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					                                   Study Abroad Report

Jen Wise
Bocconi University- Milan, Italy
Fall Semester ’03
jen1225@hotmail.com

Introduction
Milan is such a fabulous city, with so much to see and so much to do. It is home to the
world’s third-largest cathedral in the world, the fashion capital of the world, two soccer
teams, a huge financial center of Europe, and one of the biggest transportation hubs of the
continent. I won’t lie to you by saying it’s the most beautiful city in Italy (I’m partial to
Florence), but it certainly has character. I had wanted to go to Italy all my life, and when
the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say no. I’m so glad I went. I had the best four
months of my life. Studying abroad expanded my view of the world, and I made
friendships to last a lifetime. I have a much stronger understanding and appreciation for
my other cultures as well as my own. Studying abroad has so many advantages. I highly
encourage you to try it.

Academic Experience
Bocconi University
Bocconi is the most prestigious school in Italy, and it is highly regarded throughout all of
Italy. All the Italian kids want to go to Bocconi when they get older, and students at the
university are very proud to go there. There are around 11,000 students at the university,
and most of the classes are held in two main buildings.
        -General academic structure
The academic structure is completely unorganized and innefficient, as is most of Italy.
This may sound bad, but it’s relatively easy to get used to. Grades in Italy are based on a
numeric scale ranging from 0 to 30, 30 being the best grade you can achieve. In order to
pass, you need an 18. They rarely give homework in Italy, and there’s no busywork. Most
likely, your grades will be based solely on one or two exams.

        -Classes taken/how they compare to courses at Carlson
You have to take between 4 and 5 classes during your semester in Milan. I took 4 classes:
Enterprise & International Markets, International Financial Markets, Management, and
HRIR. They were different in that they meet at different times each day of the week,
which I found a bit odd. In terms of the amount of work required, I felt they were easier
than most of the classes at Carlson. The classes require a lot of reading, but they weren’t
too difficult. Classes are very interactive there, and they rely on heavy class participation.
Students strongly express their opinions in class, and feedback is encouraged. Another
thing: classes are huge at Bocconi. Most of mine had about 150 students per class.

       -Advising
In terms of advising, you’re mostly on your own. Before you arrive in Milan, SEN (the
Student Exchange Network) sets you up with a tutor, which is an Italian student who is
available to answer questions about classes or anything else you need. Some students
used this resource extensively, while others (like me) didn’t use it at all. The International
Relations office is there to answer questions as well. They are a wonderful resource and
they are more than willing to help out where they can. Even if you don’t use any of these,
you shouldn’t have a problem. At Bocconi, you have a three week trial period to try out
classes before officially registering for them, which is something you should take
advantage of. In addition, ask Italian students you meet in the dorms or on campus.
Overall, Italians are such warm, friendly people. They love to help out, and they are
happy to answer questions you have.

        -Surprises/comparison with academic environment in the U.S.
Like I said before, classes are super-unorganized and very loud. Sometimes, class would
be moved to another room and no one knew where it was moved to. Or on other
occasions, a professor will just decide not to show up for class. It can get a bit frustrated,
but you’ve just got to adopt the Italians’ laidback attitude. They don’t let things like that
bother them, so I stopped worrying about them as well.

Logistics at the partner school:

    -Orientation/Arrival
First of all, Milan has two airports: Malpensa (30 miles from the airport) and Linate (10
miles from the airport). If you fly into Malpensa, I recommend hopping on a bus that will
take you to train station (Stazione Centrale). From there, you can take a taxi that won’t
cost any more than 20 bucks. You can also choose to take a bus or the metro, but I felt
that was too much of a hassle with all my luggage. From there, I recommend going
straight to your dorm or residence and then to Bocconi. You just need to go up to the
International Relations office (located on the 2nd floor) to check in. Soon after arriving,
the IR office will have a big orientation meeting to give you all the details about your
semester there. Like I said before, the IR office is amazing, and they really helped me
quickly get acquainted with Bocconi and Milan.

    -Housing
During my stay in Milan, I lived in Donna Javotte, one of the university dorms. I highly
recommend the dorms, for their convenience and proximity to campus. They are by no
means nicely furnished or upscale living, but they are a great way to meet people and
interact with lots of people, exchange students and Italians alike. There are three dorms:
Donna Javotte, Capitanio, and Pensionato. Donna Javotte and Capitanio are both a 5
minute walk from campus and Pensionato is connected to Bocconi by tunnel. All dorms
have laundry facilities and daily housekeeping services. Capitanio and Donna Javotte
have kitchen facilities as well and a computer room with two computers with internet
access. Pensionato doesn’t have a kitchen, but it has a huge computer lab. The main
drawback of the dorms (other than the cost) is a few stupid rules, like no visitors between
midnight and 8:00. But other than that, I was very satisfied with my dorm. If you want to
live in a dorm, you should send in your housing form as soon as possible to ensure you
get the housing you want. Dorms go fast. If you don’t want or get a dorm, you can always
find an apartment. It’s like the U, in a way.There are always people looking for
roommates. SEN has a list of available apartments, and they are more than willing to help
you find something.
     -Meals
If you live in the dorms, you can cook in the kitchen. In Capitanio, each floor has
refrigerators and a kitchen on each floor. If you live in Donna Javotte, there is a huge
kitchen in the basement, and if you get there early enough, you can get a padlock for your
own cupboard and fridge space. Pensionato doesn’t have a kitchen, but the cafeteria is in
the basement. There is also a cafeteria in the main building. Their cafeteria food is cheap
and quite good. For example, you can get a bowl of pasta or a huge slice of pizza for
around $2. My roommate and I were too lazy to cook, so we always ate our meals in the
cafeteria. You can also get a meal card, which costs $4 per meal, but includes pasta,
meat, a sidedish, and fruit.
     -Transportation
Since Milan is the second largest city in Italy, it have a wonderful public transportation
system. It’s called ATM, so if you see that, it’s not a cash machine. Cash machines in
Italy are called Bancomats. You have your choice of the metro, trams, and buses, and
they can take you virutally anywhere you want to go within the city. It supposedly costs
one euro per trip, but most people just reuse old tickets. The only way you can get caught
is if some random ticket-checker guys get on the bus and want to see your ticket. You’re
taking a bit of a gamble when you do that, but the worst that will happen is they will fine
you. Just don’t pay it. I rarely bought new tickets, and never once got caught. If you want
be a good citizen, you can buy a transportation pass from the ATM office by the Duomo.
Milan is a major transportation hub, so they are also tons of trains going through the city
as well as three airports in the surrounding area. Getting around the city or Europe was
never a problem. There is one thing to be aware of in Italy. Public transportation
frequently goes on strike, but only for a day or a few hours. The strikes are publicly
announced, so just pay a bit of attention. Someone in class will probably be talking about
them, or you’ll hear an announcement about it on the metro. They only happen every
couple of weeks, but they can put a damper in your plans if you need to get somewhere.
Just arrange a taxi in advance.

    -Student activity groups
There really aren’t many student activity groups to speak of. I only knew of SEN, the
Student Exchange Network. It is a group of Italian students who have all studied abroad
before. Their goal is to be a resource to exchange students and help them have the most
positive study abroad experience possible. They give all exchange students cards to get in
free to certain clubs, and they also plans a few weekend trips. All of the exchange
students go to those parties, so it’s a great way to meet new people.

Italian Culture

Italian culture is both very similar to American culture and very different from our
culture. American influences are very evident, ranging from constantly hearing American
music in the clubs to MTV to seeing little kids wearing Tommy Hilfiger sweaters with
American flags on them. At the same time, Italian culture values different things than
Americans.
The importance of family and friends, carefreeness, and taking their sweet time are key
ingredients to the Italian way of life. Italians are very close with their families, and many
talk to their relatives almost every day. Whenever they see one of their friends, they greet
them with a kiss on each cheek. Family is central to Italian culture. They are not worriers
by nature. They let things roll off their backs, and they are not terribly stressed-out, like
so many Americans tend to be. They are frequently late, and you will become quite
familiar with the concept of “Italian time,” which means they arrive when they want to,
regardless of whether you agreed to meet at a certain time. Italians are very passionate
people who talk fast and use their hands to talk just as much as their mouths.

I’d heard that Italy was a somewhat inefficient country, but I had no idea how true that
really was. I stood in some many lines during my time in Milan. It’s incredible to think
about. For instance, just to get a sandwich in the cafeteria, you have to stand in a line to
pay for the sandwich first, then take your ticket and stand in another line to wait to get
your sandwich. Here’s another example. Once you arrive in Italy, you must go get your
“resident’s permit” within eleven days of your arrival. You have to get there really early,
since the immigration office is only open during certain hours, and they don’t take
appointments. I stood in line for over three hours to get a number, and then sat waiting
for over three more. It was crazy. I remember thinking to myself, “This would never
happen in America.” But that’s the beauty of it all. It’s a very different place and a
different way of life. I appreciated America’s efficiency and organization more than ever
before, but I also admired the Italian’s laidback attitude and carefree way of life.

One surprise I had is that the Italians (as well as other Europeans) really like to stare….on
the metro, at the university, at a restaurant, or anywhere. Even if you look back at them
so as to catch them staring at you, they just keep on looking. I don’t think they mean
anything by it. It’s just so obvious that we’re American, and I think they are intrigued by
us. Don’t let it bother you. I quickly got used to it. It’s just another small thing to adapt
to.

To learn about Italian culture, I recommend reading about it or taking an Italian language
class, through which you will not only learn the language, but a lot of culture as well.
Many people recommend the Culture Shock book series, but I did not find the book
terribly beneficial. A lot of the information either did not apply to me or I already knew
it. I learned a huge amount about the Italian way of life in my Italian classes I took before
I left for Italy.

Although knowledge of Italian is not necessary to attend Bocconi, I highly recommend it.
For the most part, you can get along just fine with no Italian skills at all, as you can take
classes in English, many Bocconi students speak beautiful English, and English is widely
spoken in all major European cities. Yet you get such a fuller experience if you can at
least speak a little bit of Italian. Italian is one of the most beautiful languages in the
world. It’s like a song, and it is so much fun to speak. I only took two semesters of
Italian, but I at least knew the basics. When you arrive at Bocconi, they also offer a
language class, which you should take, for several reasons. First of all, it’s a great
opportunity to learn some Italian, a good way to meet people, and you get to arrive in
Milan a couple weeks before class starts. Also, if you can speak Italian, you can interact
with all the locals to learn about Italian culture.

Once you are in Italy, there are several ways to immerse yourself in the Italian culture.
Italians are very open people, and they love to talk, so they are always more than willing
to talk about almost anything of interest to you. If you make an effort to get to know the
Italians, they will welcome you with open arms. In my opinion, a semester at Bocconi
offers a unique learning experience. With almost 300 exchange students, you have the
opportunity to learn about more than just Italian culture. It’s such a unique experience.
For example, within my circle of seven friends, I learned about Australian, Finnish,
British, and Canadian culture. I had quite a few American friends, but they were all from
different parts of the US, so I even learned some new things about American culture.
Also, the IR office puts on lectures about culture and cross-cultural communications to
foster a deeper understanding of Italian culture. On top of these, just getting out and
about will help you gain insight on their culture. Go see an opera or ballet, go grab a
cappuccino at a sidewalk bar, go see an Italian fim, or go shopping. All of these events
are truly Italian experiences, and they will make you feel like less of a foreigner and more
like a local.

Social Life

It is extremely easy to make friends at Bocconi. I met them through my roommate, who
became a really close friend of mine. You can meet friends through the language class, at
orientation meetings, and at regular classes. It is so simple to make friends because
everyone is in the same situation. They’re all away from their friends and family in this
foreign country where they can’t speak the language. It is amazing how close you can
bond with the people you meet. My level of integration with international students was
quite high. I had a tight-knit of six international students that I spent the majority of my
time with, but I had numerous acquaintances from many countries throughout the world.
Even though my closest friends were exhange students, that doesn’t mean it was difficult
to make Italian friends. I had a few good Italian friends that I met in class and in the
dorms, and I am still in contact with them. No matter how many fun things I did or how
many beautiful sights I saw, the relationships I formed during my study abroad
experience will be the things I remember most. I miss my friends like crazy, and we are
already making plans to meet again in Italy within the next couple of years.

In terms of nightlife, Milan’s club scene is one of the hottest in Europe. SEN sponsors a
few parties every week. They are hosted at clubs throughout Milan, entrance is free, and
you rarely have to wait in line. They are so much fun, and it makes you feel like a VIP
since you get in right away. Go to these parties. You get to see amazing clubs full of all
the “beautiful people,” and it’s a great way to connect with all the exchange students.

For other activities, there are many sights to see in Milan. The biggest attraction is the
Duomo, a huge Gothic-style cathedral in the middle of the city. It is said to be the third
largest cathedral in the world. Also, da Vinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper is
housed in Milan. I also highly recommend going to an opera or ballet at La Scala, the
most famous opera house in the world. The International Office also organizes trips to
some of these places, so I suggest checking them out. For all of you sports fans, Milan
has two soccer teams, Inter and Milan, and soccer is huge in Italy.

Regarding weekend activities, your options are endless. Europe is relatively small, so it
is easy and quick to get places. All of Europe has an extensive train system, and it is
pretty cheap as well. I didn’t get a Eurail pass before coming over, and I don’t
recommend getting one. You can buy tickets when you’re in Europe for just as cheap or
cheaper. During my time in Italy, I travelled to Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Belgium,
the Netherlands, and several cities in Italy. Before I went to Italy, I was worried about
how to travel between city to city on weekend trips, but it was so easy. You can buy train
tickets right at the station, you can make hostel reservations online, and you can get maps
at tourist offices. If you’re planning to travel a far distance, check out airfares online.
There are several low-cost carriers in Europe. For example, my friends and I went from
Milan to Brussels for $30. Check out RyanAir or EasyJet for good deals. Youth hostels
are a good way to save money on accommodation. They usually cost between $15-$20
per night and some include breakfast.

I guarantee that you will have no problem finding travel buddies. On any given weekend,
people will be going virtually anywhere you want to go. Some are flying to Barcelona
for the weekend, some are going to Lake Como on a day trip, some are taking the train to
Venice and Verona, and others are taking a bus to Munich. That was a big conversation
starter during the semester. “So, what are your plans for the weekend?” Just work it out
with your friends, who wants to go where. Since I like to plan, my friends and I sat down
and mapped out each weekend to insure that everyone got to the places they most wanted
to travel to. That’s another thing I recommend. Choose some of the places you really
want to go to, and make sure you get there. Even though you have 4 months there, the
time really flies. For example, I wanted to go to Switzerland so bad, and I almost ran out
of time. Three days before I came home, I ended up taking the train with my roommate
for a daytrip to a little city in Italian Swizterland. I’m so glad I made it, and I would have
been forever bummed if I hadn’t gotten to see snow-capped mountains.

Another recommendation I have is to travel alone for a least a day or two. I went to
Barcelona by myself since all of my friends were in Florence, and I had a great time. It
was one of my favorite trips of the whole semester. It was exciting to know that I did it
all by myself. I didn’t have to follow anyone’s agenda. I could do just as I wanted. In
my hostel, I met some really cool people and spent the weekend sightseeing with them.

One small thing I recommend is to get a travel guide. The Let’s Go or Lonely Planet
guides are great. They have valuable information, such as hostel recommendations and
maps. Every place I stayed on the weekends was found through my travel guides, and I
was never once disappointed.

A perk of studying at Bocconi is you will most likely get a two-week break during the
beginning of November. Those two weeks are reserved for midterms, but most people
(like me) only had two midterms, and they were both on the first day. So I had almost
two weeks to travel with my mom. My mother and a family friend came over to visit me,
and we did a quick tour of Italy. Flights are pretty cheap around that time, so it’s a great
opportunity to have friends or relatives come to visit you. My mom only paid $370
round-trip from Minneapolis to Milan. It was great having someone from home come
experience life as I did. It was so fun showing my mom around. I loved Italy so much,
and I wanted her to love it, too. My mom had some trouble integrating into the culture,
but I think that was because she didn’t understand the language at all, and she wasn’t
used to being in big cities. But overall, she had a great time, and I was so glad she came.

Other Stuff
Budgeting
It’s hard to say exactly how much money you will need, but excluding tuition, I spent
around $5,000. This includes about $500 per month for rent, $250 per month for food,
and the rest on travel and shopping. You can do it much cheaper. I spent a lot of money
on food, since I didn’t want to cook. Also, I spent a large amount on clothes. Travel can
get expensive, but you can do it more cheaply by staying in hostels and cooking for
yourself. Trains are relatively cheap. For example, you can go to Venice for $20 one
way, Florence for $25, and Rome for around $45. In addition, I bought a cell phone in
Italy. It is almost a necessity, as the phones in the dorms don’t always work, and my cell
phone was the best way for me to stay in contact with my friends. Also, it’s good in case
of emergencies and such. You can buy one that will work when you get back to the
States, like I did. They cost about $100, and then you can do prepaid. Text messaging is
huge over there, and you will get addicted. Guaranteed. To pay for everything, I always
used my VISA check card from TCF. I withdrew money using that card, and I charged
my rent on that card. Just so you know, many hostels and hotels will only accept cash, as
will many restaurants, so always have some cash on hand. I also brought traveller’s
checks with me in case something happened to my cards, but I never ended up using
them.

Visas
Before you go to Italy, you must apply for your visa. You can find the form on the
Italian Embassy’s website. The address is http://www.italyemb.org/Visti.htm. A student
visa is free. Make sure you apply for “multiple entry” if you plan on doing any travel
outside of Italy. I recommend applying at least a month in advance. The sooner, the
better, especially since Italians are known for being notoriously slow.

Other recommendations.
In terms of what to bring, it’s not too big of a deal because anything you forget, you can
buy. The weather is pretty comparable to the weather in Minnesota, but it is more
temperate in Milan. When I arrived in Milan in September, it was definite shorts weather
(although wearing shorts in Italy is a big fashion no-no!). It was sunny with blue skies
almost every day in September and October. It rained like crazy and started to get kind
of cold in November. Bring an umbrella! Or just buy a cheap one from a street vendor.
December was cold, but not like back here. The coldest it got was around 30 degrees, but
I was sure glad I had my winter coat. I know this is obvious, but bring comfortable shoes
because you will be walking so much. If you have anything you’ll want to plug in, make
sure to buy an eletrical converter and adapter. The plugs are different in Italy. They just
have 2 circular prongs, and their voltage is higher than ours. Even though there is
computer access, the lines are often pretty long in the labs, so if you have a laptop, I
highly encourage bringing it. There are several places to connect to the internet at the
university, and you can connect in the dorms’ computer labs as well. Laptops also come
in handy on the weekends when the university is closed as well as for group projects that
you may have to do.

Calling home: You can buy cheap phone cards from bars or magazine stands. Buy the
Europa brand cards, and you get 180 minutes of time for 5 euros. It’s a great deal. I used
them all the time.

Conclusion

I know this may seem like a very long report, but I hope it was helpful. I just had such a
positive study abroad experience, and I hope that you will, too. If you have any questions
at all, don’t hesitate to email me. I would love to share my experiences with you, and
help you in any way possible. If you’re not sure whether or not you want to study
abroad, I would say definitely do it. You won’t regret it. Whenever I tell someone I
studied abroad, I often get the response, “Oh that’s so great. I really wish I would have
done that.” I have never once met someone who regretting studying abroad. People
regret not doing it. I cannot stress enough what an amazing experience it is. I learned so
much about myself, other cultures, and the world in general that I could not have done
through any other way than studying abroad. Studying abroad isn’t for everyone, but
with an open mind and a little patience, you will get achieve great rewards if you decide
to spend a semester at Bocconi.

				
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