Winter Wonderland Annual Cultural Event in Milan

In Milan, every year around Christmas time, the city transforms itself into a winter wonderland.  The busiest centers of the city are decorated in beautiful Christmas lights of all colors and shapes.  Also in the central plaza of the city by the famous cathedral, an enormous Christmas tree is placed in the center.  The tree is several stories tall and glittering in lights.

Gigantic Christmas Tree! “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…”

In addition to all the decorations, there are annual Christmas markets set up all over the city.  These Christmas markets open in the beginning of December and have hundreds of different vendors either selling food, trinkets, or other holiday gifts and products.  It definitely gives me a warm feeling as if I am living in a winter wonderland inside a large snow-globe.  I really wish that Christmas markets like the ones in Milan existed back in Ohio.

Christmas lights decor, and Christmas Market

Since Italy is one of the central locations for the birth of Catholicism, and Christianity, it makes sense that Christmas is highly important to Milan, and that it is widely celebrated throughout the city.

Cultural Festival In Milan

Today, I went to a cultural festival in Milan.  It was a huge event where countries from all over the world came together in a large convention center to showcase the highlights of their countries.  There was an incredibly large amount of people, probably thousands upon thousands of people, at this festival enjoying the amazing mix of cultures from around the world.

There was plenty of food being served from all the different countries and the booth owners were also selling different merchandise from their respective countries.  It was a fun experience to be in the midst of a large crowd looking at hundreds of booths with thousands of products.  It was also very lively and loud since the vendors were open to bargaining for prices with customers.

seafood paella from Argentina! yum yum!

When I was roaming around this festival, I felt like I was not in Italy anymore but rather in one of the famous street markets in India, or Asia that are always portrayed in movies.  Also it was interesting to come across the United States section of the festival, because they were selling many stereotypical American Western merchandise such as cowboy hats, cattle boots, cow hide, fancy old style rifles, etc.  They were also playing a lot of country music in the North American section.  It was amusing for me to see how the world outside of America portrayed our culture.

Stand selling dolls

This festival kind of reminded me of Taste of OSU, except about one-hundred times larger.  I loved this experience and I hope that I will be able to go to a similar festival in America.

Business Culture in Italy

Business etiquette and culture are different all around the world, and it’s these subtle nuances that make a huge difference.  In Italy, they would much rather have face-to-face communication rather than meetings via email, or video-chat.  This is because, Italians want to know one another and trust one another before doing any business with you.   An example would be Luxottica Retail.  It is an international company Headquartered in Milan Italy as well as in America.  However, employees’ desks set up in Italy does not have cubicle walls whereas the ones in America do.

Also, Italians are not as time oriented as Americans.  If a meeting is scheduled for a certain time, it is not uncommon to expect the meeting to actually begin about twenty to thirty minutes after the scheduled time.

In addition, Italians put a large emphasis on their personal appearances.  If you want to be successful in Italy, you have to dress the part and act the part.  It is only common to see professionals go to work in designer suits, and elegant dresses.  Nothing but the best is acceptable when it comes to attire and appearance.  This is somewhat different from American culture where Americans don’t put as much emphasis on clothing and appearances but rather on one’s determination and hard work, which embodies the ideal picture of the American Dream.

These are just a few of the differences in the business cultures between America and Italy.

Cultural Events

Football is a huge part of American identity and much of our entertainment and community comes from events revolving around football games such as tailgating, super-bowl parties, etc.

AC Milan. The name and logo for the soccer team in Milan, Italy

In Milan, and most of Europe, the national sport is “football” or what Americans would call, soccer.  There is a huge appreciation of soccer in Milan and there are bitter rivalries in this sport much in the same way as Ohio State University feels towards University of Michigan.  Milanese people dress in the colors or jerseys of their home soccer team as they excitedly rush to the soccer stadium.  Once inside the stadium, the crowds are wild and highly enthusiastic, cheering, swearing, and engrossed in the game.  However, unlike in America, there is no tailgating, which I believe is mostly just an American practice.

soccer stadium in Milan

Attending a soccer game in Milan was a great adventure.  It made me nostalgic of the football games back at the Ohio State University, because although it was a different sport, the energy, the cheering, and the atmosphere was exactly the same as back home.  I feel that although the sport itself is important, the most important part of a national sport is the community it brings together, and the shared enthusiasm to support your home team.

A Weekend of Bliss

This weekend I traveled to Barcelona, Spain and it was such a great adventure.  I traveled with a good friend of mine and when traveling with a great partner, it makes the whole journey that much better.

On top of traveling with a great friend, I loved Barcelona because of the food and the sea.  I grew up loving lakes and oceans, and to see this city surrounded by beautiful beaches and the great expanse of the sea was so calming and peaceful for me.

My beautiful feet! Oh and I guess there’s the ocean too

In addition, the food everywhere was cheap, fresh, and delicious.  Seafood is a large part of Barcelona’s cuisine since the sea surrounds this city, and the seafood was so fresh.  There is a huge difference in the taste and texture of seafood in Cleveland, Ohio as opposed to that in Barcelona for obvious reasons.  There was also a huge bustling food market where they sold all sorts of fruits, meats, sweets, and more.  It was very lively and incredibly fun, and although everyone says that Barcelona is dangerous and full of pick-pocketers, as long as you keep an eye on your belongings, then you should be fine.

My friend and I at the fresh food market!

I would love to go back to Barcelona someday!

Academic Culture at Bocconi University

The academic culture at Bocconi University is a little different to that of Ohio State University.  Bocconi University is ranked as one of the top Economics and Finance Institutions throughout all of Europe, and by the content and difficulty of their coursework, I would have to say they live up to their standards.  I am enrolled in classes they specifically assign for their exchange students, so my classes are taught in English and they are filled with students from around the world.  It is interesting to have students from so many different backgrounds all in one room.

Although this is a business school in Italy, we study how the financial markets and institutions work in the United States of America.  I think it is interesting that such a prestigious university from across the world studies the financial markets of America, and not so much of their own country.  I am thinking that this has to do with America’s dominant central role in the world economy.

Something else I thought was interesting was how Bocconi sets up their class structure.  As an exchange student, we have an option to either be an “attending student” or a “non-attending student”.  As an attending student, you have group assignments, and homework that count towards your final grade in addition to your final, and mid-term exams.  As a non-attending student, you are only graded on the final exam, and that is 100% of your grade.  You have no homework, group assignments, or anything.  The exam is just based on the textbook.

Overall, I am enjoying my experience as a student at Bocconi, because they have a very efficient office set up for exchange students to help them get around, and answer any questions exchange students may have.  Thus, because of them I had a very smooth admission process into the university.  In addition, the courses that I am studying are taught with professors who are genuinely interested in seeing their students succeed, so that makes learning much more fun and enjoyable.

Travel Lessons

Over the past two weeks during Bocconi University’s fall break, I have travelled to five different cities in 14 days.  I travelled to Paris France, Dublin Ireland, London Britain, Berlin Germany, and Rome Italy.  It has been quite an adventure, exploring different cities, beautiful architectures, delicious foods, and of course we can’t forget, figuring out public transportation.

Over the course of my traveling I have learned two very important lessons about traveling.  First lesson; it is the journey that matters, not the destination.  I travelled with a friend of mine, and we really got along well and we realized that it was more enjoyable to travel and spend time with each other than it was to reach the final destination point or tourist location.  The second lesson I learned was that it is okay to trust people, and share some laughter with strangers (but of course you have to be smart about it).  The world is usually not out to get you, so have fun with life as it passes you by.  Time is precious so laugh, live, and love.

Ireland, Land of Lush Green Pastures!

Recently I made a trip to Ireland, and it was absolutely beautiful.  At this point, I have traveled to France, London, Italy, and Berlin all of which had beautiful architecture and great food.  However from my personal experiences, buildings begin to look the same after some time, but there is something about nature that never gets old.  I think that is one of the two reasons I loved Ireland the most.  I traveled throughout Ireland’s beautiful countryside and it was as picturesque as Hollywood portrays.

Countryside of Ireland!

The landscape was incredibly green and had pastures of sheep and cows grazing on green grass.  There were ruins of medieval fortresses all over Ireland, which made this country seem like a land from fairy-tales.

Ancient Tombstone in Ireland built around 3000 BC

Medival Fortress built 3000 years ago

The other reason I loved Ireland was the community of strangers.  Although I did not know anyone there, the people were incredibly nice to me, and were genuinely interested in engaging me in conversation.  I made friends with guitarists at bars, and I was told traditional Irish folklore from strangers.  From my experiences Ireland is full of lush green landscapes, and friendly, cheerful folks!

District of Food and Shops in Ireland

“Unforgettable” Food in France…

These past few days, I travelled to France for the first time!  Everything in France is as beautiful as they say, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles Palace just to name a few.  However, I had a very bad experience at the first restaurant my friend and I decided to go to.  There were quite a few people at the restaurant so we thought that it would be a good choice.  We sat down, ordered food, and ate every delicious bite.  The food came with a huge bowl of six different sauces, and as we almost finished our food, we noticed something we wished we hadn’t.

We sat right next to the cashier’s counter, so we noticed that every time the waitress returned a bowl of sauce, they did not throw the rest of the leftover sauce out.  Instead, they just added more sauce to the bowl, then handed it to the next customer.  My friend and I were rather grossed out, because if others ate as we did, then that meant they would have double dipped, as well as used their own spoons to scoop out the sauce.

In addition, I was told that drinks (juices and sodas) were free, however when I went up to pay for my meal, they charged me extra.  I was very frustrated because, I could not properly complain due to the language barrier, and I could not properly tell them my dissatisfaction with how they reused leftover sauces. I ended up paying what they wanted, and left angry.  I realized that as long as I have a language barrier, I would be more likely targeted for unpleasant things such as being ripped off, getting pick-pocketed, or even violence, just because it would be easier for them to get away with it.

 

Language Barriers

There is a stereotype about how Americans assume people from all around the world can and should speak English since it is the universal language.  As an American myself studying abroad in Italy, I would have to say I fit that stereotype.  I personally do not believe that people from other countries should automatically know how to speak English nor do I expect them to, but it is the fact that I did not try to learn any Italian prior to coming to Italy.

Before arriving in Italy, I was not concerned that language would be a great barrier to overcome, simply because I figured I could carry around an Italian phrase book and that all would be good.  And yes, I am still alive and have been able to travel around with minimal problems, so language was not a large issue of survival, but in terms of being able to grasp the full experience, knowing the language is crucial.

Many times, I would be in a museum or at a famous landmark and not know the significance or the history behind the beautiful artifacts and sculptures.  This is because many attractions are written out only in Italian, and I found this to be frustrating because buildings and sculptures all start to look the same if knowledge about that object is unknown.  However, I had no one to blame but myself.  Also, language is essential to any culture and because I did not know any Italian, I already missed out on great opportunities to explore new places, restaurants, and people.

Although not knowing a language is frustrating, I would have to say it was not all bad experiences.  Learning a language along the way is much more fun than learning it through books and classrooms.  Also, picking up the local language while abroad has helped me improve my problem-solving skills and non-verbal communication skills, and now I have more confidence in my ability to overcome barriers.

My with some Italian speaking friends helping me learn the language during my time in Italy

At least for next time, I know that before I travel somewhere for an extended period of time, I must learn the basics of the local language in order to maximize my experience abroad.