A FAQ for my Italian experience…
When did you study abroad?
In the fall of 2013. Studying abroad is an extraordinary experience!
Where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad in Milan, at The Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore! Once regarded as the fashion capital of the world, I believe the title is slowly slipping. You wouldn’t know it by walking around there though. The vibe is entirely different from that of southern Italy (i.e., Roma) and it definitely has a more industrial vibe. During fashion week, you especially feel the Milanese attempting to hold a tight grip to their Fashion Capital title- it’s all glamor to the max.
What program did you study abroad through?
I studied abroad through the ISEP program. It was convenient because it essentially allowed me to pay my university rate, to my university, so I didn’t really acquire any additional debts besides a program fee or two. I would definitely recommend it, and I felt like we got plenty of perks. For example, we received Ticket Restaurant booklets as a part of our meal plan. These booklets allowed us to buy groceries and dine out when we wanted to, not just in Milan but all over Italy!
Where did you live?
Through ISEP and my university, we were placed through Cattolica’s housing service, MILService all around the city. Because of the monopoly the housing service has on the situation, the living conditions ranged from super nice to wow-this-sucks. My first apartment was right in the ghetto, but I moved a week into my experience (THANK GOD), and my second apartment was nicer, albeit way further from school. They do bring you fresh sheets when they send the cleaning crew out bi-weekly though, AND we had an oven (banana bread for all!), so I guess it’s what you make of it.
What’s the weather like in Milan in the fall / winter?
Cold. As. Hell. I walked out the first day I was there (a Sunday in mid-September) in a sundress and it was freezing! Southern Italy fares a bit better (we were there in mid-November and were fine roaming around in light jackets). I didn’t get to wear a single warm weather dress. It was straight to the jeans and sweaters! It’s a crisp cold though, so it’s super refreshing and not biting cold, at least not usually.
Did you really “study” abroad?
Not going to lie, it was all pass / fail, so I did the minimum to get by. A lot of the professors understood we were traveling on the weekend, so the homework loads were never too terribly heavy. Classes were 2 hour chunks though, and we usually weren’t given a break, so that was a struggle to sit through. Especially because they were all lecture based! I took five classes (15 hours), but had a late start Monday morning with Fridays off, so traveling was generally easy. It wasn’t rare to see people show up to the first / last class of the week with luggage, ready to jetset.
Did you get the Permiso de Conducir?
When we arrived in Milan, we were told we’d have to register with the Milanese police to get permiso cards (cards that said we were legally allowed to be in Italy for over 90 days). It was a pain in the butt, and cost an extra $150 that we didn’t anticipate having to pay that day! I paid for the card (the important part, I guess), but never got around to showing up to my appointment to finish the application up. I was never asked to show my receipt of payment, or to show the physical card itself- and I left the country practically every weekend. If I wasn’t such a weenie, I wouldn’t have done it. I know several friends who didn’t get it and survived. I just feared the worst, and knew with my luck I’d be the one to be kicked out for not having it…
How much money did you save to study abroad?
I saved religiously for a whole year prior, and was able to place about six grand into my savings account. My advice would be to set a big goal (mine was five grand), because it’s better to save now and maybe need it there, rather than skimping and regretting it later. Don’t have time to get a part-time job? I took on the most random jobs- I babysat on care.com, transcribed text from books for a professor, and even delivered the university newspapers at 6 am every Wednesday to make a quick buck. My roommate saved over $10,000 and she got to do a ton of thrift shopping everywhere she went- her closet is fantastic! I ended up having money leftover at the end of it all, and was able to do a week of spontaneous backpacking right before heading home. Of course, all saving is situational, and if you only manage to save $2,000, you’ll be fine if you aren’t planning on dippin’ out every weekend.
How did you budget traveling?
When we first arrived to orientation, they gave us a little notebook with the university logo on it. I used this to meticulously document every dollar (euro?) I was spending. Flights. Food. Fun. It also prevents you from making irrational purchases- you don’t really want to write down you purchased a 20 euro mask in Prague, do you? I finally allowed myself to spend about $200 a weekend. Sometimes I had to go over (and sometimes I was way under!), but it was good to have a figure I knew I had to more or less abide by so my money would last the whole semester.
Would you recommend Milan as a good city to study abroad in?
Yes! However, probably not for reasons that the Milanese would be proud of. I knew I wanted to do a lot of traveling when I made Milan my home, and it was definitely the perfect hub to fly all around from. It’s located right in the heart of Europe, so flights to London and Athens were just a few hours, and even flights to Morocco were about three hours. As for Milan itself, it isn’t Tuscany by any means, and the people can be rude, but it’s Italy regardless which means great gelato and pasta for all!
Have a question? Drop it in the comments!
My old blog posts can be found on the St. Edward’s University newspaper, Hilltop Views, website here.