(1) Academic Course on Corporate Social Responsibility
This week in class we looked at the ethics behind corporations and debated if certain actions were ethical. For instance, my group and myself were told to debate another group on the argument that banks should not be responsible for the mistakes of their customers, which was a fun experience that I enjoyed preparing for. Debates such as this (where my position was arbitrarily chosen for me) made it more interesting as I had to be prepared to argue both sides which gave me a broader perspective of the issue. We also touched on the structure of a corporation and how the ecosystem of stockholders, executives, and the general public all played a role in the decisions of a corporation.
(2) Practicum in Milan with an Italian Company
In our first full week working at Gen-USA, my fellow interns Jimmy, Kat, and I settled into a daily routine and begin to feel more comfortable at the office. We also met the 3 other interns working at the office, all of whom were members of the main IES Abroad program, and who went to schools all around the country. Almost every day this week we were able to go out to lunch alongside our bosses, which was a nice experience that let us get to know them outside the work environment in a more personal setting and is something that I look forward to each day. Throughout the week I was given various small projects to work on, such as researching how a business could register in Washington DC or compiling lists of emails for the company newsletter. I look forward to seeing what projects the company has for me in the weeks to come!
(3) Social and Cultural Immersion through travels in Italy and Europe
The highlight of this week was getting the chance to see the Last Supper in person, which was a phenomenal experience and one that I am grateful I was able to see. The main place that we traveled to was Verona on Friday, which was a beautiful town that seemed much bigger than I had anticipated. My mom, who has been traveling around Italy for about a week beforehand, met me in Verona, and we stayed there for the weekend while exploring the city during the day and getting excellent food for dinners. I have also been walking around Milan a ton every day and am beginning to feel more comfortable getting around by myself. I am still looking for the best Cotoletta in Milan, and predict that I will be trying many more places before my trip is over!
Week 2 in Milan kicked off with an all-you-can-eat sushi dinner with Professor Gupta! We somehow managed to fit all twenty-six of us into a small room towards the back of the restaurant. While it was hot, it was well worth it as everyone had a good time challenging themselves and enjoying good wine. In our Corporate Social Responsibility class, we always begin by discussing two Wall Street Journal articles that pertain to the course material, which would then be followed by a discussion that further explores the topics. Afterward, we jump straight into what Professor Gupta has prepared for us. During Monday’s class, we had to analyze the ethics of the current system in various situations (e.g., is it morally fair for a bank or a mortgage company to make profits from the interest on a home mortgage when all people are trying to do is provide a home for themselves and their family). This was a very interesting session that really helped to show that there is a lot of grey area between the two opposing sides. On Wednesday, we were introduced to corporate governance and the mechanisms behind it.
During our internship this week, Lili and I went in to discuss the timeline with our boss. We are responsible for the marketing aspect of the business, so we were tasked with the creation of content for Instagram and TikTok. Our goal is to start releasing content next week so the majority of this week consisted of planning and creating content. To ensure the success of our efforts, we must find a way to make our communication as fun, aesthetic, and informative as possible. The next few weeks will involve a lot of testing on what types of content work and what do not in order to attract a loyal audience.
My travels started on Friday this week as the national holiday allowed us to also take a day off from our internships. Collectively as a group, we took the train to Verona for some wine tasting and a guided tour of the city. It was super interesting to see a different part of Italy and our tour guide was lovely. When we got to the amphitheater, where gladiators had historically fought and where concerts are presently held, she surprised us with a speaker and the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s Love Story, to which we all sang along. She also presented us with fun facts, such as the fact that Romeo and Juliet did in fact get married, only to be separated the next day. On Saturday, we went to Lugano, Switzerland and it was exhilarating from the very start. We were on a time crunch and we had less than a minute to spare before the train was set to depart. Sprinting from tram stops to metro and train stations, we cut it close and managed to board before the departure time. It was all worth it after seeing the picturesque views that were displayed before us.
Sara Menand’s Blog Post #2: Week Ending June 3, 2023
(1) Academic Course on Corporate Social Responsibility
In class this week with professor Gupta, we started to discuss our Wall Street Journal posts. On Monday, we began by discussing a couple articles related to the DeSantis versus Disney battles in Florida, and we discussed the implications then on the Disney corporation and the Florida political environment. These articles are a great way for us to begin to learn more about current events, and they relate really well to our discussion about corporate social responsibility.
With the WSJ posts, we also held a couple of debates surrounding some articles about the responsibilities of corporations to their customers. The first was about banks earning profit on mortgage rates. Then, we talked about an article talking about a bank’s innocence regarding a bank scam on one of its customers. Both of these articles and following debates worked well with our class topics and allowed us as students to begin getting used to the discussion style of the class and learn to look at both sides of an argument.
(2) Practicum in Milan with an Italian Company
At my internship this week, I was able to start training with BTS Bioengineering’s products in order to better understand my role in the product management part of the company. I was able to use the GWALK device and take a couple of tests to better understand how the technology and computer program worked for physical therapists and trainers. This training then led into my next task for the company, which is updating their many product information powerpoints to have a more modern look. It has been very informative to go through these powerpoints, and a great way to continue updating my skills within the Microsoft Office programs. Next week, I look forward to presenting my new slide formats and training on the NIRVANA technology as I continue working at BTS.
On top of this, we also were able to visit the Last Supper with IES. This field trip came as a part of our Italian curriculum, and we were all so excited to get one of the most coveted tickets in Milan. Seeing it in person was quite a gift!
(3) Social and Cultural Immersion through Travels in Italy and Europe
After settling into Milan last week, we were able to really explore the city this week and dive more into the cultural aspects of living here. To kick off the week, we were able to go to all you can eat sushi with Professor Gupta on Monday. While this wasn’t the biggest embrace of Milano culture, it was a great way to bond with the cohort and spend some time together at a big group dinner in Milan– we even decided that Monday nights we should plan to always do a meal or Aperitivo together as a weekly tradition because of it! Speaking of Aperitivo, this was one of the main cultural rituals we began to partake in this week. Wednesday after class, a group of us headed to Bar Magenta for Aperitivo, and we got appetizers and drinks together after walking straight from class. Following that, we started participating at various Aperitivo events after learning more about how they were a big part of the worklife in Milan. On top of this, most of us began cooking our own meals this week rather than simply going out three times a day. Grocery shopping was quite the culture shock mainly because the brands we were familiar with weren’t totally present in the Italian supermarkets. It was fun to start cooking, though, and Maddy and I were able to have some fun dinners while making fresh pasta.
Outside of exploring Milan, we also were able to do two trips this past weekend. Friday we spent most of the day in Verona with IES. It started off with a trip to a winery right outside of the main city, where we had a tour through the historic cellar followed by a wine tasting. The tasting was a great experience, and afterwards our host was generous enough to gift us an extra bottle while a group of us hung out to chat rather than walking around. After the winery, we had a walking tour through the city center of Verona with the most amazing tour guide, Cecelia. She led us all throughout the city, listing fun facts and history about almost every building and monument possible. On top of that, we got to venture inside of the Arena. While sitting in the “nosebleed” seats, we even got to sing our own song to experience the Arena’s magic (the obvious choice being “Love Story” by Taylor Swift). After a long day exploring the city, a couple of us grabbed some Aperol spritzes before heading back to the train station and going home. The next day, Saturday, we then planned another one of our own trips to Lugano, Switzerland. This was our first adventure outside of Italy and into surrounding Europe, and while we hadn’t planned an itinerary for most of the day, it was one of the best day trips I have ever had. After sprinting to catch our train (followed by some untimely train maintenance), the quick one hour train ride brought us to the center of Lugano where we grabbed a quick lunch. After that, the group split in half: one group continuing to walk around and explore and the rest of us taking a boat out on the lake. Jon and I both had the privilege of driving the boat around a bit on the lake during our rental hour, and it was an amazing experience to be floating around a Swiss lake. Afterwards, the group came together again for dinner before heading back to Milan. After having my first experience in Switzerland, I know I very much am looking forward to the next time I am able to travel to a Swiss city to continue to explore the country.
In class this week, we examined the structure of corporate governance and its implications. On Tuesday we held debates in on two topics under the umbrella of corporate governance and social responsibility. The first debate was about the morality of banks charging interest on mortgages for people who are just trying to put a roof over their heads. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this one and asking questions after. The team that was arguing that charging interest was immoral did a very good job defending a point that is very difficult to defend. We also explored liability in our system and when the responsibility of public safety falls on companies versus the state. On Wednesday Sachi presented her WSJ article assessment on the legal action against Red 3 dye that is commonly found in candies like Skittles. We discussed the efficacy of FDA regulation and the responsibility of state governments to protect their citizens.
This week Le and I completed our research into finding sponsors that may be interested in the Fondazione and our young architect incubator program. I am starting to really enjoy working together with Le and Arianna, our immediate supervisor. Together we have researched similar programs around the world and investigated their funding. In the coming weeks we will curate a presentation to pitch to potential sponsors. On Thursday we were lucky enough to host a group of Swedish architects who were visiting Milan to learn about Italian architecture. We gave them a tour of the studio and gave them a presentation on the design method of Franco Albini, our founder. It was very interesting to learn more about the culture and history of my workplace and see more about what they do for the architecture and design community.
This past week has been absolutely lovely. Due to the Italian holiday on Friday, the group had the day off work and got to travel to the beautiful city of Verona. I had no idea but Verona is the setting of Romeo and Juliet and the Montagues and Capulets were royalty in the city and the tragedy is based on true events. We had a lovely tour guide who showed us all of the sights in the city and took us to the top of the Arena, taught us a little etymology and connected some Italian words with English ones. I would’ve loved to stay in Verona much longer but the next day a small group of us had plans to travel to Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano was absolutely stunning in both the landscape and the city itself. It was an incredibly affluent place and the shopping district was lined with expensive Swiss watches and jewelry. The people mostly spoke Italian there which was very interesting as well. It was a lovely weekend and I look forward to exploring more of this beautiful part of the world.
During our internship this week, Dane and I took a deeper dive into the real estate customer care procedures in preparation for our presentation on Tuesday next week. For someone like Dane, I think he is really getting a lot out of the internship since he plans on going into a real estate background. What is really interesting to me is how similar much of the process for brokerages has become over time. I’m confident that the idea of global business assimilation will be something I take with me into my career, no matter the field. On Wednesday, Dane and I were invited by Silvia to have lunch at the bar below the office. We talked about music a lot and had a great time!
Tuesday in class was spent in a mock debate on mortgage interest rates, fraud protections, and the ethical implications placed on banks for those scenarios. Sam, Neave, and I were forced to take the opposing viewpoint of what the three of us had sided with. I remember my dad always telling me this was a common practice in college courses he took but this was the first time I did anything like it. It was very interesting to see how someone who has lots of experience debating can make an objectively lacking argument seem rational. On Wednesday it was more of a lecture style after we had a great discussion about our blog posts.
The highlights of this week’s travels were surely Verona and Lugano! On Friday, we took a full class trip to visit the Arena and a general tour around the city with a lovely tour guide. I was really interested in the tour guide and how she had such a wholesome life. She grew up in Verona and lived her whole life there, and now she spends her time as a tour guide sharing her beautiful city with the world. I also bought some authentic truffles in Verona to take back to my mom. Today was spent in Lugano, Switzerland where we rented a boat and enjoyed the sun on the water. Can’t wait for Lake Como tomorrow!
This week was our first full week in Milan, and it was full of good food and travel. In class we discussed recent corporate political issues, including the “Skittles ban” dubbed for the United States government threatening to ban an ingredient found in skittles that can possibly cause cancer. We also discussed the threats of a TikTok ban in Montana, and how that would look logistically and practically if it was actually implemented—questions such as, ‘what would happen to your phone if you have TikTok downloaded and you enter Montana?’ This also sparked discussions surrounding free speech and protection of privacy, all of which are hot button issues currently in the United States.
I had quite a busy week for my internship this week. Monday was my first day in the office, and during the afternoon we had a meeting with our project team regarding what Sylvia and I needed to accomplish. We were tasked with doing market research to find 40 potential stakeholders across Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy for the company that my internship company, Krein, is doing consulting for. It was very challenging and very time consuming, but it was a great experience to do market research for different companies across different countries, since countries even in Europe vary in their economies and market sizes. We finished up this first project midday Thursday, and I’m excited for what we will have to do next!
Lots of traveling has been done so far this week. Friday was a national holiday for Italy, so we didn’t have to work and therefore went on a day trip to Verona. Verona was one of, if not the, best places I’ve visited so far during my trip. After arriving super early to the train station, I had a super relaxing day of travel. Upon my timely arrival, we toured a winery and got to taste their different types of wine. Unfortunately, I know nothing about wine but at least I pretended like I did when I was there. After that, we toured the city of Verona, and it was super crowded because of the national holiday, but nevertheless it was a super charming city and was very walkable. I definitely want to go back to Verona to explore it sometime in the future! Today, some of us traveled to Lugano, Switzerland, and hung out by the water and went shopping. It was a great day, but a long one, as we just got back before midnight! It was my first time in Switzerland and I can’t wait to explore more countries.
It is hard to believe that we wrapped up our first two weeks in Milan already! For our Corporate Social Responsibility course, we had our first debate in class about the profits that banks earn from interest on mortgages. We were challenged to develop arguments for both sides to show how corporate policies are not always black and white. One side defended the need for banks to make profit using interest to fund their operations and pay their employees. The other side defended the need for accessible housing for families that cannot afford high interest rates on mortgages. It was interesting to listen to both sides and reflect on how some transactions in businesses create winners and losers. For the second half, we held open discussions about our weekly Wall Street Journal entries that highlight news articles that involve government and corporations. One of our peers wrote about the concern for chemicals in our food and how state governments have taken action to begin removing them from products. This created conflicts for companies such as Skittles since most corporate leaders do not find state agencies’ involvement in the ban as appropriate. Overall, I believe these topics have shown us how the government, corporations, and the public confront their different interests regarding social issues.
In my internship this week, I was able to demonstrate my skills by taking on projects with more autonomy. I was asked to update English comments on two report presentations and highlight findings in the data that I believed were relevant for the marketing studies. I also had the opportunity to view the data sheets developed from the surveys with the help of one of my coworkers. Although the results were in Italian, my coworker stated that in the upcoming weeks I will learn how to navigate the updated English documents on my own and insert the data into the reports. With most of this week’s work being remote, I had to manage my time outside of the office and remain productive in my tasks. I decided that my best option was to work in the cafe next door from morning until lunch to ensure that I was not distracted in my room. My coworkers also reached out to me during the day to make sure I did not have any questions and knew what time each task was due. In the future, I hope to continue building strong relationships with my coworkers to show my commitment to my role and my interest in their work.
This week has been the most exciting time for traveling and exploring! On Sunday, a group of us decided to take a trip to Monterosso to catch some sun and waves! Some of the activities included indulging in some piña coladas on the beach and snorkeling in the beautiful water. The trip was extremely successful and was a great start to the first of many trips around Italy. On Tuesday, IES organized a trip to The Last Supper exhibition that showcases one of Leonardo DaVinci’s most famous paintings. The artwork was painted on one of the walls in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and is amazingly preserved as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another trip organized by IES was our Lehigh visit to Verona on Italy’s Republic Day (June 2nd). The first stop was the Montresor Winery where we learned about the history of wine in Verona and participated in a wine tasting lunch. From there, we were given a tour by a local veteran of Verona to see the Romeo and Juliet site and the Verona Arena. In the arena, we sang Taylor Swift’s Love Story which received much attention from other tourists visiting. To conclude the week, some of us visited Lugano, Switzerland as our first adventure outside of Italy. Although we nearly missed our morning train and ran around the station at 11 in the morning, I would say the trip was a great success due to the breathtaking scenery and savory foods. I look forward to seeing how these upcoming weeks will top these spectacular experiences!
Our second week in Milan began with a great dinner with Professor Gupta, and all of the 25 Lehigh students. We all managed to squeeze into a small room, and enjoyed an all you can eat sushi meal. This week, we also had our first IES cultural immersion class where we learned about some of the cultural differences between Milan and the United States. Something interesting we learned was that, in Italy, it is important to ask questions in the workplace to show that you care about learning and show your interest. On Tuesday, we enjoyed a visit to The Last Supper painting. The week ended with a class trip to Verona! It was a national holiday in Italy so we didn’t have work. We enjoyed a wine tasting, and a great tour of the arena. I loved our tour guide who inspired us to sing a song together at the top of the stairs. Finally, on Saturday, we took a day trip to Lugano, Switzerland. As I write this on the train ride back from the trip, I reflect on the great lunch we had, a nice boat trip led by our captains Jon and Sara, and finally a lovely dinner where I ate Gnocchi.
In our two classes with Professor Gupta, we shifted the conversation away from shareholders vs stakeholders towards corporate governance. We talked about widely held corporations, and how that gives managers much more power. The large number of shareholders and liquid market are both factors in why the managers essentially can run the company at their own will. I really enjoyed the debates we had in class, and I liked how it helped me think about how I would formulate arguments and think on my feet quickly. I also enjoyed the discussion about the red dye present in US skittles, and hearing others thoughts about who should restrict these harmful chemicals. Is it the job of the state governments, or the FDA?
Lastly, to discuss my internship, I have been working on researching the green hydrogen market. Simplifhy has other companies who are asking for their help to enter this market, so it is my job to research and find an industry that could be a great segway to allow these companies to start creating new products, and marketing them to the public. I have enjoyed learning about the science behind electrolysis, and the different types of methods that water can be separated into hydrogen and oxygen. On Thursday, my coworkers and I enjoyed a picnic outside in Villasanta. Here we ate pizza and walked around the park. We even saw a villa where a popular Italian baking show is filmed.
Our first day trip with IES was to Lago Maggiore about an hour north of Milan. It was very quiet walking to the water as it was still very early. I brought my camera, so we took a lot of pictures as we waited for our boat to Isola Madre. We walked around museums and palaces before stopping at Isola dei Pescatori for lunch. Lunch was delicious as we all had to get fish being on the lake. A bachelorette party then decided to sit and clap every five minutes and out-yell each other for the bride to be. As we took comfort in everyone on the deck feeling the same way, we laughed and shrugged with tables next to us as if saying “what do we do?” since we could not hear one another across the table. After the loud lunch we took a boat to Isola Bella which was molto bella with another palace and this time gorgeous white peacocks. We walked through the town getting refreshments and shopping at the markets.
The second day trip with IES was to Verona on Republic Day, which is essentially Italy’s July 4th so everyone had off of work. We had a winery tour and tasting when we arrived which was delicious. It was interesting to see how the Montressor family was innovative during the industrial revolution and created a blacked-out bottle so light could not taint the wine while being shipped by boat to America. This was followed by a walking tour in which we visited the city center, skipped rocks on the Adige River, and sang Love Story by Taylor Swift at the top of the arena before visiting Juliette’s balcony.
At work this week at Giuba 80 I was tasked with taking pictures of some t-shirts and polos for the company’s Amazon storefront as well as types of prints for an online file. Next week I am going to organize the show room for when clients come to pick out textiles. Walking back to Aparto after work I ran into a group going to gelato so I could not say no and joined them.
One of my favorite things is that there are about three or four gelato shops on every block, and when the weather is nice enough some of us walk to class instead of taking the metro and stop for treats on the way.
In Professor Gupta’s class this week some of us presented our summations of articles from the Wall Street Journal and talked about how this relates to corporate social responsibility and ethics in business. It was interesting to see different perspectives on some articles as we had to reply to another student’s summary of an article and sometimes more than one student did the same article. We also had our first internship seminar class and talked about the differences within Italian work culture and American work culture. Some of the differences had to do with how each country’s healthcare system or government system works so therefore it changes peoples’ ways of growing up and their daily lives.
Class this week featured our first two debates of the summer! Each group was given two prompts and tasked with building out an argument for the pro/con side in ~15 minutes. My group was selected to argue that it was immoral for banks to charge interest on mortgages. I have infrequently challenged the way that banks earn money – that’s not to say that I agree with all the “innovative” new products they develop. Arguing this point made me think about the difficulty of owning a home and forced me to ponder alternatives to the standard model. Other models are offered for individuals who intend to buy a house for the sole purpose of renting, where they can pay pure interest and forego the benefit of equity in the asset. My group and I argued the immorality of interest-bearing mortgages using the fact that banks are gaining equity in the asset as opposed to typical bonds where they only source of income is through interest. In retrospect, as principal is paid out the banks are losing equity in the home and if a default occurs (which on a large scale can indicate deeper rooted macroeconomic issues) the bank will typically end up selling the home for less than it was originally worth. The strongest counterargument to any point we made was that if banks weren’t incentivized by interest, they would never offer mortgages. It was a great conversation and I look forward to many more debates!
Work this week was great, I made significant progress on some projects I have been working on, and I became much closer with my coworkers and office mates! I started going out to lunch individually with my coworkers which helped to establish some rapport with them outside of the office. I also got to pull a prank on a coworker who I hadn’t met until this week! Nicoletta, the new coworker, was coming in late to the office and our MD came into our room and told us to pretend that I was someone else. We ended up deciding that I would play the role of the son of a founder whose company Nicoletta denied funding for last week. Riccardo and I went into the conference room and pretended to start a conversation. Nicoletta walked in and I introduced myself as Alex Travers. I brought up the pitch deck and started my appeal for funding. After a few minutes Riccardo told her who I was, and we all had a long laugh. Overall, it was a great week of work, and I cannot wait for next week!
Given that this Friday was Italy’s Republic Day, we were able to take Friday off from work and go visit the town of Verona. We went to a winery where we learned about the process and enjoyed a beautiful lunch accompanied by three of their wines – we even got an extra bottle for correctly guessing one of the ingredients! The wine tasting was followed by a walk around the town where we provided the fellow tourists at the Arena a once in a lifetime rendition of Love Story. As our group belted the song from the top of the Arena, the other visitors began taking videos and applauding, a true American experience. We finished up the week with a trip to Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano was beautiful and I would definitely go back! A slight damper on the week was caused by my untimely trip to the Apple store, where I had to buy a new phone (with an Italian SIM card)! Fortunately, I will be able to return it when they deliver the USA phone to Milan. I’ll update you next week!