The Difference in University Culture in Italy

Although questioning if he wanted to leave his comfort zone in the U.S., Chandler Ross took the leap to go abroad for a semester. Now, one month at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program, he shares what it was like starting in a new country and the differences he sees in university culture in Milan,Italy.

So, it’s officially been one month since I started school here at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Before departing on this trip, I’m going to be honest and say that I was very worried and had doubts how this whole experience was going to be. There was comfort in being a third year at OSU, with all my friends and loved ones around me. Why leave that comfort behind for something very unknown? I thought about this for a long time, but I realized that’s exactly why I decided to leave for a semester abroad. The unknown of what this journey would bring, who I would meet, or the new culture I would get to see. I’ve always been adventurous, but have my moments of just playing it safe and going the easy route. Overall, I put aside all of that and went into this journey with an open mind.

When I got to Italy, after a two full days of traveling and some very serious jet lag, it of course felt surreal and yet very scary. I was fully on my own, away from my friends and family in a brand new country. The first week was a mix of being a little homesick, but excitement of exploring a new city with new friends. Milan is a very interesting city. It’s a very metropolitan city filled with TONS of shopping, but turn a corner and you can get transported to an old Italian town, with small streets and beautiful buildings. Some of my favorite parts in town would be Navigli, which has some great apertivo spots, with a very young crowd in the area. Another thing I discovered about Milan is that it’s not a huge touristy town. Before I came here, I thought it would have been tourist after tourist in the city, but Milan’s majority of people here are just people who live here. It makes this city feel more authentic, as you’re meeting real Italians living and working here.

When school started at Bocconi, I honestly had no idea how it was going to be. After one month, it’s very interesting to see the comparisons between a school like Bocconi and OSU. First, Bocconi has this policy called “non-attending student” for classes. This simply means you can tell your professor that you will not be coming to class and that you will just take the final for that class based on the professor’s textbook. That was such a foreign concept due to the fact that you can be upfront about your schedule and decide to still be in the class. I didn’t really like this because I didn’t want only ONE exam to decide whether or not I passed the class. However, another difference is that most classes I’m taking have no midterm. Your grade is simply determined by a final and a group project.

Bocconi’s culture is of course VERY different from OSU. Smoke breaks are very popular here and you can guarantee to see a good amount of Bocconi students outside the buildings chatting and having a cigarette. This is uncommon for OSU, as the campus promotes students to not smoke and be tobacco-free. I had an idea that this was maybe common, I just didn’t understand it was this common where a good portion of the students partake in it. The school itself is really only comprised of a few buildings. My classes are only in 2 buildings, which is of course different from OSU, due to the fact that we have such a huge campus. Bocconi is on the south side of Milan located within the city, so it’s very much a city school.

A huge difference between Bocconi and OSU has to be the clothing between the students. At OSU, a typical student might wear sweatpants or leggings to class and this is just the norm. At Bocconi, you don’t really see anyone wearing sweatpants or leggings. School could be compared to a fashion show with people dressing to impress. Girls in long, luxurious coats and guys in nice shoes is what you see here on campus. It’s an interesting difference because one day I wore sweatpants to class and did get some interesting looks from the students.

Expanding upon Milan, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to travel to new cities. I’ve been able to see Venice, Switzerland and Germany. Each brought their different aspects about what makes them so great. Venice had this high energy spirit for their Carnival celebration. Switzerland had this mountain charm, with a bit of a price tag as it is an expensive country. Germany had this rich history of its town with some great food.

Knowing what I know now, if I had to say anything to myself before I came on this trip, I would say that just truly everything does work out. No matter what the reservations you have or how scary it might be, everything really does work out in the end. I’m just getting started in this journey, but so far it’s been an incredible experience and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Chandler Ross

Chandler Ross (yes, he does have two Friends characters in his name) is a third-year student at Ohio State studying marketing and film. He is completing a semester abroad in Italy. Chandler is from Redondo Beach, California, and came to Ohio State for a unique college experience building towards a career in business. "I'm always looking for different ways to expand my horizons and coming to Ohio State was one of them and that's exactly why I'm so excited to go abroad."