Two Weeks of Travel

Kayla Salant, on the Student Exchange Program at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi (Milan, Italy), shares her two week break time travels with some advice and tips of traveling, as well as what she has learned from traveling abroad.

As I am beginning the second half of my semester abroad, there are many things I have learned about taking advantage of every second you have while abroad.

Recently I had a two-week spring break. This is unheard of in the states, but seemed normal to most students here in Italy. When my friends and I realized this at the beginning of the semester, we knew we had to take full advantage of this time off to cross many cities off our lists.

After hours of searching on Google Flights, Sky Scanner, and Go Euro we had the perfect two weeks planned to the minute. It was time to begin our break, everyone packed in just a carry on and a backpack, it was going to be the most adventurous two weeks of our lives.

From London to Amsterdam, Brussels to Paris, Prague to Budapest, we had a packed full two weeks. I will say, you learn a lot, not only about the cities but certainly about yourself when traveling for that long, hostel to hostel. You learn that alone time is necessary, that sleep is important, and time flies.

Some things I’ve learned

It is important to read about the history of cities before going. We have many different cultures in the U.S. alone, but imagine traveling from country to country, you’ll be in for a bit of a shock. It is easy to forget what languages they speak as you are traveling, so it is crucial to look up and remember basic greetings and phrases before you arrive.

Some things I wouldn’t change

Always travel with people you get along with. Take the time to meet locals. Go on free walking tours. Wake up early, and get lost in a city. Take tons of photos, but remember to be present.

Some things I won’t forget

The connections you’ll make. The breath-taking views. The unforgettable food. And certainly, the times you almost miss your bus, or getting stuck in the rain for hours in a line.

It is important to take time for yourself, and get rest. Two weeks of straight travel was not easy mentally or physically, but if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would!

Public vs. Private Sector in Italy

Sarah Disselkamp observes that difference in public vs. private sectors in Italy as she studies at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy. She shares some of her advice and tips to be prepared for differences in Italy’s!

I have noticed that professional norms across the board tend to be slightly different in Italy versus what I am used to in the United States, especially in terms of public service. In the United States, we are used to some services to always be open and usable, such as the post office and public transportation. However, in Italy, that is very much not true. Strikes of public workers are frequent and almost ignored in Italy, whereas they are usually a big deal at home. In Italy, I have found that they are for a few hours, maybe a full day in extreme cases, and rarely come with any sort of actual demonstration.

One example of this happened last Thursday, when the public transportation workers went on strike. This meant that there were no subways, trams, or buses within the city of Milan almost all day, and the ones that did run were sporadic at best. It showed the dichotomy between public and private transportation workers that we don’t see as much in the Untied States, as the private trains and buses between cities were by and large unaffected.

Similarly, the response to the strike was very different between the Americans and our European counterparts. Because of the location of our dorm, we take public transportation to class, so the idea of it not running on a school day was pretty concerning to me! However, when I spoke to my professors, their attitude was much more along the lines of whatever happens, happens – who knows, maybe there will be trams running anyway! It ended up that the trams happened to run when I needed them to in order to get to class and then I walked home (only about an hour, and the weather was great!), so it all ended well.

There are a couple ways to deal with this when you encounter it in Italy (definitely more of a “when” than an “if”!). First of all, I just guess and check. At each tram stop, there is a screen that tells you which lines run to that stop and how far away the next train is. This is usually pretty accurate, and sometimes you get lucky that there will be a train coming soon. The other option that I’ve found works pretty well is Google maps. There’s an option for public transportation that is usually updated in real time, meaning you can see how long it will take you to get somewhere and the timetables for the trains and trams. This helps tremendously, both during a strike and during regular operation, as the notices at the stop or on the websites are usually all in Italian and can be confusing.

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.

First Week in Italy

Sarah Disselkamp shares some of the differences in being a student in Italy vs. U.S. Hear what her life is like in her first week attending Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program.

It has officially been 1.5 weeks since we arrived here in Milan to study at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, and it certainly has been a whirlwind! I have learned so much about living in Europe and specifically Italy.

Being in Milan, one of the most fashion conscientious cities in the world, the most immediate difference I noticed was the clothing. It is very easy to pick out a native Italian versus an exchange student while walking around Bocconi. Italian students tend to dress up more for class, and their outfits are more trendy, whereas American students tend to dress more business casual when dressing up for classes. I’ve noticed that the shoes tend to be a big hint, as Italians usually wear boots or something with a heel. Shopping in and around Milan has helped a lot though, and has been super fun!

Another major difference is the culture around food. In the United States, we typically eat 3 meals a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner; whereas in Milan they do 4. They have breakfast and lunch, which are smaller meals, aperitivo, which is a prix fix hour of unlimited appetizers at a restaurant between 6 and 9pm, and then dinner beginning between 8 and 9 typically. Many restaurants are closed between the end of lunch around 2pm and 4, sometimes even being closed until dinner at 7! This can make it hard to find something to eat, especially on Sundays when almost everything is closed. I am learning how to plan ahead and make sure I don’t get caught in one of the in between times though!

The final difference I have noticed between American culture and Italian is the bureaucracy. In the United States, filling out forms is usually a straightforward event. However, in Italy, it has been anything but! From the permit of stay to an Italian SIM card and a monthly metro pass, it seems that every task has come with a wide range of conflicting advice and instructions. I have found that the best way to approach these situations is to have all of your ducks in a row and just go for it! The people processing the paperwork and such have all been very understanding so far.

Although it has definitely been an adjustment, I am loving my time so far in Italy! I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many people and experience so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to in the United States, and it hasn’t even been 2 weeks. As classes start this week, my goals going forward are to ensure that I am keeping up with my schoolwork and finding the perfect balance between school and travelling. I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester holds in store!

Week 1 in Milan!

Kayla Salant shares her first week in Milan, Italy as she attends Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program. Learn about the town she lives in, the dorms, her go-to pizza place and much more!

As I arrived in Italy, I expected to see the sun shining, beautiful landscapes and amazing architecture. Although my expectations had to be adjusted (as there is a ton of fog and not much greenery) I received just that. Milan is nothing of what I expected, yet everything I could ever imagine.

We are staying in a town south of Milan, where everyone seems to know each other, and you can walk to whatever you need. The tram is across the street that takes us to class and into the city center (where the sun does indeed shine), Cristian’s pizza is on the corner where they already know who we are, and the dorm is filled with hundreds of exchange students from around the world.

Meeting new people has been the best part thus far, and we are only one week in. I have met people from around the world and have been able to learn the stories of different students and how they made their way to Bocconi. It is so important to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to as many people as you can because you never know who you’ll find connections with, even if they are from the other side of the world.

I would recommend attending as many welcome events as possible, as well as just getting out into the common areas, as everyone is looking to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to get to know people from different cultures than your own.

So far the culture, although extremely different, has not been difficult to adjust to. My eating times have changed, and I certainly have spent a lot of time on public transportation, but buffet style food at 7pm for 10 Euros and extremely fresh food at the grocery store is nothing to complain about.

Bocconi has been extremely helpful in welcoming new students to Milan. They have had office hours all week for any questions and a group called Erasmus Student Network (ESN) which is a nonprofit across many universities has set up many welcome week events for us to become familiar with the city.

I cannot wait to see the adventures living in Milan will continue to bring!

Go, Experience, Live Abroad!

A message from Anastasia Cook to future student who are considering a semester abroad on the Student Exchange Program: Go, Experience, Live! She shares her heart filling memories and the reasons why you should go abroad to Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Italy.

GO. If you are considering it, but not sure if you will feel home sick, if you will make friends, you won’t like the location, or whatever reason: YOU WILL BE FINE! Exchange was seriously the BEST 5 months of my entire life. I never wanted it to end. No, this is not because I choose a blow off course load, and just partied the whole time. I went to “the Harvard of Europe” AKA Bocconi, a program only available through Fisher. This was so much better than a regular program because it was useful classes, and the professors are world recognized lecturers whom have a deep passion for their subject.

I decided to take Corporate Finance, even though it is a known “difficult” class even for full time Bocconi Students. After about a week, I found myself reading the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times in my free time, not only because it helped me during our open discussions in class, but also because I was shocked that I could actually fully understand what the articles were saying. Not only this, but we were given two case studies throughout the semester that were from Harvard and Stanford. These studies also brought real life situations into the classroom, thus showing us the applicability of finance in everyday business life. Some classes were harder than others, but now this is a school I am going to apply to, for my MBA; pretty cool.

Besides the school, THE PEOPLE. All I can say is: my best friends are Swedish, Norwegian, German, and Italian after this short time period. I have already booked a flight back to Europe during the summer to visit my friends that I have made. When you combine many people from all over the world, its not a lonely feeling. People are so keen on meeting as many people as they can, and genuinely want to get to know you. We started out attending international student events that Italian students held, to throwing our own events that the Italians then came to. It was so cool to see how you find your “group”. Trust me, you will never be alone.

I have to mention the Erasmus student group here, because they truly got me out of my shell. I went to speed dating, social nights, and weekend trips to Tuscany with this group. From this, I ended up planning a 2 week long spring break in the South of Italy with some of the people I had meet through this group. My favorite memory that I had from one of my trips was going to Morocco, four wheeling in the Sahara Desert and then spending the night at a desert camp.

If you couldn’t tell already, I studied in Italy. Milan to be exact. Many people at first were shocked that this was not “so quaint” and filled with cobble stone streets, but it was SO MUCH MORE. One of the least touristy cities in Italy, thus filled with actual Italian culture, and hidden secrets that one would only know of if they actually went to school there. I HIGHLY recommend this city and this program. I took friends from home around to some of my new favorite places and although it was not the Colosseum, I swear they liked it way better than the tourist traps.

I am tearing up writing this, because I would give anything in the world to go back even just for one more week. GO, EXPERIENCE, LIVE!!! It goes by so fast, so really try to soak up every single moment…. You’ll never get a chance like this again.

Proceed to The Highlighted Route: Why you should go global!

As Jayna Wolfe ends her semester abroad on the Student Exchange Program in Italy, she leaves you with some of her final thoughts about studying abroad and why you should go global from a personal and professional standpoint.

As the semester draws to a close I would like to devote my final blog post to address what I have learned over the last four months of my life and express why I think a semester abroad is a valuable experience for a Fisher College of Business student.

I find myself with a nagging question in the back of my mind, “did you see everything you wanted to see, do everything you wanted to do, and take advantage of the opportunity to its fullest extent?” These questions of reflection appear in my mind when new experiences come to an end, and looking back on my time as an exchange student I can honestly say that I have done what I came here to do.

Study abroad is what you make of it. My friends and I have oftentimes wondered when we return to our homes over the next few weeks, if our loved ones and friends will notice any changes. Maybe it won’t be anything blatantly obvious, but I think seeing the world changes a person. Adult life and its responsibilities are right around the corner and during the college years our thoughts and opinions are still heavily influenced by new experiences. I recently read an article about the importance of traveling when you are young. I couldn’t agree more and I believe that traveling alone/without family at this age has the ability to alter many different aspects of a person’s life.

My first and only experience abroad before Italy was the summer of 2014. I spent about five days working at a trade show in Harrogate, England and then two weeks at the international branch of the company I was interning for in Huddersfield, England. In just 20 days I returned home with a major perspective change on just how massive the world really is, a new sense of independence, and the realization that the horizon of opportunities ahead was even broader than I had originally anticipated. Making connections abroad gave me access to new and very different resources and perspectives. The desire to explore employment options with international opportunities along with the realization that it could actually become a reality were turning points in my perspective on the future. My 20 days in the UK amplified my aspiration to study abroad and seize the opportunity to explore other countries and learn more about myself.

I’ve always thought of myself as an independent person, but this entire experience was independence on a new level for me. When I felt alone, I felt very alone and when I saw a new place it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my short twenty-one years. I felt a greater need to stay in touch with what was going on back home and developed a new appreciation for the news. I cleaned out my friend list and restored my Facebook news feed to give me relevant updates on business, politics, and world events since I was constantly using the social media site for communication with other exchange students. I started paying closer attention to non-U.S. news sources in order to have a different and less biased view on European news and outside opinions on the drama of U.S. politics. I cared less about buying clothing and material items and more about eating amazing food. I scoured guidebooks and Wikipedia pages for further information about historical sights and the places I was visiting. I developed a newfound interest in a subject I loathed in high school, history. I’m very detail oriented and found myself having a big role in planning trips and leading the way with a map close at hand to make sure we saw the sights. I discovered how to get by with the Italian language. Overall I have learned so much from Italy, Bocconi University, and my time spent traveling that I am confident I have become more well rounded as a person.

I hope that the Fisher Student Exchange program grows. Other universities have 5-10 students attending Bocconi each semester while we typically can only reserve 1-2 spots depending on the interest Bocconi students have in coming to Ohio State University. Bocconi’s exchange network is massive with over 800 exchange students this fall from an impressively diverse list of foreign partner institutions from every continent (except Antarctica). If nothing else, researching the program and attending an information session can help students learn something about a foreign institution or a different country, and shed some light on the program’s feasibility.

I never thought of study abroad as something that I could afford. Growing up my family never took trips outside of the U.S., I didn’t know what it meant to be a true tourist, and I’ve always had different jobs during the academic year and internships in the summers to help out with paying for tuition and rent. The exchange program, Fisher College of Business, and Ohio State University offer some excellent scholarships to assist students with funding an invaluable semester abroad. During the program students pay a normal OSU semester of tuition and can utilize the federal loans they might receive during a standard semester of school. The most daunting of expenses are the plane ticket to Europe and rent. With some strategic planning and insight on appropriate dates to travel I believe that it is possible to find flights that are reasonable in price. My rent payment for a dorm that was cleaned on a weekly basis and had all the essentials (including a private bedroom) cost no more than a mid-budget off-campus housing option in Columbus. Drafting a budget and forecasting expenses is an excellent exercise that helped me understand where I stood financially before I left the U.S. and what I’ll need in order to get by when I return to Ohio State in January. As with living anywhere there are ways to live frugally and cut costs while abroad so that saving for some amazing travel experiences is easy.

Taking a college student out of their natural environment for four months reveals a lot about a person and presents an opportunity for that person to face a completely new list of daily struggles and triumphs. Simple activities like riding public transport to school every morning, visiting the grocery store, or ordering a coffee when the bartender doesn’t speak English, and big things like how to budget and travel without hindering academic progress are part of the daily routine. Staying organized both in preparing for the time abroad and in everyday life once abroad can help to avoid silly mistakes that will save money and prevent students from finding themselves in dangerous situations. I have heard countless stories about getting fined on the trains, having items stolen, losing keys, getting excess charges for booking with the wrong companies, and just in general getting taken advantage of. As a student traveling around Europe with friends it is easy to lose the feeling of being a tourist and become overly confident. Staying alert and aware while also having a good time can save traveling students from headaches and unwanted expenses.

Time is something I’ve thought about a lot in the last few weeks. I have already looked through my photo library multiple times to keep reminding myself of the four months I have had in Milan and the amazing experiences I’ve had traveling this semester. Since arriving in August I have visited Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Verona, Corfu (Greece), Florence/Tuscany, Barcelona (Spain), Genoa, Amsterdam (Netherlands), Marrakech (Morocco), Parma, and Rome. I have taken pictures that I will cherish for years to come. I never could have imagined that I would be camping in the Sahara Desert on Thanksgiving Day, jumping off cliffs in the Mediterranean Sea, or laying eyes on some of the greatest artistic works of the Renaissance era. Italy has been very good to me, and I am promising myself that I will return.

No matter where the opportunity might present itself I highly recommend that students do everything in their power to study abroad. I firmly believe that I will return home with a lot more to offer and that through their own unique set of experiences this is true for every student.

Please feel free to contact me with questions you might have about my experience or studying abroad in general. I am happy to share what I have learned and love meeting new people with a similar passion for learning more about the global environment we live in.

With the very best regards,

Jayna Wolfe (wolfe.592@osu.edu)

About the Author: Jayna Wolfe, Senior, Logistics Management, Student Exchange Program- Italy, first time traveler to Europe. Planned graduation in SP 2016.

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The End in a Blink of an Eye

Brad Schulze reflects back on the wonderful four months in Italy on the Students Exchange Program. It was challenging, inspiring, eye-opening, adventurous, but a life changing experience that he learned more about himself then ever before. 

They say time flies when your having fun and that couldn’t be more true than this past semester. Here I am, sitting in the Baltimore airport, eating Chipotle for the first time in quite some time, waiting for one more connecting flight to head home. Finals are over, the packing is done but it still hasn’t hit me that it has come to an end. It is weird to think that exactly four months ago I sat in the same airport but headed in the opposite direction with a sense of uncertainty on what to expect. What would Italy be like? Would I make new friends? Would I have fun? Well now I can say I sit here with nothing but certainty. Certainty that I had the best four months of my life. Certainty that I have made friends for life. Certainty I learned more about myself in four months than in 21 years of life and certainty that Italy and Europe treated me well and that I certainly will be back.

If you had asked me about a year ago from today where I saw myself in a year; the answer would have been finishing up finals at OSU and headed home for the holidays. Instead, in reality I was headed home from an experience of a lifetime. I had spent four months in a foreign continent traveling and experiencing different cultures, gaining worldwide friends, learning from teachers across the globe and learning more about myself than ever before.

How many 21 years old are lucky enough to experience the things that I did?  I got to bike across the Netherlands countryside, biked through Barcelona, ate Belgian waffles in Brussels, sipped on a few Guinesse’s and listened to live local bands in Dublin, took a trip back to the Roman Empire and visited the colleseum, visited two of the worlds most famous churches, La Sagrada Familia and Milan Duomo and of enjoy a nice Roman sunset. During the week I got to go to dinner and hang out with kids from around the world. Learn some deutch, spanish and italian. Plan a thanksgiving potluck for 30 people and have a Turkey Bowl. I got to pick up a job tutoring two young Italian kids in English and grab coffee once a week with my italian language partner. The list goes on and on and on.

Netherlands
Netherlands

An experience like this really put things in perspective and teaches you so much. Really makes you realize just how big the world is and just how many awesome places and awesome people there are. Makes you realize just how small, in reality, Ohio State is. Made me realize that while living in a foreign country is a scary thought, it is quite possible. Hard to describe but being alone in a country, planning classes, studying for exams, requesting Airbnb’s and just being on your own really is an accomplished feeling. Makes other daunting tasks not seem so hard. Really just teaches you that the world is big and the opportunities are out there, and with some motivation, are very doable.

It felt like a blink of an eye and was very hard to say good bye to my “temporary” life in Milan and hard to say good bye to all the great people I met. So many thanks to go around to so many people for such a great four months. To all my friends; especially my parents for all their support and of course The Fisher Student Exchange Program. Studying abroad had to be the best experience of my life up until this point and I hope an opportunity to return presents itself in the very near future. I never would have thought the experience would have been this great. It fullfilled and surpassed every expectation I had. From traveling to making new friends and learning a new language it was an A++. Made friendships that will last a lifetime and a part of me will always be in Milan, Italy. To a great four months and until next time.

Thanks Europe for the time of my life.

Barcelona Beach Chilling
Barcelona Beach Chilling
Florence with the Italians and Spanish
Florence with the Italians and Spanish
Rome Sunset
Rome Sunset

About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy

Welcome to Bocconi’s Education System

Let Brad Schulze help you navigate the educational system in Italy and share his tips of being a successful student at Bocconi University, as he spends his semester on the Student Exchange Program. 

Imagine having a class scheduled for an entire semester at a certain place and a certain time; for example, at 10 am on Thursdays. Now imagine having another class that is canceled and rescheduled to the exact same time as your 10 am Thursday class and you have to miss the rescheduled class BUT are unable to get the absence excused by your teacher or by the university. Welcome to Italy. Welcome to Milan; and welcome to Bocconi Univeristy. A complete 360 from what you are used to; but an experience of a lifetime.

Just a quick background on the university in which I am spending my semester. It’s called Bocconi University and is highly regarded as one of the top business and overall university’s in Italy and in all of Europe. It consists of 2 main classroom buildings, 3 or 4 other buildings, a cafeteria, a gym, dorms and a bank. THAT IS IT. It is small, no question. It was a complete 360 from Ohio State and where I had spent the last 2 years of my college career studying. There are three huge differences that I can see and those are university lifestyle, classroom and school structure and self-study and self preparation for exams. Understanding the 3 and how to adapt has been crucial for me to succeed in my classes.

First, the university lifestyle. I hate to break it to you Buckeyes but there is no college football and in that case any college sports at the universities here in Italy. You won’t see your fellow Bocconian’s traveling down the street on a Friday afternoon repping their gear for Saturday’s big game. Just won’t find it. There aren’t nearly as many clubs and organizations to get involved in and you most certainly won’t see hundreds of your classmates tossing the Frisbee or lying out studying on your way to class; as I mentioned above there really is no campus quad, etc. I definitely was not anticipating the usual US college lifestyle when preparing to attend Bocconi but I can definitely say I was very shocked at just how different the two are. Of course I am bias and believe the Buckeyes and campus lifestyle at Ohio State trumps that of Bocconi but it most certainly has not taken away from the experience at Bocconi. Here you get to work and learn with kids from all over the world; more so than Ohio State. Instead of paying $7 for lunch on high street their are many local pizzerias where you can snag lunch for less than $3. Completely different and un-comparable. A different experience to say the least.

Main Classroom Building Lobby
Main Classroom Building Lobby

Moving on from the lifestyle, imagine yourself sitting in a lecture on Portfolio Management; with a professor who you may not find the most interesting for three hours every Friday morning with only one five-minute break that is denote as “the smoke break”. If you have never been blessed with this experience, I am here to tell you; you are not missing out. This is quite common at Bocconi. They only offer classes in either blocks of 1.5 hours, in which you have class twice a week, and 3 hour in which you have class once a week. Aside from that each class, from my knowledge, is only offered around 3 or 4 times a week so there is very little flexibility in creating your “ideal schedule.” Finally, as far as structure goes, and what I wish I had been a little better prepared for, is the idea that your grade completely falls on the shoulders of your final exam. Most classes here have very little, if any, homework and there is no such thing as participation points. With the different structure and all the traveling I wanted to do, I really had to adapt my studying and learning habits in order to succeed here at Bocconi. There was a learning curve but I think I have finally come up with my studying techniques (which I share at the end of this post) that will help me do well on my finals coming up in November.

Marketing Lecture
Marketing Lecture

The first thing I learned is that buying the textbook is a must. Unlike Ohio State where for a majority of the classes the textbook is a recommended learning material; it is the learning material. Being proactive and reading the chapters and doing some practice problems ahead of class is a huge advantage. The teachers here don’t take the time to make sure you understand the material and go at a very fast pace. The fast pace also makes office hours a must but the only problem is there are very few and they change a lot. I have learned it is much better to just send the teacher an email and set up a meeting. This way you know he/she will be there and won’t waste valuable time. Lastly, and maybe the most important is just to be kind and patient with the teacher. It is a different culture here and if you show an understanding of that and are patient they are way more willing to work with you through any problems you may have.

Looking back on this; it makes me realize that had I known all this before my semester begun it would have been way smoother; but to be honest I am glad I didn’t. It really has pushed me to academic levels I would have never thought possible. It has been one of the best parts of studying abroad and as I sit here describing my experiences and giving my advice it will be different for everyone and the best advice I can give is just be ready for change. There is no right or wrong answer or right or wrong way of doing certain things; you just need to figure out what works for you. And I believe if you can do the following things you will have a great and successful semester, academically and culturally, abroad even through the highs and lows.

  • Be patient. You won’t have the answer for every problem on Day 1. It takes some time.
  • Be adaptable. The way things are done here will cause some differences in what you are use to on a day to day basis. Be ready to adapt to those in order to make the most out of your abroad experience.
  • Take Initiative. Even more so than back home. Be on top of things. Office hours are not encouraged as much and most teachers only have them on an appointment basis. It is up to you to take advantage of these things.
  • Stay on Top of Things and Find a Balance. This may be the most important tip I can give. Yes, you are a student first but studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience. You will want to travel to all the top places on your bucket list, hang out with all your new worldwide friends and enjoy events hosted by your university. To be able to do all these awesome things it is very important that you do not fall behind. Create a schedule and find the right balance for you.

So even though, 2 months later, I still have not been able to get that 10 am Thursday Class absence excused; I am still here and still a student at Bocconi. Even though there are fewer office hours and teachers are less involved I am still doing just fine in all of my classes. Just because something is different doesn’t make it easier or harder or right or wrong. It just requires a little change. If studying abroad is something that interests you but the differences scare you; I promise that if you can be patient, be adaptable, take some initiative and find your balance, you will be just fine and better for it.

About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy.

Please Hire Me! – The Career Fair Struggle

Senior year Student Exchange participant, Jayna Wolfe, jumps into an Italian Career Fair to gain a better understanding of what the career competition is like in Italy at one of Europe’s top business schools, Bocconi University.

This past week I had the unique opportunity to attend the Bocconi & Jobs Career Fair Event that is hosted by Bocconi University once every semester. Excited for the incredibly relevant opportunity to see for myself what an Italian career fair might be like I dug the high heel shoes I have been neglecting and the fancy blazer out from the back of my closet.

The event runs from 10AM-5PM and is an exclusive occasion during which major Italian and international employers meet with students, graduates, and Specialized Master holders from the University. About 90 companies attended this year’s event and 40 of those companies were featured in 30 minute presentations during which recruiters described their company profile, organization, available internship and placement opportunities, and the selection processes. Most of the presentations were offered in English and some in Italian, another reminder of how lucky we are that English is the “international language.” A majority of the companies who attend the career fair require their employees to have sufficient proficiency in the English language. I was fortunate to have availability in my schedule to sit in on three of the company presentations- KIKO Milano, Procter & Gamble, and BlackRock, Inc.

KIKO Milano is a leading Italian cosmetics retailer currently operating in 12 markets across the world. KIKO is one of Antonio Percassi’s mono-brand retailers and currently operates over 700 stores worldwide. After its foundation in 1997 and almost a decade of brand establishment, KIKO opened its first retail store in Italy in 2005. The KIKO representatives began the information session by focusing on the brand and growth of the company over the last decade. The second half of the session was devoted to providing information about corporate job opportunities at KIKO’s headquarters in Bergamo, a city about 40 kilometers northeast of Milan. As a company focused on expanding their global presence and constantly looking for other growth opportunities, KIKO recruits in two main directions, retail and corporate staffing. I found it interesting that despite their rapid expansion there are only about 350 employees at the corporate headquarters in Bergamo, a promising sign for Bocconi students interested in career opportunities with KIKO Milano.

Overall, it was great to hear about an Italian company and the types of candidates the company is seeking. KIKO requires an initial interview, meeting with the line director of the position you are interested in, online assessment, and an English test. English fluency is a requirement in all departments except accounting. The ideal candidate is dynamic, with a great attitude and fashion sense, and an international mindset. Definitely a great opportunity for someone looking to work in an industry heavily involved with international markets.

I was particularly excited to hear the Proctor & Gamble presentation because the company has such a strong presence on OSU’s campus and I have previously had the opportunity to participate in P&G information sessions with some of the student organizations I am involved with. The four recruiters that presented during the P&G session based the thirty minutes around one central question “Are you ready to be the next P&G top manager?” After touching on why P&G is the place to be and identifying their ideal candidate the “Top Manager” event was explained to the group. Basically a fast track to growth opportunities, the “Top Manager” event and “P&G Group Case Competition” give students the chance to show off their talents and improve the likelihood of earning a job offer. Very interesting and reminiscent of case competitions at Ohio State.

BlackRock, Inc. was one of the final presentations of the day and I wanted to give myself a chance to hear what a financial company had to say, as finance is something I’m newly exposed to in my Corporate Finance course this semester. BlackRock is a multinational investment management corporation based in New York City and the company is the world’s largest asset manager. The presenter was fabulously British and instead of speaking specifically about BlackRock, used her time as a skills session on interviews and assessment centers. The focus was on the do’s and don’ts of interviewing and CV’s (AKA resumes, for some reason all of Europe and the UK uses this term) and how to nail an interview. The moral of my 30 minutes- Prep yourself before you wreck yourself.

General Observations About the Career Fair:

  • The students were not dressed in “business professional” (surprising for a university of primarily business students and Europe’s top business school). Recruiters at the career fair were dressed in their normal professional attire, but it seemed to me that only a handful of the students who might have been interviewing were truly dressed in suits. I believe this might have something to do with the culture and the nature of professionalism required at the Bocconi career fair. Maybe these students not dressed up were simply interested in preparing themselves for future opportunities rather than seriously dropping off resumes and hoping for interviews.
  • At Fisher you would not be permitted to enter in jeans and a hoody carrying your backpack.
  • Company information sessions took place during the career fair
  • Usually these take place as independent events organized by career services, or are hosted by Fisher student organizations during weekly meetings
  • Students as well as alumni are permitted to attend the career fair up to 3 years after graduating from Bocconi
  • Fisher students must be enrolled to attend the career fair
  • Almost as if hosting an on-campus event some of the companies were handing out goody bags of sample items
  • I’ve never received more than a fancy pen with the company’s name on it from a career fair at Fisher (maybe I just haven’t talked to the right people)

Overall, I believe the career fair was fairly similar to those I have attended at Ohio State. It was definitely smaller in scale, but similar in the way that students were approaching stands of companies they were interested in with hopes of dropping resumes with the recruiters. The approach to recruiting also seems to be similar with interviews, resumes, and general communication between recruiters and students. However, in general the opportunities presented at the career fair span far beyond the borders of Italy. Students at a Bocconi career fair are much more likely to encounter job offers in other parts of Europe and the UK depending on the companies they approach. Although companies that recruit in the U.S. offer some opportunities abroad they do not typically start new employees at international locations (at least from my experience). This is definitely the result of the way in which European countries operate as a whole with a standardized currency and similar employment laws.

Much like back home, students at Bocconi are constantly looking for ways to get ahead in their future business careers. Despite the competitive environment I was surprised that more of my peers in the exchange program were not determined to suit up, attend the company presentations, and get face-time with international recruiters. I think it is easy to get caught up in the allure of traveling while you are an exchange student, and although I have loved every second of exploring new places with my friends, I think it is also important to remember why we are here. We are here because we are competitive business students who have the desire to explore the world in which we live beyond the borders of our home country. We are here because we had the drive and motivation to apply for a competitive program that we believe will open the doors to opportunities beyond an undergraduate degree. I am absolutely proud and blessed to be here.

As a fourth year student planning to graduate in the spring I am beginning to struggle with the idea that I will be making a decision about full-time employment in the coming months. On one side of the spectrum there are people who tell you to work hard, always keep your eye out for the next opportunity, and never be afraid to try new things. On the other side there is encouragement to relax, after all, you’ll only ever be 21 in Europe with the world at your fingertips once. Ohio State and Fisher College of Business have taught me to work hard, always. I am not the type of person who is pleased with doing average, and can sometimes be too critical of myself. I am excited to return to OSU and figure out what my next steps after graduation will be, but for now I think the best advice I can give myself, or anyone else who might be in a similar situation would be- use this precious time to make memories and have experiences that will build you up when you sit down to write a cover letter, perfect your resume, and prepare for an interview. Not everyone is ok with leaving their home country for 4 months, and not everyone will get the chance– recognize the opportunities you have here and now and take advantage of them.

Until next time!

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About the Author: Jayna Wolfe, Senior, Logistics Management. Student Exchange Program- Italy.