Staff Spotlight: Caroline Elo

Academic Coordinator, CEA Florence
Caroline has worked in the field of study abroad in Florence, Italy for the past eight years. She was born in Budapest, Hungary and grew up and studied in the United States. After immigration, studying abroad, as well as living in Italy for the last nine years, she has a strong attachment to all the places where she has had the good fortune to live, work, and study.

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Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Caroline: I studied abroad in Hamburg, Germany during my Junior year at Cornell University. Perhaps I was inspired to go abroad because I myself was an immigrant to the United States and had already experienced what it felt like to come into a new country. I was sensitive to the experience.

As a child, I had spent summers in Salzburg, Austria as well as taken private German lessons during my high school years in New Jersey and was motivated to learn to speak German fluently. I have always loved the challenge of learning a new language as well as the doors that language skills have opened to me in meeting people internationally.

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

Caroline: I do find that learning the language of a place and a people is the only way to fully enter into a culture. You know you have achieved this when you can understand and laugh at their jokes! Language is never “just” about language-words, but it’s truly a door into a new culture.

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English speakers are lucky indeed in that English is their passport to the world, but one always gets a better reception abroad when he/she can demonstrate that they have taken the trouble to learn the language of their hosts. It shows people that you care and want to know about them. But it’s also the only real way for you to have a deeper experience, a less superficial one, if you will.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

Caroline: I visited Timisoara in Romania recently. This was my favorite travel experience because it was my most recent, and also because it was new. I tend to travel to places where I know someone or where I have family, but this time it was simply to see a new land. This part of Romania used to be ex Hungarian territory and so the trip held meaning for me as a Hungarian.

It’s an Eastern Europe that has not been westernized much. I like to travel to places where tourism hasn’t yet taken off, I find such places more authentic. The cost of traveling and staying in Romania is also, needless to say, much lower, and the experience was memorable and original, also because I had one of my sons with me, and we met up with my sister.

What does your home-country's culture value that is taught in your program?

tuscany in spring

Caroline: Italy is a country with a rich past in art, food, fashion and design. It is a highly aesthetic culture, where quality emphasized over quantity. Some of the courses offered at the CEA Florence program explore these themes, specifically: the courses on the culture of food and wine, fashion marketing and merchandising, and the business of food.

Food is everything to Italians and wine accompanies a meal. People don’t drink to get drunk in this country, and food means sharing and family. Italians still enjoy the simple pleasures in life that are so crucial to the quality of life.

Businesses here are still family run in many cases, handed down from one generation to the next; this phenomena, for example, is explored in the course on the Business of Food. Lastly, we all know that Italians are notoriously well dressed and lay great value on appearance, and the fashion marketing course explores fashion in the context of Italy and a larger Europe.