"I studied Italian Language and Literature, and History of Contemporary and Modern Art at the University of Verona in the North of Italy. I was there for one year living with two Italian flatmates and one English flatmate studying the same course. I also took courses in History of Books and Publishing, History of Museums and Curating, History of Journalism and German language.
I really enjoyed the experience; it was incredibly fulfilling. My oral language skills picked up and it was great to compare the UK system with the Italian university system which is entirely different, especially where exams are concerned. I took away confidence to speak Italian formally and informally, I travelled almost every weekend using my Erasmus grant and I made some lovely friends who I'm still in touch with.
I am still in my graduate job which I started at the end of 2008. I started out as Features Assistant at a newspaper, moved up to become a Features Journalist and am now Features Commissioning Editor. While I admit I never use my italian language skills (I miss this), I developed a huge passion for food out there which has made me responsible for the newspaper's food pages, something I am extremely grateful for. So I would say that I am always drawing on cultural references in my everyday life.
Of course, writing every day means I am still having to research new subjects (like a new language) and write about them within a given timeframe. I adore Italy and living there for a year helped me to understand a different culture in detail, fall in love with the people, want to spend time there in my holidays and learn to appreciate Italian food and flavours. While I don't have direct experience of the Italian economy falling apart, I feel I have a better ability to comment on it having got to know the country so well.
Finally, starting out in a foreign place without a developed understanding of the language and without a circle of friends is a scary experience but you just have to get on with it and make the most of it. I remember this when I'm on a deadline writing an article, as everything is foreign to you until you try it!"