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.

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.

Learning a language… In another Language

 

My italian has been coming along quite nice, so naturally I decided to learn Russian. Sarcastic thoughts aside, the other girl could only speak italian and a few words of english. Guess I was going to learn the basics in another language I had only been learning for 4 months.

I visited the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and in my hostel I finally met someone from Belarus! This is a country that has fascinated me due to it’s sheer mystery. No one really talks about it, visa and permits are really strict, and it’s no one’s first travel destination. The mystery is intriguing to me, and it only intensified when I learned that the pronunciation of the country does not rhyme with Polaris, the pool cleaning vacuum. Meeting someone from Belarus was exciting, but like I previously stated, she barely knew any english. Lucky for us, I have been studying italian for the past 4 months and I knew enough to be able to carry some sort of conversation, with the help of google translate of course.

We talked for a few hours, speaking slowly, being extra expressive, and laughing a lot. I showed her a photo of a hedgehog, and tried to explain that is used to belong to my boyfriend. Instead she thought I had said the hedgehog was my boyfriend! Funny how communication between humans work. I learned a lot about italian, and I did my best to help her with her english.

The next night I went downstairs to talk with her, Anastasia, again. She was accompanied by two italians from Sardegna (Sardinia). They knew a little more english, which made having conversation a little easier. With that, Anastasia decided to teach us the Cyrillic alphabet, aka the “weird things Russians use as letters (many other slavic languages use it too).” Examples such as:

А
A
Б
Be
В
Ve
Г
Ge
Ґ
Ge upturn
Д
De
Ђ
Dje
Ѓ
Gje
Е
Ye
Ё
Yo
Є
Yest
Ж
Zhe

Instead of using the english pronunciations listed above, they were sounded out using the italian alphabet. Noticeable changes being “ghe” instead of ge, and “je” (like in german “ja”), and “jo” for ye and yo since there is no technically j in italian. Looking at the english pronunciation now… I’m actually confused.

The pronunciations weren’t the hardest part to figure out. She would write an example word, but then translate it to italian, a very strange experience indeed.

Here is the paper she wrote all the notes on.

The Russian alphabet with italian pronunciations.

The 5th letter down is the “de,” same in italian and english. On the back of the page were a few examples, our name, and our doodles. I thought the de looked like a rocket ship, though they thought I drew a grave at first!

Our names were written in the top left hand corner, our doodles all over
Our names were written in the top left hand corner, our doodles all over

 

.

My name in russian would be: Мэри 

Our russian lesson ended with Anastasia reciting a russian poem. Like any unfamiliar language, it sounded like straight up gibberish to me. Maybe one day I’ll understand, you never know. Russian may come in handy one day in the future.

Voting From Abroad

It’s official! I sent in my ballot for the US 2016 Election!

Voting from abroad is not easy, but the US government does what it can to give its citizens abroad options, without risking ballot fraud. I turned in my ballot to the US Consulate of Milan. My other option would be to send it through the post, but I didn’t want to pay the high prices for Italian mail with tracking or risk having them lose it (a likely occurrence). My ballot packet mentioned something about sending your ballot through the US Embassy mail (for free), so I decided to do some digging and figure out what exactly I would have to do.

After searching through the US Embassy Italy website, I found this blog post with this very helpful paragraph. See for yourself on the official website.

You can drop your paper ballot at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and at the Consulates General in Milan, Florence and Naples. If you wish to drop off your ballot, or have a friend or colleague drop it off for you, place it in either a postage-paid envelope or envelope bearing domestic U.S. postage addressed to your local election officials.

From what it looked like, all I had to do was show up to the consulate and deposit my ballot.

It’s about a 30 minute trip to get to the consulate using public transportation. Way longer than it would be to get to a polling station in america. Saving 5 euro and having peace of mind was worth it, especially since I pay for the Milan metro system monthly anyways.

I arrive to the consulate, right in front of the metro station, and tried to talk to the Italian police guarding it before finally just showing them my “envelope.” They laughed. It was a pretty janky envelope, not even an envelope as much as a piece of paper taped at the sides. They went inside and gave me an actually envelope, bless their hearts. They were really kind as I wrote in my country clerks address and presented me with the official box to deposit my ballot. And since I didn’t get a sticker, of course I had to get a photo op. If I can make the hour-long round trip (plus time to print, fill out the ballot, read all the instructions 4 times until I’m sure I have it right….), you can make the trip to the polls. Don’t be lazy, get out there early!!

Packing the BackPack

What did I bring with me in my backpack? Quite a few things, I think I may have actually overpacked. Granted these are my only possessions I will have for the next couple of months, most of what I brought are things that are of low worth to me. Clothing that I am okay with throwing out if (and probably when) I buy more; clothing I am okay with getting soiled. I brought small travel sized containers of my toiletries, because I know I will buy or borrow most of what I need overseas. I brought towels that can double as blankets, etc etc. Read below to find my detailed list!

Continue reading “Packing the BackPack”

To get a Visa

Getting my student visa was stressful. I thought, “Oh yeah getting all my papers together will be easy! I can do it a few days before I need to go.”

no. no you can’t.

To get my student visa I needed the following:
*Disclaimer* Do not use my list as YOUR list, as other countries may require more or less or different documents. This is simply an example list. Continue reading “To get a Visa”

Getting a Visa is STRESSFUL

You don’t need a visa to enter every country. US citizens are allowed in the Schengen area for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. I’m spending 4 months studying in Italy, so yes I’ll need a student visa.

I had to drive to Houston to do an in-person interview, which wasn’t an interview at all. I just sat across from a visa officer, looking at her through a glass window and handing her all my papers. She yelled at me a bit for everything not being perfect. I had print outs of all my official documents, and one of them the signature wasn’t very dark. I emailed the document to her and that seemed to have worked. At least I hope.

Continue reading “Getting a Visa is STRESSFUL”