Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program because I quickly associated with the Italian culture and desired to live with a host family. IES Milan - Italy Today offered a mirage of opportunities to explore new interests, develop previous ones, and travel. I was also intrigued by the courses, in which I took Transcultural Psychology, Italian Design, Environmental Sustainability and Social Innovation, and Intensive Italian Language.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My program provider assisted all students if they ever had a question or needed assistance. IES Abroad Milan specifically assisted me with finding a host family that met similar interests and hopes of such an experience, such as language exchange.
My program provider created and assisted program field trips to northern Italy and and other regions in order for students to receive an authentic experience with cuisine, culture, and exploration to find Italy's hidden gems.
I organized other personal travel excursions with friends in Italy and other countries. Traveling by train was incredibly convenient and reasonably priced to almost any destination.
My favorite travel I planned was my spring break trip to Slovakia. With the help of my cousin from the United States, I was able to track down my relatives, meet them for the first time, and spend Easter with family in a place where my ancestry is from.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
One piece of advice I gave myself before studying abroad was to research my host country. I was happy to have known most of the cultural differences and terrain once I arrived to Italy because it instantly helped me immerse myself into the new culture and environment.
Live in the moment while abroad and bring that liveliness back home with you. In a world where technology and forms of social media can control what is happening around you constantly, be mindful. In contrary, the best souvenir to bring home with you is a thousand pictures and countless stories to share.
If only I was able to bring home gelato with me! You essentially pick and choose your own experience and your attitude is what you make of it. Get out into the world, study, travel, and go over seas!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average day for me consisted of waking up in the early morning to have breakfast with my host family, including a small cup of espresso with a type of dessert, cereal, or panino. I always took public transportation (e.g. bus) to get to the IES Abroad Milan building meanwhile others had to take the underground metro from their apartments.
Course schedules varied through out the day and week. Lunch came later in the day around 1 or even 2 pm. I ate Italian cuisine with friends from class or some days with my host family. I was always greeted with a warm welcome from my host family when I arrived home after lessons.
Up until dinner time I would complete homework and explore Milan throughout the day. In Italian culture, dinner is served between 7-9 pm, during which everyone catches up on each others' day, and is followed by bed time. The last few words said before going to bed or departing for the night is "buona notte" — meaning good night.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?:
Going into my experience abroad, my initial, "subconscious" fear was safety in general. I overcame this by trusting my gut instinct. Prior to my departure, a number of people asked me if I was scared to travel on my own and live with people I did not know. My answer: "No because there's so much to look forward to."
The unexpected or the unfathomable cannot be escaped, controlled, or assumed upon. My view on the issue changed when I took my time to step outside my comfort zone and not let fear decide my experience. Coming out of my experience, I left with a smile, many stories, and a lot of goodbyes to people I would have never met had I not studied abroad.