Nachiket Athalye is studying on exchange at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, for Semester 1 of 2017. As a GLObewriter he is sharing his experiences with us every month.
My exchange trip was very much based on a ‘go with the flow’ attitude before leaving Adelaide for Milan. There wasn’t really a set plan with regards to where I would stay in Milan for the duration of the exchange or even how long I would continue to stay in Milan after the end of the academic year. I did however set a timeframe of 6 months for myself from mid-January to mid-July and booked my return airfare accordingly. The fact that I was arriving in Milan on the 16th of January when the approximate arrival date expected from exchange students was 26 January, which most students did follow, meant that I was one of the first students to arrive in Milan. This allowed me to acclimatise myself to the conditions in Milan with regards to the weather, living conditions, the legal system, the culture, what the city looked like and what the university campus looked like. This also allowed me to look for appropriate accommodation rather than book something online for myself from Adelaide. I did however book myself a place in a backpacker’s hostel for about 5 nights. The hostel was located close to Bocconi University, my exchange university in Milan. On arriving in Milan I undertook a search for accommodation and kick-started other proceedings such as purchasing a local sim card, exploring the university campus, getting my student ID and welcome pack from the international student office in the university and ensuring I knew what sort of exchange activities were in place for students before and after orientation along with all the other legal requirements for my stay in Milan.
Staying at a hostel was very fruitful as I met people from my very first day in Milan. The hostel had a very friendly vibe with a bar and common area that was open for the most part of the day and night. I felt like the only thing I needed to do to make new friends and meet people was to break the ice with a simple statement, regardless of the weight or substance of the statement. I met an abundance of people while staying at the hostel with a huge variation in the kind of people I met as well. There was an international student from Albania that was undertaking her master’s program at Bocconi while looking for accommodation similar to me, an incredibly talented budding film director who was undertaking some ad film work in Milan while looking for accommodation to move into for the foreseeable future, travellers from all around the world that were spending a night or two in Milan and of course exchange students like myself that were spending some time at the hostel before moving into their actual accommodation or simply looking for a place like me. I found the budding film director to be an incredibly inspiring person due to the amount of things he had achieved in the same amount of time on this planet as me and due to his ability to identify and pursue his passion which was film direction.
Co-incidentally I also met another ad film director at the hostel and this told me that Milan was the place of opportunities for such people. This made quite a bit of sense as the city is the fashion capital of the world, so all the other things that go with it such as ad film work, are very much in demand. Fashion is also embedded in the usual life in Milan as I saw a marked difference in the dressing sense of people in Milan as opposed to that in Australia or elsewhere regardless of their age, financial status or time of the day. I felt as though I would not be able to walk into university wearing jumpers or shorts and a pair of thongs during spring. This therefore required me to update my dressing sense accordingly and undertake shopping.
My search for accommodation wasn’t going particularly well as I couldn’t find a well-placed, cheap enough apartment and most hostels seemed to be booked out for a while as well. I bumped into an exchange student in the common area one morning and she asked me to accompany her to the agency office, something I would not even have dreamt of doing. I felt as though if I would have been adamant and said I’d rather continue searching my own way I would definitely not have gotten keys to my apartment by the end of the day. It told me that it was important to keep an open mind at all times in order to take on board other people’s views and ideas regardless of whether their way of working differs from mine.
As of now my time in Milan has allowed me to take on board quite a few new qualities after certain realisations about the areas in which I formerly lacked. I felt as though being out of my comfort zone and usual life meant I was more prone to undertake such questioning of my qualities, abilities and weaknesses. Furthermore these were obviously more testing times where my otherwise not noticeable weaknesses came to light. So something as small as being a slow walker became a weakness in this context and I had to update myself accordingly due to the huge amount of walking I had to undertake. Along with this I developed an ability to navigate myself around a place with the help of minimum resources by observing surroundings and trying to remember names of streets. This in conjunction with a moderate use of google maps is what I found is the optimal way of getting around the city. I also felt as though I needed to get better at multi-tasking due to the large number of things that were required of me, particularly while getting around the city and with regards to keeping in touch with family, friends and all the new people I was coming across.
I feel like it deserves a mention that as of now I haven’t been homesick. This is probably because the pace of life right now is up there and there is a certain novelty to everything that was going around. It is highly probable that once the novelty wears off, I might begin to miss my life back in Adelaide.