Search “study abroad” on the UoA website and you’ll receive dozens of results stating how exchange programs are “life-changing” and “unforgettable.” As I prepare to head home from spending a semester studying at Bocconi University in Milan, I can confirm that the hype is accurate.
Getting settled into Milan was even easier than I anticipated and I never really felt any apprehension. Bocconi organised a range of orientation activities that made it easy to get to know other students. Everyone is in the same boat, so you skip the awkward getting to know each other phase entirely and go straight to being great friends. Studying and travelling with like-minded people, who share similar interests, was incredible and by far the highlight of the trip. Weekdays in Milan were devoted to appreciating the city. Food is a massive part of Italian culture and while there is no shortage of great restaurants and bars in Milan – particularly in the Navigli area – some of my favourite meals were made with friends at our student residence, Arcobaleno. I would recommend staying at Arco because it’s a great way to meet people and you also get to bond over things like a lack of cooking utensils, crappy Wi-Fi and surprisingly good 20c macchiati from the vending machine. However, Arco is a little out of the city centre. Fortunately, Milan has an excellent metro line. It may sound bizarre but there’s nothing quite like hearing “promissma fermata: next stop” when travelling around the city. If you haven’t been you’ll just have to take my word for it…
Weekends were for study breaks and exploring Europe as a reward for our (not-so) hard work. I’m very grateful that my relatively laid-back timetable meant I got to visit a dozen new countries. I saw snow for the first time in Copenhagen, climbed Mt Etna, spent a week on a beach in the small Sicilian town of Cefalu and visited family in Tuscany. Before leaving for Milan I had never been on an international flight. So spending my summer holidays travelling solo around Spain was something I hadn’t planned on doing prior to my arrival. As it turns out it was one of my favourite experiences of the trip. You meet people staying in hostels that you know you’ve only got 48 hours with, and you explore new cities with them. It was honestly fantastic.
Having friends who are also studying abroad was a lot of fun. I got a really unique look at their host cities when I went to visit. 7am pain au chocolates in Grenoble, day trips to the seaside in Brighton, and sailing with mates around Croatia are experiences I may have missed out on if my friends hadn’t also been studying overseas. Sure, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. My friends and I spent days seasick on a boat in Split. I spent a solid weekend crying over canceled flights and another stressed because I went to Rome when I should have been cramming for my Business Law exam (no regrets.)
But as I sit in Dubai International Airport, waiting for my connecting flight home, all the less than fantastic experiences cease to matter. I’ve had the most incredible time and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Maria studied at Bocconi University, Milan, during Semester 1, 2017.