Although I am still almost two weeks away from departing for my study abroad experience, I am counting down the days to begin this exciting and unique experience. I am taken aback by how different this semester will be compared to both all my semesters at UVA and my current daily life at home. Even though I am somewhat intimidated, I know that I am prepared to take on this incredible opportunity. I think it is important to reflect on my goals, concerns, and other thoughts about this trip before departure. Hopefully in doing this, I can better plan for my study aboard experience and gain more perspective on my expectations.
Only two weeks until you begin your semester abroad in Milan! You have been looking forward to this experience since First Year and it’s finally almost here. Though you will surely miss your friends, family, and UVA, be sure to take in as much as possible during this once in a lifetime opportunity.
I can’t believe you will be in Milan in less than a week. I’m very excited for you to embark on this great opportunity and adventure to explore global business, a new country, and make new friends.
My goals for the semester include:
- Gaining a deeper understanding of globalization and global socio-economic issues that can further advance my business acumen.
- Capitalize on the broad range of experiences and backgrounds among my peers to bring added value to my courses.
- Make friends with non-UVA exchange students and local Italians to gain new perspectives.
As I prepare to leave for Milan, Italy in less than two days, I am both excited and scared. One of my studying abroad goals is to immerse myself as much as possible in the Italian culture. I am eager to explore the cities in Italy as well as Italy’s neighboring countries. My biggest reason for choosing Italy was for its history and architecture. Another one of my goals is to take this extraordinary opportunity to interact with as many international students as possible. Since Bocconi University is a school with many exchange students, I plan to join some extracurricular organizations to meet students from differing backgrounds. My third and most important goal is to learn more about how businesses operate in Europe. I am curious about how the laws in the EU and U.S. shape different business landscapes. I also want to learn about the European economy from its source since I wish to enter into the Sales and Trading world. Additionally, I am interested in working outside of the United States in the future. Therefore, having some prior knowledge about both the culture and the business field will help me tremendously.
After spending what felt like an endless winter break at home, in less than a week you’ll be in Milan! It feels strange watching all of my friends return to UVA for the spring semester and not joining them. But, I know this coming semester will be the best one yet and I will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Italy!
The other day, a younger friend from home reached out to ask for advice about studying abroad. She’s applying to study in Florence next spring through a program at her school, the University of South Carolina. I immediately began inundating her with tips – go here, but not there; eat this (and a lot of it); save money by adopting these practices – to the point where I think she felt a bit overwhelmed. Similarly, one of my best friends is considering studying abroad next year, so I have taken it upon myself to persistently pester her with words of encouragement on why she should, and why she should choose Italy as the destination.
Looking back on this semester, I have come a long way since I arrived. Before I traveled to Italy, I was admittedly terrified. I had never traveled so far on my own, my language skills were poor, and I lacked confidence in my ability to overcome the challenges to come. I experienced homesickness, FOMO, loneliness, and got miserably lost in every country I visited. I also made a new best friend from Peru, speak a significant amount of Italian and Spanish, gained confidence and independence, and opened my mind to the perspectives of people from all over the world. Above all, I have matured significantly this semester. The academic obstacles that felt impossibly heavy last semester, now seem trivial compared to the problems facing our global community. The anxieties of graduating and finding a place in the “real” world seem less urgent. I am confident in myself.
I think homesickness is really starting to set in. I FaceTime my mom almost every day and am eager to see her in just a little over a month. While I’m excited for the luxuries being home will bring – my own bed, fresh baked cookies, ingredient labels written in English – I also know I will miss Milan and this lifestyle immensely once I’m gone.
I realize I will never get as thorough of an opportunity to learn Italian again, unless I come live here for an extended period of time to work or go to graduate school. While my Italian practice was strong in the beginning of the semester when I took the crash course (and subsequently felt confident speaking the language to natives), I’ve tapered off since then. Now when I speak to people, I often revert to “parli inglese?” instead of first attempting to communicate with Italian. I’m disappointed in myself for this, as this presents such a unique opportunity to grasp the language. For the remaining month, I’m going to try to be more cognizant of my usage and at least attempt to speak Italian, even if I do butcher it in the process.
The other day in my management consulting class, we had guest speakers who were in their first few years at consultancies. The session served as a very transparent question and answer forum, where few topics were off limits. Some of what the budding consultants described sounded extremely similar to the United States – competitive recruiting processes, a binary between investment banking and consulting trajectories in top business schools, and stressful schoolwork in preparation. The offer process seemed a little different though, even in large multinational firms headquartered in the states.
For one, the starting salary in Italy seems to be notably less, although if the panelists descriptions were any indication, competition is just as fierce. Additionally, bilingualism is an absolute necessity, not an added flourish to a resume. All the panelists spoke impeccable English, perhaps better than mine, but Italian was their first language. I thought before this session that I might like to, and if so could, come back to Italy to work after graduation. This panel showed me that unless I am willing to take a significant pay cut (without a decreased cost of living) and become fluent in Italian, I should certainly form a backup plan. Maybe I’ll look at London?
Permanent link to this post
(400 words, estimated 1:36 mins reading time)
Needless to say, my taste buds have thanked me eternally for studying abroad. Rome is the fifteenth city that I have visited, and there has been incredible food at each and every place that I have visited. Here’s a quick recap of some of my favorites and where I had them (in no particular order):
- Fish and chips – Now this is a classic favorite, but I could not get enough of this when I was in the UK. There is something about a fried fish that just really hits the spot (or anything fried for that matter)
Study abroad: you travel, you explore, you eat, and you study. But I’m not here today to talk about how incredible that has been (because it really has). I want to talk about one of the most underrated values a study abroad semester can offer: a mental break.