My time in Milan with IES was the best four months of my life. It all started with great organization and dedication from the IES staff in Milan. Their main concern was ensuring that everyone had an unforgettable time and their safety. If any problems arose, the staff was ready to address it immediately. My apartment and living situation was great. I was preparing myself for the worst, but it was a large, modern apartment right in the heart of Milan. The selection of classes allowed me to learn about things that I would have not otherwise had the chance to back at my home school. I did not know any Italian before I arrived, but the program required us to take Italian and for that I am grateful. It was a tremendous help at restaurants, asking for directions, and talking to my coworkers at the internship IES organized for me. Many students are drawn to Italy when thinking about where to study abroad because of the food, culture, history, fashion, and climate. However, most choose to study further south in Florence or Rome, but I think Milan is the perfect place. It is a city similar to the other ones in Western Europe and the United States and because of that it is easier to get acclimated. It is also very easy to travel to the rest of Italy in the south and the rest of continental Europe to the north. There is always something to do in Milan, day and night, with green parks, amazing restaurants, and countless bars, pubs, and clubs.
I have nothing but positive things to say about Milan and Italy as a whole. My favorite part would have to be the overall way of life in Milan. It is the financial capital of Italy, so it was very pro-business and at times felt like Philadelphia or New York, but they also had characteristics from the way of life in Southern Italy. While everyone was working hard, they always made time to relax and appreciate the beauty of life in everything from art to fashion and food.
The thing that separated my experience from others in my program was that I opted to partake in an internship as three of my credits. I worked at a consumer packaged goods start-up called Banale. I did everything from marketing, order fulfillment, website design and even new product development. They are currently building a prototype based on my recommendations. Not many people can say they have international work experience before graduating college, and even fewer can point to a product on the market and say that, "I designed that and now people are buying it."
My typical day in the life of my program was a bit different because three days a week I went to work for about five hours per day. In the mornings we would take the Metro to class, and it worked perfectly. There wasn't one time I wished I had a car because the metro ran so smoothly, as well as trams and buses. Midday there would be a break for lunch where students would go home to cook or to nearby cafes and restaurants. Students might return for afternoon classes, depending on their schedules. We would then go home and get ready for the night. We would either cook dinner, go out to a full restaurant, or just go out for "aperitivo" which is appetizers and cocktails. Then each night there was a different club running promotions for international students. Some nights we went to local pubs to watch "calcio" or soccer matches from across Europe.
In my free time it was fun to just explore the city, going to the different districts and seeing what they had to offer. My favorite was Navigli, or the canal district, because of the cafes for aperitivo. It was also fun to go shopping in the fashion capital of the world, even if a lot of the items were very pricey. On sunny days it was nice to hangout in local parks after classes were over. I even made it to a few soccer matches at the famous San Siro stadium, home to both Inter and AC Milan. Again, the nightlife was incredible and each club offered a little something different.
We had the option to stay in an apartment, a homestay with a local family, or a dorm room at a nearby university, but I chose the apartment. I stayed in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with four other American students and one local Italian student. We stayed in a very modern apartment that was very spacious. It was in a very safe neighborhood, so that was never a concern. It was actually in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of Milan. The best part was, as they say, the location, location, location. I was only a 5-10 minute walk from the Duomo, which is the heart of the city.
When I first chose Milan, everybody always asked me, "Why Milan?" and my answer was because it was the financial capital of Italy and the fashion capital of the world. I discovered the Milan is so much more than that and I cannot imagine getting to call any other place home for five months. Part of me will always be there, and that's thanks to the amazing staff at IES that run this program.