From semester abroad to internship: How one student extended her stay in the Eternal City

Author: Peter Di Re

Trevi Fountain

Sophia Michetti spent the spring of 2022 participating in Notre Dame’s Rome Undergraduate Program. Michetti already knew that she wanted to remain in the Eternal City for longer than just one semester though. After enrolling in the Global Professional Experience Program, Michetti was able to extend her stay through the summer while gaining valuable career experience abroad.

Michetti is a rising senior with a major in English, a supplementary major in Global Affairs, and a minor in Italian. However, she dreamed about traveling to Italy long before she ever pursued the minor. 

“I wanted to come to Italy before I ever went to college. My mother used to say Italian words here and there to me and my brother growing up. She knew all the folktales and everything, so I kind of grew up loving Italian culture, and I just always knew I wanted to go,” she said.

Ultimately, Michetti found her time in Rome both enjoyable and formative. She grew up outside of Toledo, Ohio, and it was her first time living in a big city.

“Everywhere you look there is another ancient architectural sight or something, and it became more normal the longer I was there. It was just a whole new perspective for me, not only going to a different country and a different culture, but just like becoming more of an adult myself,” she stated.

Michetti arrived in Italy in January. At first, she was part of the Rome Undergraduate Program. Accordingly, she attended classes at John Cabot University (JCU) and lived in housing on the JCU campus until May. By then, Michetti had already decided she wanted more time in the city. She moved into the Villa, Notre Dame’s primary student residence in Rome. She worked closely with an advisor at the Rome Global Gateway, who pointed her towards the Global Professional Experience Program and helped her find an internship in Rome for the summer.

The Global Professional Experience is a seven-week program that can be carried out in a number of cities around the world. The program consists of three main parts:

First, there is a week-long orientation that aims to familiarize students with the local culture and help them adjust to the new environment. This was not a problem for Michetti, who had already spent an entire semester living in Rome by that point.

Second, sponsored by the Keough School of Global Affairs, there is a one credit-course that explores historic, social, and economic aspects pertaining to each of the program’s regions, as well as hosting a forum to consider new international perspectives, inter-cultural knowledge, collaborative skills, integrative competencies, and career discernment.

Throughout this course, Michetti especially appreciated hearing from other students in the program. 

“We worked on that a lot through presentations. We each did presentations on not just the region we were in, but on our own internship and experience, which helped a lot, like in hearing what each person has to say and what they learned. It was nice to see what other people’s experiences were in other parts of the world,” she noted.

Third, the program places students in an internship that aligns with their interests. Michetti worked for ADL, a political consulting company focused on digital lobbying.  Although she studies global affairs, Michetti had never before considered a career in political consulting. 

“Consulting wasn’t something that I had thought about before, not even political consulting. But it was really interesting working in a business – something I wouldn’t have immediately jumped to apply to, something that I just kind of found my way to instead,” said Michetti.

Consequently, it took a little while for her to adjust to a new field. 

“I spent the first couple of weeks orienting myself in the Italian political system. Also, the company creates strategies for business to interact in public affairs, so I was getting oriented in that as well,” she stated.

She eventually settled into her role quite well. 

“For the most part, the company preferred using me as an American point of view, especially in the beginning,” she said.

For the first couple of weeks, she often worked on providing translations for their English website.

“I also started doing research on American companies to see if there’s this sort of phenomenon in sustainability reports incorporating public affairs and seeing how sustainability and public affairs are becoming more under one department, or if that’s happening at all, and that’s one of their bigger research projects that I think they’re finishing up and presenting soon,” she concluded.

Michetti reflected on her experience as a whole, commenting on her time in an office and her obsession with its espresso machine.

“Especially since the pandemic started, I haven’t had much office experience because a lot of internship experiences have been remote. It was really nice to be in person in an office, to see and talk to people,” she said.

Michetti ended up forming strong bonds with the colleagues she met in the office. 

“I loved the people there. I was so sad to leave them,” she said.

Ultimately, the Global Professional Experience Program gave Michetti more than just additional time in the beautiful city of Rome or access to a good espresso machine. 

“It gave me a better picture of global professionalism and what it would one day mean for me to work outside of the United States. It definitely made me a lot more adaptable. I think living in Italy in general did that for me. It made me a lot more flexible, willing to go with the flow, ask questions more, trying to figure it out for myself,” she concluded.

Learn more about programs in Rome