“Experiencing different cultures is one of the best things a human can do. It puts your whole world into a new perspective.” —Stephanie Gilmore
As part of the education abroad component of the Michigan State Broad Full-Time MBA program, I spent my spring break in Sicily, Italy, in March 2022, and the experience was completely unforgettable. Having grown up in India, a land of a million cultures and traditions, I could not have related more to the above quote. I’ve always wanted to travel to new places and learn about different cultures, but I never had the opportunity or time to go beyond India. Having not traveled much outside the United States and India, this Sicily trip meant a lot to me. It was about experiencing Italian culture, art, food and lifestyle. Of course, I had expectations, but I went in with an open mind. The experience was so enriching, and most of the time, I was blown away.
If I were to categorize my experiences, they would center around art, food and lifestyle. I expected Sicily to have a rich heritage, but it was even better than I had expected. Sicily’s unique land and water features made it appealing to ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. My knowledge of Greek culture was limited before this tour, so it surprised me that the Greek and Indian cultures share many similarities. Even though several artifacts have been damaged by exploitation, they still provide a glimpse of the people’s culture and art. The science that is behind these artifacts is another aspect of their heritage. Greek theaters are amazing representations of Greek knowledge in science, mathematics and architecture from that time period in Syracuse. The theater was able to recreate magical moments of the theatre, such as a ship sailing through water or an amplifier amplifying sound waves, even during that era. It was the most effective way to demonstrate art and science. In the birthplace of Archimedes, one of history’s greatest geniuses, we should not expect anything less.
Another thing I found to be amazing in Sicily was the food. The food habits of the people in any region are highly influenced by the crops grown there. As the area is known for pistachios and almonds, most of the dishes included pistachios and almonds, and they were delicious. The cannoli dessert, ricotta cheese and pistachio pesto pasta were delicious. Desserts made with cannoli were almost everywhere, and they were always something I looked forward to eating. Also in Sicily are some of the world’s tastiest wines. Sicily’s Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and the fields are enriched by lava emissions. The Etna wine always had a distinct flavor and was paired well with the food. It was smooth, dry and had a pleasant charcoal texture. Sicily’s pasta, cannoli and wine are enough to make me want to visit again.
In addition, the Italian lifestyle was a tad different from that of other countries. Body language plays an extremely significant role in communication and is fascinating to observe. Communication was always engaging. I was able to understand their sayings several times despite my limited understanding of Italian. It is common for Italians to speak a little more loudly, but that should not be mistaken for rudeness or arrogance — it felt like they were giving their all to communicate with others.
There is no doubt that this trip to Italy was beyond anything I could have imagined. It not only helped me gain a deeper understanding of the culture but also helped me bond more closely with my classmates. The highlight of the trip has to be the grappa we had on the rooftop of our hotel at the end of the day as we discussed life. The Broad Full-Time MBA program deserves a huge thank you for organizing such a trip and letting us gain a wonderful experience that we will cherish forever.