I’m back and better than ever!

So it’s been a while since I’ve been blogging, and even longer since I last logged into my website. I found several posts in my drafts that I hadn’t even posted. Why? Who knows, maybe they are unfinished, I went ahead and just published them, unfinished or not.

Like I said, its been a while, almost a year and a half! Since then I’ve been to Mexico twice, Australia, New Zealand, several places around the US, and have plans to go to Colombia and move to Europe! I graduated college and have been working on my spanish… so lot’s has been happening!

Part of my reason for not posting is because I was lazy, but also I was having trouble updating my themes and updating photos on non-blog part of my website. So I stopped. But now I’m back and better than ever! I have posts that I wrote on my phone that I plan to post (unfinished or not), I want to write about my past experiences, my experience in getting an Irish Working Holiday Visa, my journey with spanish, etc etc.

Stay tuned and much love. Cheers!

What the EU flag means to me

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece based on my experiences in Europe. I may get some things wrong or say something you don’t agree with, but do not fret because it’s not the end of the world.

I have been in Europe approximately 5 months. When I first arrived I had a slight notion of what the EU was, but I didn’t even know there was a unifying flag. I questioned: what is the blue flag with stars and why it is everywhere?

I’ve learned a lot these past 5 month, talked to a lot of people, and read a lot of European news. I’ve realized that countries are proud to be part of the EU, especially the less western ones like Slovenia and Croatia. I’ve also realized a lot more countries than I expected are in the EU. You have to have certain standards of living and infrastructure, and there are only a few places left in Europe without them.

Visiting the EU parliament (museum) taught me a lot about what the EU actually *does*. It was created after WWII when Winston Churchill stated that Europe needs to be more like the United States and be the United Countries of Europe. The EU was formed to prevent another atrocity like the first two world wars to happen again.

Besides promoting unity and conflict prevention, the EU allows free economic trade and an overall currency that is together, stronger and not quite as susceptible to some currency. The Italian lire for instance was in bad shape when the switch was made. 1800 lire for 1 euro? They had 10000 lire bills and more. A few too many zeros on that to be considered a strong currency. The euro though is strong, comparable to the US dollar. Only two countries are exempt from the euro, Denmark, and the U.K. (Mention of brexit to come). The rest are supposed to phase into it at some point, some places accept both euro and the local currency, even if they aren’t in the stage of phasing out.

Milan Sights to See

Duomo

-Lucky shiny leg

-Damage from bomb, thought to be the leg, actually just a random part on the door

-Statue of liberty, the original (lady liberty eventually was a mix of this and French statue)

-took forever to build

-Visconti family

Visconti family seal

-Snake eating a human, seen on the inter soccer team and a car logo

-Viper because of Dante’ poem

Hospital business school

-don’t touch the grass, because of the graves

Bones chapel – Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa

-decor came from hospital graves

Opera house – La Scala Opera

-Amazing acoustics, best in the world.

-You haven’t made it in opera unless you’ve performed here

-bombed, but rebuilt within a year exactly because of the amount of photographs that were available

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

-Built to commemorate Italy being unified in 1861

-lit by gas lights at first, but was the first place in Milan to get electricity

-First Prada store opened here

-Savino, first restaurant in galleria

Merchant market

-Great acoustics

-where the word bankrupt came from

Stock Market Exchange

-the finger, the guy

Ultimate Guide To Study Abroad: UT to Bocconi

Guide to Studying Abroad at Bocconi University (especially if you’re a UT student)

School

-Classes

I would say the school is easier than UT in a lot of respects. Although, it depends on your type of person. If you procrastinate til the very last minute, it might be a difficult choice. All of my classes consisted on only two grades: a final and a project (mostly group projects). Only one of my classes actually took attendance, which means that you don’t *have* to go to classes if you really don’t want to. You can choose to take a course non-attending, which means you only take the final at the end for your grade. Because most of your grade (attending and non-attending) is consistent of one final test, there is nothing that “forces” you to read your book or keep up with the lectures until about the last month of school. It is better to make a schedule and pace yourself so you don’t have a ton of work at the end of the school year.

Don’t stress too much about the class schedule. If a class section says “for incoming (exchange) students” that means that you can only choose that class section(s), even if others are offered. Management and finance classes will be the hardest classes you take. Corporate finance at bocconi covers more than the regular FIN 357 and is not the beginner course for students at bocconi, so it might be best to just take it at UT.

Registration at Bocconi is not as stressful as UT registration, but do be prepared and log in at the correct time to be guaranteed of what classes you want.

-School culture

There is this group called the “Erasmus Student Network.” As an exchange student, you are on erasmus, which is what Europe calls its exchange program. Europeans will tell you that being on erasmus is all about partying, which is exactly what the ESN group told us at their introductory meeting. “We are here to get you wasted.” Not even kidding. I was shocked that a group like this was allowed to say this! But the drinking age is 18, so you will probably end up drinking a lot, more on that later.

Italy smokes a lot of cigarettes. The percentages are only like 5% higher, but their tobacco laws are completely different. You’ll begin to appreciate that UT is a tobacco free campus. People here step one meter outside the entrance/exit and light up. This both blocks the entrance (very inefficient) and makes you have to walk through a cloud of cancer to get to your class. Plus the foyer smells like stale cigarettes. Wonderful.

Bocconi is a really small school. Maybe like that size of my entire high school campus (main building, parking lot, soccer field, included). It was really different from UT, but nice because everything was close together and all my classes were housed in two buildings.

Milan

-What to do go

Check out my blog post on Milan Sights to See for some good advice on what to go do. I know you’ll want to travel to other places, but take at least one weekend a month to do Milanese things, relax, and study (yes you don’t want to get too behind). Traveling every weekend is stressful and you will get tired of it.

-Food and Grocery

Buy your groceries from the Esselungo (“Long S Superstore”). Buy fruit from the farmers market or the local grocery store as it will go bad faster than normal. Fruit is really cheap and extra delicious! Also the juice is all great, my favorite being the “Arancia Rossa,” aka blood orange.

Milan is special in that is has “apertivo,” which is a buffet-style dinner and drink combo. For around 10 euro or less you can get a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) plus a buffet of food. It was originally meant to be just a snack and not replace dinner, but there are definitely some places that could fill you up all day. Typically aperitivo is between 7pm and 11pm, although it varies place to place. The nicest places are in the Navigli area, right near bocconi. My personal favorite is MAYA. It has a great never-ending selection of italian dishes, and even a chocolate fountain!

-Renting an Apartment

Join the “Bocconi Rents” facebook page in preparation to finding and apartment for the spring semester. A lot of students go abroad, which means there are a lot of open apartments. If they want a true cultural immersion, having an Italian roommate would be great for learning the language and having a personal guide of the city. I would also advise against sharing a room with more than one other person. A two-room apartment would be great for 2-4 people, but no more. 

Dorm life. Americans typically get placed in the Arcobaleno dorm, which is a 15 minute tram ride from the school. It also has no wifi (only ethernet cables) and no oven, which limits what you are able to do. You also can’t have guests past midnight. If you want to meet A LOT of people and do a lot of social activities, it is the place to be. A lot of my friends were living in the dorm and they liked it, but weren’t ecstatic about it.

Things to do after you have housing:

Get your Italian tax code (you’ll need it for the bus pass). It’s not that difficult, you just need to bring a few documents to the tax office. Wait in line to get the form, fill out the form, get a number, and talk to the representative when your number is called.

Go to the duomo or centrale station to get the student bus pass (10 e + 22 e per month)

Go to the Trenitalia ticket office at centrale and sign up for cartafreccia (this gives you discounts on the national trains, which get expensive. ALWAYS TAKE THE FAST TRAIN if possible) 

Go to the permit of stay sessions and get that done 

Italy & Travel

-Italian culture: stereotypes of Italians: They smoke a lot, eat a lot of carbs, are late all the time, like to vacation more than work, and sometimes are rude. But if you try to speak italian with them and try to engage with them, they can be very pleasant and make good friends. Try and talk with other students and start to learn their point of view. Esp with this being an election year, it was very interesting to see what they had to say. 

As a women: Do be a little cautious of the men. They are very “hormonal” and can be very fiesty. If you aren’t interested, let them know sooner or later. At times they can get aggressive. Italy, for the most part, does not necessarily treat genders with equality. Even women don’t always see themselves as equals. I had a friend tell me that an italian girl said “american women don’t put out enough.” Be cautious. (Also Italian men are not as attractive as you would think. Most have hairstyles dating from the 90s or look old for their age.)

Food: To cook pasta you gotta put A LOT of salt into the water. Not a sprinkle, but a couple of dashes. I promise your noodles will be cooked to perfect “al-dente.” Italy is serious about it’s food. Every type of pasta is to be served a certain way with a certain sauce and there are other rules about what kind of meat or vegetables or ingredients are allowed to be used. I don’t know the rules, but you can view them here. They take their pizza seriously too. Pizza is different throughout the man regions of Italy varying from thin crust to thick crust to the type of dough and ingredients used. Pizza is delicious and it’s always something that I am excited to eat. Most of the pizza is brick oven or wood fired and it’s great.

Be Aware of “Coperto” when you go out to a restaurant! They will charge you $1-$5 each person just for sitting down. Water is also NEVER FREE. Bring your own bottle or pay ~$1.50 per liter of fizzy or natural water.

Drinking: Italians drink with almost every meal. They have these rules about digestion and a lot of what they eat, drink, and do relates back to having good digestion. Alcohol is typically served with an aperitif, similar to a spanish tapa. It is a little snack that you eat with your drink, since drinking is supposed to increase your appetite. Italians don’t typically binge drink like americans. In the clubs you’ll see people who are extremely wasted, but usually they can still handle themselves. Taking a drink at a meal (or every meal) is very common and alcohol is part of their culture instead of a taboo.

Language: Take the crash course. Take the test. Right now: download Memrise, Duolingo, or other language learning app or guide and push yourself to do at least 5 minutes or 1 lesson a day. Getting acquainted early will help you a lot and prepare you to take on Italy. The “gli” sound is the hardest and sounds like “yee” (sort of like “yee-haw!”). 

smoking: Like I said, Italians smoke a lot. Marijuana is still illegal, but you’ll occasionally smell it on the street and the police don’t really do anything about it. Beware of the guys who try to sell it to you on the street. From what I’ve heard they will either rip you off, or give you something of really bad quality. So best to avoid those types entirely. Not only do italians like to smoke right in front of doors, they also like to block the whole sidewalks while they smoke and chat. It’s rather difficult to walk anywhere and breathe at the same time. The laws here are very different. It was only last year that they started putting smoking kills and warning on the cigarette packets. They have stores here called “tobacchis” that carry mainly cigarettes, lotto tickets, and other little trinkets. They also sell postage stamps and metro tickets. I hate giving them my business, so I bought the month metro pass and I send my postcards out from other countries (also italian mail is really expensive and not super reliable).

Selfie Stick Guys & Rose Peddlers: These are the most annoying people you could ever encounter. They aren’t just in Italy, they are in every single big tourist area. “Selfie Selfie?” They will ask as they shove yet another retractable metal stick in your face. No does not work because they won’t leave. The guys with the roses are just as bad. Maybe you’ve encountered them on 6th street. They approach mainly couples and hand a rose to the lady. If you take it, the guy will pressure your friend (who usually would be male) to pay for it. The catch is that the guy is supposed to pay for it, otherwise he will look like a jerk if you have to return it. Ignore these guys as well AND DO NOT TAKE THE ROSE. DO NOT FEED THE PROBLEM. The first day you might think it is cute but after 4 months you might be willing to buy one of those dumb selfie sticks so you have something to prode these guys away with.How do you get ride of them? Saying “go” usually works best. In Italian you can use any of these phrases. Vai (you go, informal). Vai lontano (you go away, informal). Remember saying no does not work. It’s okay to be rude because… well italians are pretty rude themselves.

-Places to go in Italy

I went to almost every corner of italy, but it is still a rather large country and didn’t manage to hit everything. Besides the typical Rome, Venice, and Florence, I got to experience so much more. Notable CinqueTerre, 5 cities with ancient hiking paths between them and beautiful waters, Naples, not as sketchy as people (plus a lot of good day trips around), Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet, Como, there’s a lake…..

-Travel within Italy

The train is the fastest and easiest way to get around Italy, and even to some neighboring countries. An in-depth explanation of the trains in Italy can be found in my post specifically about the trains in Italy. Make sure you sign up for the loyalty card as soon as you can to get your “under 26 discount.”

There are several bus companies in Italy, the best of them being the Flixbus.

You can fly to some places in Italy, but in most cases the train will, in the end, take just as much time. The only places you really need to fly to are Sardinia and Sicily.

-travel outside of Italy

Unless you are heading to a nearby country, you will want to fly. Flights are super cheap in europe, sometimes as low as 9-euro one way! Check below for some recommended websites.

If you are traveling to France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, or even Croatia or Germany, you can take a bus and/or a train. The easiest train connection are from Milan to Nice (france). There are no trains that go through the alps, so if you want to go to Munich, you’ll have to bus or fly. To get to Slovenia I took a train to venice and then from there a bus to the capital city, Ljubljana. Heading into eastern europe and it gets harder to figure out the train routes and schedules, luckily I was with a local who know just what to do.

-Resources

Some websites I like to use to plan my travels

goeuro.com – search travel options

rome2rio.com – search how to get places (will you need to take a train and then a bus or just 2 trains? etc etc)

skyscanner.com – good for finding flights. Also allows you to choose “everywhere” so you can find the cheapest round trip flights for some weekend

studentuniverse.com – sometimes have even cheaper flights than sky scanner

hostelworlds.com – if you want to book a hostel, this is the best website to check reviews

famoushostels.com – Europe’s Famous Hostels. These are some of the funnest and best deals in Europe. Makes for really good suggestions on where to plan your next trip.

airbnb.com – hotels or hostels can sometimes be pricey, so it’s worth looking into the price of rooms

themilanlife.com – ENGLISH blog about Milan! I didn’t find this until after I left Milan, but glancing through it, there are some great suggestions and tips for making your way through Milan. Best and most important part though… it’s in english. Phew.

The Armani SILOS

I had a friend invite me to go to the “Armani Silos,” yet I had no idea what it was. She said it was the first sunday of the month, so it was free. I couldn’t pass down free, plus it was a good excuse to get out of the house and take a break from studying.

The Armani Silos might as well be known as the Armani Museum. I had no idea what to expect, but I was awestruck. The first floor is a temporary exhibition that at the moment feature photos of athletes in armani sportswear. Most of these were olympic athletes in celebration of the recent Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. The floor was designed with the surface of a running track, even having painted lines to simulate the lanes.

Walking up the stairs we begin to see garments from past Giorgio Armani collections. They were some of the most exquisite, and well-crafted items I have ever seen in person. Most of them were beaded, a laborious task. They had gowns and outfits, accessories, and more from the fashion shows since the birth of the Armani Brand. Check out the gallery below to get a glimpse of what this showcase has to offer.

Traveling in Italy (using metaphors) – Another Rant

Here is another one of my rants on Italy, this time I used a bunch of metaphors and similes. Some of  these metaphors are actually based off of real things, like travelling for an hour and a half and the place you are going to is closed. That happened when we tried to go to Pompeii. Anyways I’ve changed a lot of my thoughts since I wrote this. I’m not always this cynical, just when I’m fed up with frustration. Maybe you can relate.

Traveling in Italy is like driving down the road when all of a sudden a yeti comes and totals your car.

Traveling in Italy is like scoring a touchdown, only to realize the ref called a flag just seconds before you succeeded.

Traveling in Italy is like your boss giving you a raise, but then your house catches fire.

Traveling in Italy is like smelling a beautiful flower, only to realize it is the devils breathe.

Like finding a perfect tinder match, only to learn you are being catfished.

Traveling an hour and a half on a train, only to realize the place you were trying to get to is closed.

Trying to buy a discount card, only to realize you didn’t read the fine print that said you had to be an EU citizen.

Running to the bus because it was on the other side, hopping on just in time, but catching someone’s mucus spit on your backpack.

Buying a nice quality bag, only to realize the supply exceeds the demand and you overpayed.

Every train being delayed, except for the train you arrive a minute late to.

Having your phone company tell you 4G data is free all day, but  getting the edge network (slowest data) 70% of the day.

Getting on the wrong train when your train at the same platform is late, and end up passing your destination and having to retrace your steps.

Asking to try on a pair of shoes a size larger and being told you can’t because they won’t fit your feet, but buying them anyways and then fitting perfect just like you thought.

Traveling in Italy has been really hard. Everything may be going well, but then a curveball is thrown at you and it can ruin your day. We’ve learned to not let everything be ruined, but instead we laugh. We laugh a lot because things are constantly not going as planned. The country is beautiful, but the people are not. The country is rich in history, but has a corrupt and poor economy. Lots of nature, but equally as much pollution (and cigarette smoke). Point is, Italy is not all that and a plate of pasta. It is full of pasta, very good pasta, but the country itself can be defined in one word: Challenging.

Everything is challenging. Whether it is transportation, information, eating at restaurants, finding something open, etc etc etc. The store is never open when you want it to be. The train never comes on time, except when your running late. The internet almost never provides enough information, and your stuck having to fend for yourself and think quick on your feet.

Even the language doesn’t make sense. There may be 20 words for one little thing, but you have to choose the exact word based on where you are, you are are, who the other person is, what your relationship is, what time of day or year, and more. For a foreigner they aren’t too picky, they’re mostly happy to see you trying. Though as a foreigner it can be pretty tricky to try and understand if: A) they are using different words than you know (or are used to), B) they talk fast and complex even after you ask (in Italian) to slow down.

So many people come to Italy and you hear them talk about its beauty and how it was so amazing. There are different kinds of people who travel though, some book tours, others live it out themselves. Those who book tours (both all inclusive and individual ones) typically have an easier time seeing and doing things. Everything is planned, they don’t have to worry about other costs or something going wrong. Those who live it out themselves typically choose to plan things on their own, without the direction of a guide. The latter also typically go more so off the beaten path. The former ends up sticking to touristy things and definitely getting a different experience.

I am the latter. I am stubborn and I like to plan everything myself so I have room for flexibility and exploration. I’ve been on a guided tour of a whole city and it sucked. I felt trapped. I couldn’t explore or spend the amount of time I wanted to at places and not everywhere we went was I interested. I like to experience the real culture, not a fake one that tour guides try to make it out to be. When you live in the rough, you learn to adapt. When you live in Italy, you begin to expect nothing to go the way you planned. That is what I have become. I have let go of my expectations and nothing can surprise me anymore.

I don’t think everyone has the capacity to travel abroad. I’m sure other countries leave people feeling this way, but Italy seems so much more so than all the others I’ve been to. Italy seems to be rough on other travelers I have met along the way. Everything is backwards, people are rude, Sunday is the worst day of the week because everything is closed, and you become an early bird because the only thing to do in Milan after 8pm is go to a club or bar with equally posh Italians who all look 20 years older than their real age because they smoke so much. It’s been really life-changing living in Italy, and traveling abroad in general. I have 2 months left until I go back to the mothership, and I cannot wait. I will go home a new person, with new skills, new knowledge, a new perspective, and knowing everyone who thinks Italy is the greatest place ever…. is wrong and they must not have actually been to Italy.

I think the reason people talk so well of Italy is because they had such an amazing guided tour experience. The country truly is beautiful, and if you are paying the people then they are nice. Otherwise expect to get shorter on your change.

Would I recommend living or studying in Italy? No. Just don’t do it. Visit Italy while you are abroad, but don’t make the mistake in living there. If you really feel so inclined, then be prepared knowing it’s challenging.

Airport troubles and Heading Home

The day I left was difficult. It was my flight to go home. Milan Linate airport was super foggy and thus getting the plane to London took some extra time. We left late, delayed the landing, then also delayed our taxi to the gate. It was a rough 4 hours or so.

I tried to find my connection, but alas it wasn’t even on the connections board. I talked to a lady and she told me to stand in this immigration line and rebooking was on the other side. I was constantly updating my parents about my flight and even though it was the middle of the night, my dad was constantly checking his email. He told me that apparently my flight was 2 hours delayed and I might be able to make it. I run to the bus to take me to terminal 3.

Standing in line at the UK Border

I run and approach yet another security check. I anxiously wait and get through it somewhat quickly. I run to the board and I still can’t find my flight. I ask an attendant nearby and he says, “let’s talk to British airways.” He brings me up to a tall British man who I give my boarding pass to. “Unfortunately yes you miss your flight, but I will work to get that all fixed off,” he says as he runs off.

I didn’t even have to wait in any line, but I am just standing there where he once was. I sit down. I’ve had to use the bathroom for a good 3 hours now, along with being dehydrated and I had poured out my water at security. Plus I have gone without a meal for a good 7 hours. The man eventually comes back asking for my passport, he tells me that my flight will be tomorrow and that I’ll be in a hotel tonight. Best news though: it’s a direct flight home.

I wouldn’t be able to appreciate a direct flight as much as I do today. Seeing my hometown on the screen, the thought of doing customs in my own city, and not having to worry about switching to another flight all mean so much more to me.

The hotel they put me in was close to the airport, I got a bus voucher to get me there and back. I also got dinner and breakfast. Dinner was a bunch of fried food, but I could not have been happier. French fries and fish sticks and chicken tenders and more. Fried food: An American’s Dream. The room was pretty quirky as well, and really nice. Having my own double bed and my own cozy little room was so refreshing.

Quirky picture in my hotel room’s bathroom

Getting to the airport the next day was also so relaxing. It was nearby, I didn’t have my 2 huge and heavy suitcases, I already had a boarding pass, and security took less than 5 minutes. I got to my gate and it was a short and easy wait for my flight to board.

I hadn’t taken a flight this long before. I think my longest was around 6-7 hours, this one was a solid 10. I tried to sleep, but only got a scattered 3 hours. I was delighted that they fed us, something I honestly did not expect, but looking back I understand it is probably mandatory to do so. I watched 2 movies, played countless games of solitaire, and walked around a couple times. We were in the new Boeing Dreamliners (787), and it made me feel rather fancy.

Customs was also easier itself than I expected. Apparently the Austin airport is special in that you don’t have to fill out any papers because everything is recorded electronically. The process was very simple. While waiting for your bags, go through this line til you get to a machine, scan your passport, answer the prompted questions (which replace the need to fill out the paper form), get a receipt, and have it checked by personnel. They will write a number on it, which corresponds to which line you’ll need to go through once you collect your bags. I finished that first process and waiting on my bags for a bit while longer. Once they were collected, I handed the receipt and my passport to the officer, he asked me if I need to declare anything, to which I answered “no” (an honest no too) and I went out the doors to see my family waiting for me.

My first long-term trip has been a success and it has been so amazing. There are so many things I look forward to and I cannot wait for the future! Adventure awaits!

Italian Ranting

I’ve complained about Italy quite a bit, and right now I’m going to come clean and share one of my rants. Don’t take it personally, as it was written in a moment of anger. Maybe you’ll relate to it, but I’m sharing to show my real experiences. Despite all my problems encountered by Italians, I think I would come back to Italy, although this time I’ll be more prepared.

If you’ve ever wondered why I think Italians are absolute nightmares, here is how I feel about it. Snow week is a great example because it was run by Italians and was pretty disorganized.

The email says the bus leaves at 5:20pm, but suggests you get there by 5pm so they can load all the stuff. The bus doesn’t arrive til 5:15. Loading doesn’t begin til 5:25. You can’t get on the bus until 5:40. It’s an organized mess trying to give everyone their envelope. The bus finally leaves at 6:30pm. Yeah There is no bathroom on the bus. The door that you think is a bathroom is locked and the sign is scratched out. It’s probably he bathroom, but the driver doesn’t want to clean it so he locks it. Not the first time that has happened.

We finally get to the place. It’s late. Check-in IS a nightmare as the organizers barely speak English. Typical. Host an event for internationals and only speak Italian. We learn that we need everyone’s ID’s. We get that. Then we learn that there is a deposit. No one knows how much. We finally find out. We gather the money. Then they tell us there is also a tourist tax. We pay for it with intent to get the money back from our fellow flatmates. Finally checked in.

Next day. We try to find information. No snow week person knows anything and can barely speak English or tell us what is going on. The front desk is talking to us and as they are talking they shut the window. A minute later one of them comes around and refers us to someone else.

The way back is the same, takes forever to get going on the road. It’s not just this though, my whole time in Italy has been frustrating. Characterized by people who really don’t care. All Italians care about is leisure, which is good in moderation, but all the time, really?

Things Italians are good at:

Blocking doors and sidewalks

Smoking cigarettes

Growing fruit

I hear the coffee is real good, but as someone who cannot properly digest coffee….. it is of no use to me.

Customer service and satisfaction do not exist. People hardly ever seen happy about working. They all seem to hate their jobs or just not care. Some of my professors seem like to like teaching, and a couple of baristas don’t seem to mind, but the checkers at the grocery store, bus drivers, and associates at the phone store just don’t care. Do they want your business? I guess (read it again, but now with an eye-roll and you’ll get what it’s like.)

I’ve written about this topic before, but it’s frustrating. You have to leave at least 10 minutes early because I promise you there will be something that delays your trip. The more transfers you have to make, the earlier you have to leave. Always check your change, they’ll try to short you, especially since you’re foreign.

Did your phone provider charge you for something unfairly? Don’t expect to get that money back. They’ll just shrug and pretend not to speak English or pass you off to their associate. For me, they called customer service until they found an English representative. She wasn’t too helpful either.

It’s also frustrating because in all my classes they talk about customer satisfaction and delight, none of which Italy has. Sure if you buy expensive stuff of course they’ll provide you with top-notch stuff. But if you’re buying day-to-day needs or services, don’t expect much.

Also “international nights” ALWAYS are half Italian. Any event listed as international seemingly has very few internationals at it and mostly just Italians trying to meet internationals. Like I don’t come to those to meet Italians???? Italian men are especially annoying. They expect so much from you, and expect you’ll be smitten immediately. Newsflash: Italians are not very attractive. Everyone, men included, has severe resting bitch face. They hardly smile, so when they do it’s a bit shocking. Still doesn’t help make them anymore attractive. Seriously though, Italians are ugly and not sexy whatsoever. More so just creepy.

Goodbye Milan

I am so blessed to have beautiful weather on my last day in Milan. I was able to bike around the city and take in all the sites one last time.

Leaving Europe is bittersweet. I spent 6 whole months here and went to countless places, met some amazing people, and I have been inspired. I never knew how fascinated I was with language, or the way different people function. I learned that everywhere you go there are people who lack basic common sense, but that they are mixed along with people who are inspiration, smart, and capable.

I’m returning to Texas tomorrow, with a gleam if sadness in my eyes. Sad because I’ll be leaving Europe, where it’s easy to get anywhere, and no one checks IDs. But I’m also sad because I am returning to an unfamiliar America. Throughout my journey I had thoughts of: America is better because this; America is better because that….. But on second thought I don’t really know if America does it better. Although they are way better at making Mexican food, thanks neighbors.

I leave Milan content. I like the city, but I never loved it. It was never quite my type of place. The overall atmosphere of the city was too uptight for me. If I had the chance to go back I would probably opt for Rome or Naples instead. Still frustrating, but more laid-back, casual, and more my speed.

I like Italy, but it has been very frustrating. Something about Italians… very hardheaded. There is a common lack of sense, and efficiency doesn’t exist. Customer service, also non-existing. We had this joke that goes along the lines of: “How many Italians does it take to check you out (at the register)?” “Two, one to do it, and another for them to talk to.” Constantly we had cashier who would completely ignore you while they rang up your items, and just continue talking to their friend. Their ideal situation would be you show them your items and just leave the correct amount on the counter. I also won’t miss the dog poo all over the sidewalks. The rain wasn’t very helpful either.

Overall I’m very grateful for the experience I’ve had and I will cherish it immensely. I’m excited to come home and start a new adventure.

A Good Customer Service Experience

Italian businesses have frustrated me countless times, especially phone service companies. When I’m upset or frustrated, I hardly ever get a response or even feel like I’m valued. Even when I’m not frustrated people just don’t try to keep me happy.

Take the grocery store for example. If I’m checking out at HEB, usually the cashier will be peppy or at least have strength in their movements. They’ll ring me up with some sort of motivation or hast. At the grocery stores here, half the time it’ll just be an employee going through the motions. You might write it off as, “Yeah of course, that’s how that are everywhere actually.” But here it’s more than just going through the motions. They go slow, they give me the limp arm, as they ever so slowly scan the groceries and plop (not place, just carelessly “plop”) my items on the counter. They look at me, expecting me to just leave my money on the counter and get out of their face, instead I always have to pay by card. This gets me a lot of glares, especially when they realize I have a foreign card and they have to press one extra button.

Whenever I do get a good customer experience, it really has a huge effect on me. I smile, in disbelief, and it really brightens up my whole day. I was walking with my friend Anna to the Armani Silos exhibit, when we passed a store that caught her eye. They were selling purses: leather and ones with fur. We decided to go in and see if the fur was real. It was. Dyed fur, but still real, from the leather hide of the animal. She really liked one and eventually decided to buy one, they weren’t too pricey.

The guy manning the store was really friendly, helping us when needed, and giving us good information. I had some trouble opening a particular clutch and after a few minutes of all us fiddling around, he finally figured it out. She bought the bag and looked around some more while he packaged it. It was a local shop and the sack didn’t have any branding, so he got out his marker set. He drew on the bag, representing their little shop through colors and art. He took his time, and he did it with a smile in his eyes. On the way out the door he gave both of us little furry keychains. That was the icing on the cake.

We walked out the door extremely satisfied. I was in shock about how kind that man was. Even without the free gift, his smile was so unusual for someone working a job in Italy. If you want to check out the shop, I took a photo of the business card. It’s a nice, affordable bag shop in Milan, near the Porta Genova stop. Check it out.

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