Studied in Milan, Italy at la Universita Bocconi, the premier business and economic school in Italy in the spring of 2015.
Exchange Program: I chose a program without an internship. I instead wanted to be fully immersed in the academic culture of Italy. All my classes were taught in English, but with a variety of students from Italians to Australians.
I Learned: I learned a lot about learning hands on. In Italy (as compared to other countries in Europe), people speak more often in their home tongue. There were people I would meet that couldn’t speak English, and I couldn’t speak Italian. I learned to embrace and learn from experiences like these. It became fun to learn the Italian hand signs and find my way around. I also learned hands on through travelling. You don’t realize how dependent you are technology until you have to rely on wifi. I learned how to plan ahead for the day while I had Internet and how to maneuver and use maps. It became a fun game. I think this experience has taught me many great ways to think on my feet, which many employers will be looking for.
What Surprised Me: I was surprised by how easy and affordable it was to travel. In Milan especially, there was a train station to get to anywhere in Italy and three airports with an abundance of flights. If you think you can’t afford to travel, go to kayak.com or skyscanner, and you will see. I got a flight for $17 from Athens to Rome! I knew I wanted to travel a lot, and I wouldn’t have been able to go to as many places if I weren’t in Milan.
Hardest Part: The hardest part for me was the beginning. That first week is very much like going back to freshman year where you don’t know anyone. There was only one other BU student in my program, so it was easy to feel discouraged and nervous about finding the “friends of a lifetime” that everyone talks about when they come back. Don’t worry. You will find great people. You just need to stay open to the experience. Once my group of friends was solidified, it was all uphill from there.
Best Part: The best part of my experience was the travelling. I was able to arrange my schedule for classes only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday, so I traveled most weekends. Some of my favorite memories from abroad are of my friends and me drinking port wine on the beaches of Portugal, jumping into the Mediterranean sea in Malta, seeing the Vienna Opera, and that is just to name a few.
My Tips: I had difficulties with the whole visa process. I didn’t sign up for a slot in time at the consulate, and it was a giant headache. Once you know you want to go, set up your meeting online. It will save you lots of time and nerves to get it out of the way. I would also suggest living in the dormitories. While some people prefer to live off campus, Bocconi has an exchange student dorm that makes finding friends very easy.
Hidden Gems: Go to Cioccolati Italiani;
it is the best gelato in Milan (and maybe Italy). If you are interested in karaoke/open mic nights, there is this small place called Barrios that has music on Tuesday nights. My friend and I went and were the first foreigners to ever sing on their stage! It was awesome.