It started with a phone call. Mike McClendon, East Coast president of Lineage Logistics, got in touch with David Hale, the University’s vice president for business and finance. McClendon was looking for some help translating a weeklong series of meetings with a potential business partner from Italy.

The request coursed through the University — from the administrator, it moved to Career Services, the Office of International Education and the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures — before ultimately landing with an email to Bennett Jacobs, ’14.

The international business and finance major, who’s also minoring in Italian, jumped at the chance. “When I saw the email, I thought, I’ve got to take advantage of it,” he says. “You never think something like that’s going to pop up.”

A few weeks later, Jacobs found himself at the table with representatives from Lineage and the Italian company Kedrion. The former provides cold storage supply chain services in Richmond, while the latter is a biopharmaceutical company that manufactures products from blood plasma. Kedrion was looking for a cold storage provider in the United States to assist with transporting products — hence, the meeting.

While Kedrion prepared their presentations in English, both sides looked to Jacobs for help with keeping conversations flowing, facilitating follow-up questions, and translating during facility tours.

Just a few years ago, Jacobs would have been in a different position. Until his first year at Richmond, he had never taken an Italian class. Study abroad in Ravenna, Italy, that summer solidified his interest in studying the language.

But after four years of study and a semester abroad in Milan his junior year, Jacobs was up for the challenge.

“Study abroad and higher-level classes helped my language skills get up to a decent level,” he says. “I definitely had to look up some things specific to their industry that weren’t common words. But other than that, I was able to translate for them pretty well.”

He even found some shared ground with the Italian clients. While studying abroad, Jacobs enrolled at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, a Richmond partner institution, which one of Kedrion’s directors also attended. The two discussed the cafés and bars in Milan over lunch in downtown Richmond.

The experience also offered an insider’s look at the world of global business — something the senior appreciated as he prepares for his first job with a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.

“It was pretty interesting to see the details that go into the process of preparing for an international business meeting,” he says. “Even though they could speak some English, the fact that the president went out of his way to get a translator to help them — it shows how to work on the different relationships, making sure you’re prepared, and crossing between the two cultures.”