It’s late on a Sunday night in Paris. I’m at Charles De Gaulle airport, studying for midterms and waiting to board a flight back to Florence. My email notification buzzes with a message from the airline: “We regret to inform you that your flight has been canceled due to ‘meteorological reasons.’” Now what? Exams start tomorrow. I show my travel mates the message, shove my laptop and notes into my bag and head to the airline’s check-in counter.
It’s already swarming with people, including other study abroad students who mirrored my own stress and impatience. After finally speaking with multiple airline agents, we book a flight to Rome that night. We land in Rome shortly before midnight, with no trains or buses to Florence until the morning. Now what? An all-night study session in the airport results while we wait to catch the first train to Florence at 5:30 a.m. After three hours, two trains and one chaotic taxi ride – aren’t they all that way in Italy? – we arrive at our apartment with just enough time for a quick nap before heading to school to take our exams.
Since returning home from my semester in Florence almost two months ago and starting an internship at Devine + Partners, I have reflected on all of my experiences, good and bad, noticing just how many skills I developed abroad that now translate to the world of PR and communications.
Mostly, I’ve learned that in this field, there’s a “now what” waiting around every corner. We can be most effective in our role as advisors and implementers if we stay calm, exercise flexibility and utilize the resources available to us to problem solve and help our clients to do the same.
The significance of intention was another major theme during my time abroad. In order to make the most of my experience, I had to be intentional with my time and resources. Balancing academic demands with exploring Florence, planning travel and staying connected with friends and family at home were a few of my running to-do list items. I needed to figure out the best way to manage it all, which meant being deliberate with my time. I also needed to be intentional about the images and words I used to chronicle my time away. As one does when traveling the world, I took hundreds of photos, and when it came time to upload my weekly Instagram posts, I had to choose the most meaningful ones. I also worked to keep my account “blog-like” to be concise and focus on the highlights of my experiences.
In the same way that problem-solving translated from my student to professional experiences, so did time management skills and the ability to produce effective and interesting content. At any given moment, there are multiple projects for different clients to be managed, so I allocate the right amount of time to each one. When writing press releases and pitches, I am intentional about the narrative and angles I develop.
Going into my study abroad semester, I knew it would be an exciting time of personal growth, but the added bonus has been the way the experience has benefited my work life too. Problem-solving, effective time management and working with intention can prevent a lot of “now whats.”