Spring 2018 International Pharmacy Experience: Cagliari, Sardinia and Rome, Italy

My STEP project was the Spring 2018 International Pharmacy Experience. While on this study abroad I was able to tour pharmaceutical facilities in Cagliari, Sardinia and learn about the healthcare issues in Italy. Also, I was able to tour the historical sites in Cagliari and in Rome, Italy and exposed to the culture for these specific cities.

One aspect of my view of the world changed while I was abroad. This aspect was that every single country might have behaviors that were unique to that culture that someone who is from a different country might not be used to. It taught me that even though people might have different behaviors that you aren’t used to, you should still be accepting of it. This was seen in Italy with the behavior of when you met people. They touched each other cheek to cheek. This was a weird site to see and it felt uncomfortable at first, but then I ended up getting accustomed to it. One of my assumptions that changed while I was on the trip is that I thought that pharmacies in Italy would be very different than the ones in the U.S. However, they were just the same except for the community pharmacies. The hospital pharmacies in Italy used the same technology that the pharmacies in U.S. used, and they were set up the same way. However, the community pharmacies were different because they ended up having compounding.  Another thing aspect that changed was that I learned that every country has something that is very important to their culture. For instance, two things important to Italy’s culture were religion and food. I didn’t know how important these two aspects were to the Italian culture before I came to these two cities.

Also, I learned something about myself when being abroad. I learned that I was able to be more independent. This was the first time that I had visited a new country by myself with only a few people surround me that I really knew. I believe that this experience will make me more independent in the future. I took a risk by going on a study abroad program to a different country where I didn’t know the people or the language. This trip helped me learn more about myself and gave me the confidence to try new things. This study abroad program let me experience a new culture, see first-hand health issues faced in Italy and how pharmacies react to these, and also helped me become more independent.

There are many situations on this trip that led to my transformation.  One thing on this trip that led to my transformation were the site visits that we had. While in Cagliari, we toured a community pharmacy and two different hospital pharmacies, a hospital and an oncology hospital. Before going into this trip, I had assumed that every single pharmacy would be different. However, the hospital pharmacies had the same exact layout that we did here. Each of them used unit dose and they had a way of managing medications that was very similar to the U.S.. Also, they had many of the same medications. We were in a medication room in the hospital and it was interesting to look around and see the same medications that I had helped patients with in my job back in the United States. The community pharmacy was different than one that you would usually see in the U.S. It actually did compounding upstairs, which means that they were able to make their own tablets, capsules, etc. I had never known of a pharmacy in the United States that did compounding in a community pharmacy. These differences in my assumptions affected me, because it taught me that I shouldn’t assume something about a country before actually seeing it.  From now on, I won’t make assumptions about a country before going to it. Another thing on this trip that led to my transformation was the behavior of the local Italian citizens. They used different gestures than what I am accustomed to. For example, our group leader, greeted some of us by touching our cheeks. This is something that is normal for Italians to do, when they meet each other but it was very different to us. My tour guide, taught us that Italians are very touchy to people. For example, when she was giving us a tour she would sometimes touch us if you were near her if she was trying to emphasize something. This was new to many of us and I was confused why she kept doing this. When I got back to the United States, one of my teachers told me that this was a behavior that most Italians did and that she used to have a student that would do it all the time. I learned from this that everyplace in the world has different behaviors and that I should respect their culture and follow the things that they are accustomed to.

In addition, I got to see the Italian culture and understand the relevance of their religion, architecture and food in their lives. When we visited Rome, I saw some historic buildings like the Colosseum and then see the modern buildings as well. Throughout high school, I learned about many of the historic places and it was fun to see them. By seeing the architecture, I was able to see how the historic roman buildings influenced the modern roman buildings and their current culture.  I also saw the Vatican and realized how important religion was in the Italian culture. Rome has over a hundred Roman Catholic churches, which shows that faith is very important to the Roman people. This was also seen in Sardinia, where in one of their churches they had pictures of every one of the martyrs and how they ended up dying for their faith. We experienced the food as well eating Italian dishes, gelato for dessert and drinking coffee.  For example, Italy is known for their shots of espresso and almost every day I had a shot of espresso in order to experience what it would be like. Also, one day we stopped at this local bakery shop to get pastries and everyone in the bakery spoke Italian. I now have a better understanding and appreciation of the Italian people and their culture.

One thing that allowed me to be more independent was our free time. During this free time, we were able to venture the cities by ourselves and find activities that interest us. Being in a new city, I wasn’t used to the transportation or how to use it. I had to learn how the buses and metros worked in order to get around the city. Luckily, I was with a person wherever I went, but it still allowed us to be independent. Also, we had to be independent on what things to do in our free time. The advisors wanted us to find activities to do on our own.  We needed to find an activity and our own transportation.  One example of this is we ended up going to the catacombs. On our way to the catacombs, we had to find our own transportation, which was both a bus and metro, and then we had to find out where it was. This was probably the most independent thing I did on my trip, because we had to plan everything. This was new for me, because whenever I have gone on trips in the past everything has been planned out.  This has made an impact on me, because it has allowed me to plan more activities for my friends and I back in Columbus. Also, since I am familiar with Columbus I am not afraid to go on transportation by myself, because Italy allowed me to be accustomed to this.

Also, another thing that changed me is that I took risks while I was on the trip and tried new things that were out of my comfort zone. These risks were in trying the different foods and also trying to speak the language. When in Sardinia, I took a risk in trying the local food which was pig.  This was different than the U.S. pig and what I have experienced. I got it for dinner, and it ended up being one of the best things that I had ever tried. Also, I tried other foods as well.  I had mushrooms on a pizza and ended up liking them.  I will continue to try new foods throughout my life.  I took another risk on trying to speak Italian to the local people. Even though it wasn’t the best, most Italians understood what I was saying. This was seen one night when we went out to dinner and the waiter only spoke Italian. I had to try my best to speak Italian to him, and after he left it felt good that I was able to talk to someone in a different language. After this trip, I will continue to try new foods and reach out of my comfort zone.  I also am not as shy anymore to take a risk in networking with different people. For example, I ended up talking to someone that is involved in pharmacy at the James Cancer Hospital for a potential job opportunity. Because I communicated with her, I ended up getting an interview. Before my trip, I wouldn’t have taken the initiative to make this happen.

This change is important, because it has changed me as a person. I developed qualities on this trip that could be very useful in my future career and it will also help me in college. For example, the quality of being more independent will become more useful when I have to live by myself and have a real job. Being more independent could also help me in college by allowing me to do more activities on my own even if I don’t know anyone in the organization. Also, being able to take on more risks will have a huge impact on my personal life in the future. People have told me before that life is all about taking risks. I had taken risks before, but very seldom.  By taking positive risks, it can help me become more confident and help me develop skills and knowledge. This can also be applied in my career, when I have to take risks in where I want to work and in what I want to actually be in the future. Also, I will be able to apply what I learned about the different pharmacies in Italy and relate them to the pharmacy industry in the United States. This can help me in pharmacy school. In addition, I have considered going to another country to practice pharmacy, so the things that I learned could be applied to this. Accepting the behaviors of people of other countries could be applied to my life in the future while also applying to my academics.   I will meet people of different nationalities in the future that I will have to interact with and I will have to respect their culture and behaviors. This trip was eye opening for me, because it allowed me to learn a lot of new things about myself and about the Italian culture.