An Eataly intern
Eataly opened 18 March 2014 in the theatre space of
Milan's former legendary Teatro Smeraldo
If you're not familiar with Eataly, you should do some research. For more than a decade, Eataly locations have been sprouting up all over the world and providing some of the finest quality Italian foods you can find. One bright international student at Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dávid Fedor, had the opportunity to intern for the company and learn the "ins and outs" of what it's like to work at the esteemed grocery store and eatery.
Dávid tells me working there is a lot like working at Harrod's in England. There's a lot of customer service, and a lot of stocking shelves. It may seem overrated or mundane to those who see it as only blue-collar work, but it's a means to cultural immersion: a way of interacting with Italians as customers and co-workers. This, in turn, provides him with cultural currency; something he can bring back home with him to Hungary if an Eataly location opens up there. There are myriad things for Dávid to do at the internship. "I approach customers with "Buongiorno! Posso aiutarLa?" He then helps the customers with whatever they need, which usually requires a deep knowledge of Eataly's products. "The most important aspect for workers like me is to assist customers," says Dávid, and it's his knowledge of the organic and even biodynamic foods that not only assists the customer with any questions they may have, but also gives him a sophisticated palate and green thumb. So the benefits of his internship are far-reaching: it's not just a way to extend his stay in Italy (though I think anyone would admit that's not such a bad thing); it's Italian cultural fluency.
His day is pretty straightforward. He works 6 of the 7 days of the week doing morning or afternoon shifts. In the morning, he either restocks/refills the shelves or organizes the incoming products down in the basement area. In the afternoon, he works the ground floor of the shop, otherwise known as the "heart," assisting customers. Dávid works with other Italian employees throughout the day. Though the days may be hectic, Dávid says he's shocked on how upbeat and happy his Italian co-workers are in the early morning, and he loves the work environment.
In order to have achievements in life one needs to understand the functioning of a specific enterprise from the very bottom. Nobody becomes a highly ranked person without basic knowledge. "I got a lot of new perspectives ever since I started this job. Not only could I improve my Italian skills, but I managed to get a great insight into what is the Italian attitude towards work. Every day has got its own surprises for me. The most remarkable is that even though most of us started working at 7am sometimes, Italians are always positive, smile all the time and have at least one friendly word for you. I can only speak in superlatives of my fellow-workers and bosses as well. They all are understanding and helping me trying to find solutions to whatever doubt I have. I think it's not me who should evaluate my own job, therefore I cannot form any opinion as to whether I made contributions to the company. Based on all what I said, I hope I did, though."
Dávid protrudes the optimism of the other Italian workers. In fact, when communicating with him on this matter, I was surprised at how enthusiastic he was.
"The position I have definitely impacted me. I could broaden my knowledge just by speaking with the others and realise how many different backgrounds we come from. My whole academic year has had a huge cultural influence on me. Starting with getting to know students from different countries and ending with working in a completely Italian environment I can say that I experienced every possible side of culture and it affected, moreover, it changed me in a remarkable way that I cannot even describe."
In addition to this, his Italian language skills improved exponentially. So, not only was this a way to learn culture, it was a way to learn language. To learn a language, one must be surrounded by it; one must hear it at school, read it, listen to it at work, and this opportunity was one way of expediting the difficult and tedious project.
The internship is an individual experience for Dávid, of course, and it's evident that it has impacted him for life. But it also has an impact on globalism - the increasing interconnectedness of European countries and broadening reality called "Europe" as more than just the name of a continent. When Dávid goes back to Budapest, he'll be carrying with him some cultural luggage acquired from his work at Eataly and sending it over to Hungary, furthering the integration process. It's small steps like this that make a huge difference. Cross-cultural interaction is a surefire way to create a sense of European identity, and to instill that in young people helps solidify this integration for the future. Students like Dávid are the future of Europe, and internships like this one continue to generate in them a sense of cultural awareness, tolerance and understanding.
For everyone considering doing an internship in Italy, especially during study abroad, I cannot recommend it enough. Though I haven't done one myself, seeing Dávid's transformation convinced me that it's a great means to learn a craft, learn Italian language, learn cultural awareness and, ultimately, learn Italy.