Exchange at Bocconi University – By Niall Peat

My semester exchange has been a fantastic experience filled with rich learning experiences both personally and professionally.  For the first semester of 2016 I undertook economics at the University of Bocconi in Milan, Italy.

Arriving during the depths of winter in late January I was first confronted by the thick fog that I quickly learnt regularly fills the streets of Milan.  For my first time living overseas this certainly gave my welcome a dramatic feel. I lived in the neighbourhood of Navigli on the south side along the canals.  The tall apartment blocks that line thin streets enclose walking through the city before opening up into magnificent squares punctured by fountains, sculptures and cathedrals.  Milan is incredibly lively filled with fantastic cafes, restaurants and clubs littered throughout the city accommodating all tastes.

Quickly my studies began undertaking Italian courses 6 hours a day for the first two weeks. Needless to say Italian studies were quickly relegated behind meeting classmates hailing from all corners of the globe.

After a month of Italian I undertook my economics classes.  The economics department at Bocconi is world renowned and that was evident from the first week.  I was able to undertake class’s unique to Italy and wider Europe that are not provided in Adelaide.  Within current discussions of Brexit and further dissatisfaction with the European project I was able to take an economics of the European Union course.  Living within the context of our study expanded my horizons beyond the theory of the EU and provided a firsthand view of how Europe has been affected by greater integration.

Understanding economics requires placing theory within context and having an empirical approach to complement theory.  Walking through the streets of Athens gave a human face to economic crisis gripping the country while talking with German friends in Germany expanded my view of European migration.  I was in the United Kingdom on the eve of the EU referendum and was able to get a firsthand sense of why people agreed and disagreed with the EU.

Milan’s central location in Europe provided great opportunities to travel on my weekends.  I undertook trips to Genoa, Edinburgh and Warsaw within my first month.  I was able to see family I had not visited in years, as well as meet many fantastic new people.  Throughout the semester I swam in the Mediterranean off the coast of Greece, saw the Brandenburg gate in Berlin and ate breakfast quiche beside the river Seine.  This introduction to different cultures was a great learning experience and expanded my horizons greatly.

Ultimately my semester exchange was a fantastic opportunity that I will appreciate for the rest of my life.  I made friends with many fantastic people from all walks of life.  It is a fantastic addition to studies undertaken in Australia and expands your horizons through introduction to new and exciting cultures.  It has furthered my passion for travel both personally and in my career while increasing my passion for learning and study.  It was a fantastic experience that I would strongly recommend to anyone studying at university.

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