Alumni Spotlight: Julia Creswell

Julia is a 21-year-old junior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio studying gerontology and entrepreneurship. Her semester abroad in Milan, Italy was her first time out of the US, and the best four months of her life!

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Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?

Julia: Absolutely. I lived in an apartment in the city with 5 other girls from IES Abroad and an IES Abroad Community Assistant, a local grad student. People from all life stages lived in the apartment building, so it was great to be a part of a real community.

Milan is a great city because it has authentic Italian culture and there is a lot to do there, but it is not a big tourist destination. The locals were very friendly, and I became friends with several Italians while I was there who helped show me the true local hotspots and took me on fun outings.

What is your most meaningful souvenir and why do you love it?

Julia: My favorite souvenir is a beautiful leather journal that I bought at a charming cartoleria by my class building in Milan. On the cover is a sepia picture of the Duomo. Inside, my Italian friend and flatmate wrote recipes of the things we cooked together. They are written in Italian and also translated into English.

I love it because it is so authentically Milanese and because it reminds me of all the wonderful times I spent cooking with my friend. The recipes are amazing, and it's something that I'll be able to keep forever and pass down someday.

girl in sicily

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

Julia: As cliche as it is, the people are what made the experience special. I loved the people in my program and the locals that I became friends with. Studying in Milan through IES Abroad offered me so many chances to become part of real Italian life (not like a tourist) - from living in the apartment with an Italian, to grocery shopping, to taking the metro, to special events, and so much more.

Another special part of the IES Abroad program was the chance to have an internship at a local company. I was able to work at a nursing home doing art therapy and teaching English classes to people who haven't spoken the language in decades. It was so much fun and a very valuable experience for me professionally as someone who wants to work in long-term care someday.

What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?

Julia: My favorite place to visit was Sicily. I went to Catania and Taormina on an IES-sponsored trip. In Catania, I got to climb Mt. Etna - an active volcano! It was absolutely amazing, and I loved going to the beach. The city of Catania is kind of grungy but still beautiful at the same time. Sicilians were the friendliest people I have ever met!

man and woman on vespa

We went to a Sicilian choir concert and were invited to dinner with the members after, who were so welcoming and amazing cooks! We got to sit around and sing together. Later that night my friends and I met some of the kindest and most fun people while out in the streets of Catania.

Why did you decide to study with IES Abroad?

Julia: I chose to study with IES Abroad after a lot of researching. I am absolutely thrilled with my choice to study in Milan with IES, and would go back again in a heartbeat. There are several reasons why: first, I wanted to study abroad in a place with a different culture, but that wasn't so different that I could never fit in. I also wanted to study abroad in a place that spoke a foreign language, that (if I didn't already know) I could learn.

The Italian language classes at IES were so helpful, especially the two weeks of intensive Italian before the rest of classes started. I knew that studying abroad actually does have a "study" component to it, so I looked at the courses that all the programs were offering and liked IES' classes the best. I could take interesting classes that applied to my major.

Another reason why I chose IES Abroad was because I could intern at a local company. I had an internship at a nursing home in Milan, which was great for so many reasons. The housing situation also appealed to me because I could choose between an apartment, a homestay, dorm living, or independent housing. IES Abroad had great trips planned, as well.