Public Relations major Kensi Juszkiewicz spent five weeks during the summer of 2019 in Siena, Italy, as part of the Public Relations in Siena with Professor Candice White. A sophomore at the time, Lyra sat down with us to talk about her experience in the program and the best summer of her life.
Learn more about CCI’s Public Relations program in Italy.
Did you have any reservations about studying abroad?
I was a little hesitant to study abroad just because it was my first summer after being a freshman at UT. But honestly, I was like, “You know what? I have nothing to lose doing it.” And I was a little bit afraid to be away from my parents for so long in another country, but they encouraged me to do it, so I was really excited.
As a public relations major, what did you gain from studying abroad in Siena?
One of the big topics we talked about as part of the course I took abroad was ethnocentrism, which is when people primarily think of things from their cultural mindset. So, for us an American cultural mindset, and that Americans are the primary audience. But in reality, there are billions of other people experiencing other cultures and if we want to be able to effectively communicate with them, we need to go outside our comfort zones and experience other cultures. It’s important to see for yourself that it’s not just us Americans, but there are other important audiences from other countries and cultures, and you need to cater your communications to them. This is especially important if you’re going to work with a global brand or organization.
What was your favorite part about studying abroad?
Honestly, I think it was the friendships I made. There were two girls in particular who I really connected with and we’re still like very good friends to this day. Just kind of forming those relationships and those experiences with people who I was on the trip with – they’re like no other. So, definitely, my favorite part was just experiencing things that I wouldn’t have experienced here with a group of people who were all there for the same reason.
What was it like studying abroad with other UT students?
It was kind of cool because we all met before we went abroad. I didn’t know anyone going on the trip and I think that’s how everyone was on the trip – maybe you were kind of familiar with one person, but you didn’t really know anyone. There weren’t any established friends on the trip. So, it was nice kind of knowing that we were all kind of going through the same thing.
And then when we got there, it was kind of just reassuring, like, “Okay, we’re all new. There’s no clique. No one’s just going to keep to themselves.” Everyone was just really accepting and willing to befriend each other, which was really nice.
And then after the trip, we all still keep in contact. A lot of us still hang out with each other. We have a GroupMe of everyone, actually!
Can you talk about what it was like going abroad with Dr. White?
Dr. White is like one of my favorite people ever! She’s super knowledgeable about Italian culture, because she’s been going to Italy for years, and knows everything that is going on. She was also really willing to help us out even outside of class. If she saw us standing around, she’d ask, “What are you guys doing? If you need recommendations on stuff, I can totally help you.”
Since it was such a small group of people on the trip, we were able to form a closer-knit relationship with her, which was awesome. Since being back, she’s written letters of recommendation for me because I feel really confident in my relationship with her. I feel like she’s very professional, but also a great person to have as a resource and mentor.
There are a lot of activities and excursions built into this program. Which was your favorite?
I think one of the coolest experiences was going to Rome and visiting the Vatican. It was on my bucket list to do and so having that kind of implemented in the schedule was really awesome. We don’t really have the huge Catholic culture in the United States as much as over in Italy or other parts of Europe, so I thought it was super cool to be able to go there and see that and then reflect back on it in the classroom.
Was studying abroad what you thought it was going to be?
Yes and no. First of all, the food was amazing! We learned to make our own pasta and then we got to eat it, which was super cool. I think a lot of people think studying abroad is like “schoolwork, schoolwork, schoolwork,” but honestly, it was pretty much half and half. You will spend time doing school and learning, which is crucial to any study abroad experience, but also the free time that you do have is open to you. You can do whatever you want! You can travel to [insert country here], if you wanted to. You’re not limited to anything.
I think one of the best parts is being independent, as well as formulating new friendships and making just like a group that you can experience things with.
Anything else you want to add?
The palio – how could I forget! It’s a really big, cultural event and really fun. It’s basically a strategic horse race around the city square (which is actually round) and horses from different Contradas compete. It’s really not even about winning, but rather, making sure your rival Contrada doesn’t.
Something you definitely have to experience because there’s really nothing else like it. That was honestly one of the highlights – getting to see that. It’s something that you will not see in the Unites States, and I’m pretty sure nowhere else. It’s so rooted in Siena’s history and it was just one of the coolest things I think I’ve ever seen.