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I thoroughly enjoyed my exchange experience, and I will regard it as the best times of my life. I learned a lot about many new cultures from meeting different individuals and living on my own in a new city.
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Year
2022
Introduction + Preparation

Apply for the Italian visa the minute you receive your nomination. The year we had applied was particularly bad for visa appointments due to the backlog for the consulate and a huge return to travel. The appointments for the visa booked out 2-3 months in advance and they take maybe a week or two to complete. The online booking system is often overloaded so if you need an appointment sooner than that (from cancellations), everyone in the world uses the same system at the same time so it will crash. You will need a type-D long stay visa, but if you decide to travel before or after the exchange you can stay in the EU for 90 days visa free as a Canadian citizen. Please check with the consulate for updated guidance on any visa matters.

Financial Preparation

I brought a lot of cash in euros. This wasn’t necessary but good to have some for emergency. Small purchases or smaller establishments may prefer cash only, but most accept card or cash. I tended to use my credit card for almost all my purchases in Italy. Note that most credit and debit cards will charge you foreign transaction fees so be aware of that when you decide which payment card you use.

I opened two fin-tech app accounts during my time there which were Revolut and Wise (for rent). They can both link to your Canadian bank account and it was a low-cost way to receive and pay money to international friends. Both offer good exchange rates and a mobile wallet. I used Revolut primarily, as you could open wallets in any currency, transfer between them easily (example: Swiss Franc, Czech Koruna), and many of my peers also had Revolut.

Packing

I would pack light, as you don’t need as much as you think you do. I brought one large suitcase and a carry-on, on the way there and an additional suitcase for the way back. Milan has some great shopping. I arrived in late August, and it was quite warm and humid in 2022 with about 25-33 degrees every day. The weather in Milan is very similar to that of Vancouver for most of the semester but a tad warmer in general and slightly less rain this was a very important consideration for an exchange destination for me. The sunny and warm weather also lasted quite long and if you travel south of Italy in the winter you wouldn’t even need a thick coat. I brought clothes for all weather as the semester starts in summer and ends in winter. As well, I did a lot of travelling during the semester where I would yo-yo between different climates. Also be aware of what type of travel you are likely to do, I ended up doing a few hiking trips so my raincoat was necessary, and a better pair of sneakers would have been good to bring.

I would note that the fashion of Milan is much better than Vancouver, and as a private university the students also dress quite well at Bocconi (with loungewear left to the home). Something to keep in mind when packing if this matters to you.

Travel and Transportation

I booked my roundtrip flight with Air Canada and flew in 5 days before the introduction to Italian crash course to get settled. I was scheduled to leave December 23rd as Bocconi allows exchange students the option to complete all exams before their winter break. I flew into the Malpensa Airport; from there I took the Malpensa Express (a 50-minute direct train into the city) and took a taxi from the central station to my apartment. Otherwise, this is a 100-euro taxi journey. There are three airports in Milan that I used during the exchange. Linate is the closest airport to Milan and accessible by public transit. Malpensa is the main airport where any large international flights will come to, and Bergamo is where most budget airlines (see Ryan Air) will fly from, and both airports are about 50 minutes from the city centre.

I later changed my return flight and stayed another 20 days after my exchange travelling around Europe.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

Courses were relatively easy to find on the Bocconi website prior to course registration. As a business university it has a high number of transferable courses as well as many previous transferred units which can be found on the Beedie Website. Additionally, Bocconi has a lot of politics, history, law, and economics courses. The course registration however was stressful as the entire exchange cohort would log in at the same time. This causes the website to crash or be very slow. Make sure to have back up courses and schedules. I was only able to get into a few courses that I wanted and ended up taking a few electives. As a senior student I had very limited courses that I still needed to take.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

There was no formal orientation week that was organized by the host university, but they provided tours of campus and city tour events that you could sign up for. You could also sign up and arrive before the semester to participate in the Italian Crash Course class which I did to learn Italian and meet other students.

The best way to get oriented was to join Erasmus in the first few weeks which had events every day. Additionally, there were events by a group called International Week which had offers for nights out in Milan throughout the semester. Many of these events were found from the Bocconi student Whatsapp groups which had student representatives posting in them.

Accommodation and Living

I was not able to get an apartment in the student housing “Aparto Giovenale” at Bocconi. They are supposed to be building a new building for international students so you might have better luck. In my apartment search, I took my time as I busy trying to acquire a visa appointment. I do not recommend this, look as soon as possible or your options are more limited and more expensive. I found a roommate from a Facebook group, and we found an apartment from Spotahome. This was more expensive, but as a third party it felt safer having someone preview the home, so it is as it seems in pictures. Third party services that peers rented from would be Spotahome.com, Uniplaces.com, or Dovevivo. If you aren't in Milan and have no ability to see houses yourself a common scam will have a landlord, ask for a deposit before you see the unit, this is relevant if you book on websites like immobiliare or idealista.

The cost of living is very comparable to Vancouver. Restaurants and food in grocery stores were similar or a hair cheaper than Vancouver. The Italian cuisine is most prevalent and it’s a bit harder and more expensive to buy other cuisine groceries. I did a lot of travelling which increased my budget significantly but in Milan I tried to cook at home as much as possible. It is good to keep an eye on your budget during your time in Milan as it adds up quickly. I travelled outside Milan almost every single weekend, but I would recommend taking it a bit slower so that it is a more relaxing (also cheaper) experience, travelling can get quite tiring when you are keeping up with all your classes.

My rent was the most expensive cost at around 1.3k euros a month – contract fees, utilities and such added up and as I said, I found my apartment quite late. Additionally, during my time in Europe, the euro to cad increased by over 10% from the beginning to the end of my exchange.

Day to Day

My accommodation was located 25 minutes away from campus but in a good neighbourhood. I quite enjoyed living on my own as my kitchen and bathroom was only shared with one individual, but it does require a more active effort to make friends compared to when you live on student residence.

Learning and Adaptation

The courses at Bocconi are well taught with Italian and international professors. Often, they will have some Italian influences in the courses which I found interesting. The courses are graded out of 30. Each class structure is different so make sure you read everything about the course when you choose it. The quantitative courses can be challenging but otherwise the difficulty is not much harder than at SFU.

Bocconi grounds are quite small being a city campus. During the term, timings and class locations may shift so you must check your Bocconi schedule weekly. Additionally, during course registration you can add multiple courses that are scheduled at the same time. In this case you would likely be considered a non-attending student for at least one of them.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I took two courses as non-attending and two as an attending student. It is said that you will need a strict 75% attendance to be considered as an attending student, but it depends on the professor. In general professors ensured that you completed assignments, projects, and midterms if you take the attending student route. Depending on the course structure professors may or may not enforce the 75% attendance so if you did the assignments or took the midterm you would be considered attending. Otherwise, you will take the 100% final as a non-attending student. You do not have to choose this outright and can adjust this later in the term. For example, if you didn’t do well on the midterm you can choose to take the 100% final. You must register for all midterms and finals on the school system separately.

Additionally, in the fall semester they allow all exchange students to take exams in an earlier period so that you can return home for the holidays (December 23rd). You are open to registering for exams in the regular exam period which is in early January if you prefer. Friends that resided in Europe ended up coming back to Milan after the holidays to do this giving them more time to study for exams. Courses were contingent on you passing your exam by 18/30. If you were to fail this final exam you can register and retake a later exam in early January or the re-sit in late January. I didn’t fail any exams for reference, but I found this system interesting.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Milan was a wonderfully central city to Italy as well as the rest of Europe. It was very simple to take day trips to spots in Italy such as Lake Como, Venice, Verona, Parma, Portofino and or even nearby Switzerland. Some of these are only 1-2 hours away which is quite literally the travel time from my home to SFU. Train travel around Italy when on time was fantastic being able to reach cities like Rome, Cinque Terre, and Florence. If you wanted you could go up the entire coast of Italy with trains alone, however there were many delays, strikes or inconveniences but that just became part of the journey. This was not subject to trains in Italy alone – this also occurred with flights on budget airlines or trains in other countries.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

I utilized Trainline for singular tickets and ended up getting an Eurail pass – this allows you to travel on any trains on the EU (including Switzerland) for a flat fee for a specified amount of trips (and time frame). There are many options for which type of pass you can purchase, one country passes, specified versus unlimited trips, and the time frame to use them. I found the system very confusing to understand until I started using it but depending on your destination you can save a lot on train costs this way.

Additionally, I rented cars in Italy on a few trips. Renting a car is significantly cheaper than in North America but be aware that automatic transmission is not as readily available. Italian roads can be difficult to navigate being very narrow, so be strategic in which destinations you drive in. The driving style in Italy is also very fast and chaotic so again be careful if you drive.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

I was surprised that I did not feel any strong culture shock in Milan, and it was relatively to get around throughout Italy with English and at this point very limited Italian phrases. One thing I would note is that it does get hard maintaining constant communication with friends from home and the time zone does get a bit difficult in that regard. You may just have to adjust your communication style. However, just enjoy your exchange and time in Italy.

Advice for Future Students

Advice I would give to those going on exchange would be to say yes to everything. I think being open to trying new things, going on trips with new friends or acquaintances is the best way to experience study abroad. There’s no other time you will be a student on exchange in Italy after all! This is very extensive but I definitely studied other individuals exchange reports before arriving so hopefully this helps you.

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Jul 6, 2023