Natale a Milano

 

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Natale a Milano (or “Christmas in Milan” for those not versed in Italian) is a very beautiful and busy time of year. Being the fashion capital of the world, Milan is known for its high-end stores and extravagant shopping experience. During the holiday season, this is especially noticeable from the crowds of people from all over Italy and the world.

Since I had already finished most of my shopping for gifts/souvenirs throughout the semester, I was able to enjoy the surroundings and decorations without the stress of checking things off my list. The city-center has a very large and well-decorated tree that looks beautiful next to the Duomo, and all the stores are festively decorated with trees and lights as well. There is also a Christmas market in the main square that’s full of fresh chocolates, nuts, fruits, and Christmas-themed gifts and trinkets from local producers in Milan. Thankfully it is not too cold here to keep people inside, because the large crowds and outdoor environment was a very nice experience for me :)

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Spike Lee at Bocconi

One of the great things about attending a prestigious business school is the opportunity to hear from prominent figures in the world. This extends beyond the typical C-suite faces, and today at Bocconi we had the privilege to welcome renowned director Spike Lee. He spoke first about his work in sports documentaries, and how sports can transcend boundaries in the classroom, community, and various cultures. Sporting events form a common bond for people who otherwise would have none, and their influence on our lives goes beyond the stadium or TV screen.

Lee also went on to discuss some of the prominent events in the United States right now revolving racial issues. His insight on these topics most importantly focused on the actions of young people, and the struggles and determination we have to resolve these issues. He said how inspired he is by the youth of America, and his words really seemed to move the crowd, particularly those unaware of some of the realities we are facing right now in the United States and how important our actions will be on the future of the country. Truly an inspirational and moving experience.

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Exploring Italy

One of the greatest parts about a semester abroad is the opportunity to see the world. Fortunately, the exchange student network (ESN) at Bocconi makes it easy to do so.

The first weekend of the school year we took a day trip from Milan to Lake Como. I had not even heard of Lake Como prior to this, but was immediately blown away by the beauty of it all. From walking through the quaint streets surrounding the lake to riding a “funicolare” up the mountain for amazing views, it was all very well organized and included in the trip.

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This past weekend, we took a trip to the Tuscany region. Four cities (Siena, Florence, San Gimignano, and Pisa) over 3 days, and it was a cultural and historical dream. Tuscany is known for the finest wine in the world, as well as the birthplace of the Renaissance. It was amazing to get a guided tour through each city from ESN members from that area, and walking through the neighborhood Michelangelo lived and worked in was a great experience. I know that it would have been very challenging to fit so much into a weekend without the benefits of ESN, and am glad that these types of trips are made available exclusively for exchange students. More travels to come.

O-H!

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The Reality of Planning for a Semester Abroad

This being my first blog entry, I suppose I’m starting things off on a negative note. However, I think it’s an important topic that should be touched on initially and reinforced from a student’s perspective.

First off, get started on your planning, as soon as possible. I cannot stress that enough. I made a lot of excuses for myself to put things off (Spring classes, summer trips, focus on internship, etc) but it made for a very stressful process when I couldn’t delay any longer. I wound up spending a lot of time searching for apartments and coordinating with other exchange students in Italy, which is not an easy process given the language barrier as well as the fraud/deception risk of searching for overseas lodging. My suggestion: stick with university sponsored housing (assuming it’s available). It will alleviate some of that stress and probably be a nicer set-up anyway, not to mention it facilitates the process of meeting other students.

If I had made this decision sooner, I could have put my time into the process of getting a study visa, which should be started ASAP. Initially I noted the 1-3 week processing time for the visa, but neglected the fact that you generally need to book an appointment 4-6 weeks in advance. Ended up contacting about 10 vice consulates to set up a last minute appointment, not fun. Also, it can take some time to gather and clarify all the required documents, especially since the consulates can be very hard to get a hold of with any questions (email is best). Didn’t help that I was planning to travel before and after my time in Milan, which complicated the travel documents needed.

The actual packing process was surprisingly simple, even for a procrastinator like myself. A quick google search will bring up plenty of student provided lists of items, and remember that you can always buy non-essentials like clothes, deodorant, etc. Focus on making sure you’re documents, medicines, and travel plans are in order, then you can worry about how many dress shirts to take.

All that said, don’t let stress distract you from excitement about the opportunity ahead! Spend a bit of time friending others on Facebook ahead of time (and of course upon arrival) and remember to use resources around you.

My next entry will be on all the positive things (since it’s already been a terrific 3 weeks in Italy). Coming soon..