraging - especially the Vela events consisting of the study abroad panels. Hearing other students talk about their experience in different countries has motivated me to take this step and have this amazing experience. I cannot wait to get to Italy and experience everything that I heard other students talk about! I think that studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity that everybody should take advantage of; not only does it help you with your academics, it also helps you become a more responsible person.

To learn more about the study abroad programs offered through the Center for International Service at the College of Staten Island, please visit:  

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