Liza Cunningham (AD ’20) participated in two study abroad programs: the CCI Global Scholars program in Sydney and the Advertising in Rome program during mini-term with Professor Sally McMillan.
Since graduating from UT, Cunningham is now an account executive with iHeartMedia, but we caught up with her to talk about her second time studying abroad in Italy.
Learn more about CCI’s Advertising in Rome mini-term program.
What did you learn by taking ADVT 480 abroad?
I was challenged by a bunch of situations that I never thought I’d be challenged with. Before going into this program, when I thought of advertising, I thought of target audiences based on gender, age, interest, but I never really thought of how much a cultural or geographical difference could change the whole game of advertising. So, I gained a lot of intercultural competencies by studying abroad in Rome. I learned about targeting from a different perspective and the differences between Italian advertisement versus American advertisements and how important it was to distinguish that difference.
Besides taking classes abroad, what else did you do as a part of the program?
We’d have walking tours and there were a bunch of different excursions that were built into the program. Like we got to go to a cooking class, which was actually my favorite thing that we did. I got to learn how to make homemade pasta and pesto and tiramisu from a real Italian chef who didn’t speak English, which was just such a cool experience. We got to tour the Vatican and I saw the Pope! We also went to the Colosseum and see all these ancient ruins. We also went to Florence and saw world-famous art – like the stuff you read about in textbooks. You really don’t have to spend that much to able to see all that you want to see in Rome because you get to do most of that as a group and the cost is included with the program fees.
You have studied abroad twice on faculty-directed programs. Why are CCI’s faculty-directed programs such a draw for you?
I think familiarity in a place that seems so unfamiliar can be really, really comforting. Especially because you are pushing your boundaries so much and you’re so far away from home and anything that seems remotely comfortable. To be honest, the people I met and became friends with on this program, I don’t think that back at UT I would have gone out of my wat to make, but I’m really thankful for the experience to be place with these people because they’re some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. I love them to death.
The other part of faculty-directed programs is having a faculty member from UT with you in country. What was it like having Dr. Sally McMillan there with you in Italy?
Even though we are adults, it’s also nice to have an authoritative figure there in case of emergency. But Dr. McMillan also did such a great job of stepping back and making sure that she wasn’t like a helicopter over us. She wanted us to be able to explore on our own and feel that sense of independence and learn on our own how Italians do life and how to be a part of that. But she was there if we needed to reach out.
Which memory stands out the most to you from your time in Italy?
I think my favorite memory was when we went to the Amalfi coast one weekend. We kind of split up and me and some other girls stayed in a town called Ravello, which is super remote. It was beautiful and relaxing, and we knew nothing about it before getting there, which was part of the fun. We booked an Airbnb and had fun getting lost in the town where hardly anyone spoke English. It was a challenge, but a fun challenge. One night we spent hours wandering around looking for a place to eat and somehow wound up at this super fancy restaurant where we saw Murr from Impractical Jokers. It was so surreal.
What would you like to say to someone who is considering studying abroad?
This is the second time that I’ve studied abroad because I realized how much of an impact it can have on me, personally. Because you learn a lot about yourself, your values, and the things that are most important to you while you explore your newfound sense of independence. More importantly, it’s fun! If you’re considering studying abroad, please do it, do it for yourself! I know so many people that say that their one regret in college is not studying abroad. There are so many resources and scholarships readily available for you and the experiences that you will have while studying abroad will stick with you forever and have a lasting impact on the way you view life. Never settle for not knowing or not leering more about yourself, about your environment, about your career and what you want to do in life.