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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Reflecting on Italy

It is hard to believe that my four and a half months in Italy has come to a close. While there were many ups and downs this past semester has been an incredible experience. I will never forget the people I have met, the friends I have made, the things I have learned or the places I have visited. As I think back on this experience it amazes me all I was able to do and experience in such a short period of time. I have done things I have only dreamed about doing and its hard to bring that experience to a close. Italy brought me some amazing memories and helped me to develop a new perspective. I traveled to some amazing cities and learned so much about so many different cultures.

I cannot believe I have just wrapped up my finals and have concluded my fall semester of studies. Schooling was very different in Milan than it is here in the states and that was something that was hard to get used to! My classes in particular had no homeowrk assignments, no quizes or tests and many of them came down to a final and a project at the end of the year. This made preparing for my finals very difficult, but I am happy I got through them!

While I have learned there is no place like home I know I am going to miss Milan and all my friends there so much. This experience gave me the opportunity to meet and make friends from all over the world includeing places like Colombia and Chile. I am so thankful for these opportunities. Saying goodbye last week to an incredible city and incredible friends was much harder than I expected. However, I am happy to be home and this isnt goodbye, it’s until next time Italy! Ciao!!

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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A cultural experience

It is hard to believe I have already been abroad for almost 100 days. Though the semester has flown by it seems like Welcome Week and September were days ago. I feel now is a great time to reflect on my time abroad so far before writing one final post to conclude my experience! While I have learned I am not meant to live abroad for the long-term, I would not trade this experience for anything. I absolutely loved learning about a country that not only is rich in culture and tradition, but is also where my family is from. For me, this was my favorite part of studying abroad- learning and experiencing new food, new people, and new traditions. The first new cultural experience for me was Fashion week all the way back in September- a must do for anyone coming to Milan in the fall, what an experience! The experiences have only continued from there. I learned about aperitivo and how to properly order off a menu at a restaurant without looking like a tourist! I loved learning about all the ins and outs of the city and enjoyed eating at local restaurants but most of all I loved traveling through Italy. I got to visit the lake district, Venice, Rome, and Florence and this taught me so much about Italian culture. I cannot beleive my time is winding down here and I will have to say goodbye to such a culturally rich country!

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.

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When in Milan

It is crazy to think I have already been in Milan for a month! Time has been flying and I have gotten to know so much about the city, the culture and Bocconi. It has been an uphill battle adapting to the European lifestyle and specifically the Italian style of life ( which is super laid back and slow paced). I am going to share 5 tips I wish I would have known before coming to Italy that would have made my life a whole lot easier upon arrival.

1. Bring your patience. I know from past experience that Europeans do things much slower than us in the United States but I was extremely unprepared for the Italian Bureaucracy. To do anything here you need about 3 hours of your time and most likely will have to go to 4 different offices. Make sure you leave plenty of time between appointments/ activities as I guarantee it will take you much longer than you anticipated to accomplish anything!

2. Bring lots and lots of photocopies of everything. I made multiple copies of my passport and visa as well as health insurance card. However I would advise you to make photocopies of all the documents you will need for your permit of stay (such as your proof of financial means and your acceptance letter). You will need to present many copies and it is much easier if you just bring them with you.

3. Do research on things to do in the area/ trips you plan on taking ahead of time. I did some research on Milan and destinations I wanted to visit while in Italy but am coming to realize I did not do enough! I can guarantee that the first few weeks you are here you will be stressing to plan trips with your new friends for your weekends and it is much easier if you research ahead of time. You will cause yourself less stress and that is so much better in the long run.

4. Learn basic Italian. Though many people say Milan is the most English-friendly city in Italy I would have to disagree. I know very little Italian and most people here know very little English making it quite hard to communicate. Usually if you know a little bit of Italian, the people will work with you but you need to make the honest effort. My advice would be to buy an English to Italian dictionary and look over key words and phrases.

5. Don’t forget to see Milan while studying here. I think most people are so focused on planning weekend trips and getting to Munich or Barcelona that they forget to take time to actually get acclimated to Milan. I advise that when here you get to know the city and experience everything it has to offer. Go to local restaurants and visit downtown as much as possible. There are so many amazing restaurants and activities right in Milan that always get overlooked because you are so worried about leaving! Make time to see the city!

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..

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.