Hi everyone! I’m Amanda, I’m a sophomore at Concordia University and I’m studying abroad in Milan, Italy for spring semester. I’ve been here a little over a month now, and here’s some of my experiences and observations so far!
I’m studying at a university called Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, which is in the heart of Milan. I’m taking part in their international program, which is for study abroad students and has classes taught in English (good because I didn’t know any Italian prior to coming here). I chose to study here because I had recently declared a business management major, and found out Concordia had recently partnered with them and they offer a lot of business courses. I had wanted to study abroad in Europe but didn’t have any particular country in mind, and I’ve heard so many good things about Italy so i went with it!
I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible, so naturally I’ve noticed a lot of differences between the people and culture of Italy compared to the United States. Firstly, Milan is one of the fashion capitals of Europe – people dress nicely here ALL the time. The best way I can describe it is that when I’m out in public, everyone I see just looks put together. However, they don’t really dress for the weather. If it’s still “winter” season, northern Italians are wearing coats and scarves, even if it’s 65 degrees out and sunny. As a Minnesotan this is one concept that I just can’t really grasp or comply to. It’s very uncommon to see anyone wearing a casual t shirt or sweatpants, and if you do, you’ll probably be pegged as a tourist. Not that that’s always a bad thing though; in my experience most Italians have actually been very friendly and nice to me! Luckily almost everyone speaks at least some English and many are fluent, so when I struggle to order in Italian in restaurants, for example, people are usually pretty accommodating. Another cultural difference I’ve noticed is that Italians are not very punctual, and if you know me, you probably know that it wasn’t too hard to me to adjust to this! The school organizes a lot of events and tours for the international students which I’ve been attending as much as possible, and I’ve learned that the starting times are really not important. As long as you show up within an hour to hour and a half of the listed time, you probably haven’t missed much. On the streets and public transportation, a lot of people walk extremely slow as if they have nowhere to be. Italians place a high value on the simple joy of life and either embracing what they are doing at the moment or having nothing to do at all, which I actually think is a good lesson to be learned for Americans who are used to fast paced environments all the time.
Let’s talk about one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad, travel! Milan is a great central location for traveling around Italy, as well as the rest of Europe. I’ve always loved traveling and this is my first time in Europe, so I’m trying to take advantage of this as much as possible, and it seems everyone in my program is as well. I’ve probably used public transportation more in the last month than i have in the rest of my life, but it’s SO convenient and I’ve become pretty good at it. So far I’ve taken trips to Verona, Bologna, and Florence in Italy, as well as Nice, France and Monaco, and of course I have a few more trips planned in the coming months! I’ve really enjoying seeing and experiencing different Italian cities and comparing them. Milan is very modern and industrialized but also preserves its history, and there aren’t a ton of tourists. Bologna felt even more authentic Italian, think any stereotypical Italian town you’ve seen in a movie, and I hardly saw any tourists or Americans. Florence is a bigger tourist spot and there are also a lot of study abroad students there, so among all the Italian history I noticed a lot more things were Americanized, but it was a good mixture and a beautiful city to visit!
Needless to say, I’m absolutely loving my semester abroad so far and am trying to make the most of it! Of course I miss some comforting things about the United States, like understanding the language I’m surrounded by, and the variety of food and restaurants being open at all hours of the day (I’ve mostly been eating pizza, pasta, and bread – the Italian diet isn’t just a stereotype), but I love it here too much to complain! Oh, and I promise I am going to all of my classes. 🙂 Until next time!