“You have to blend in, otherwise they’ll single you out.” I heard that phrase so many times before arriving in Milan this summer. Obviously, there was a safety aspect to this advice. Tourists are much more likely to be taken advantage of than locals. But just how would I go about “blending in” with the people in Milan? At the very beginning of my IES Abroad program, we had an orientation that taught us all about Italian culture, including what to and what not to wear and how to behave. Attire and behavior are two of the biggest ways tourists stand out. Blending in isn’t just necessary for safety. If you don’t try to differentiate yourself from the locals wherever you are visiting, you are more likely to enjoy your time there. When “living like a local,” especially in Italy, you get the full experience of this beautiful country.
I also found my community assistant (CA) to be very helpful in the “blending in” process. Every apartment in the IES Abroad program has a CA living with the students. The CA is an actual student from Italy who is more than willing to show you around the city and offer advice and assistance. I really got lucky with my CA, Giulia. She is so amazing and has gone above and beyond in making sure my roommates and I are all well-adjusted to Milan. I have been able to see way more than just the typical tourist sites in Milan and Italy as a whole by blending in with the locals, and I believe my study abroad experience has been all the better for it.
If you are thinking about studying abroad, remember this: fully immerse yourself! You are choosing somewhere amazing to live for a couple months, so you might as well get as much as you can out of this awesome experience. You will be in a new country with different cultural practices. Learn about them before deciding you want to be against them. For example, I remember learning about how late dinnertime is here in Italy, around 8, and thinking “oh there’s no way!” However, as time went on, I became used to eating at this later time. What also helped with adjusting to this was learning why the time was so late. The Italian work day ends later than your typical American work day. Since this is such a family-oriented culture, the dinnertime is later so that the whole family can eat together. My roommates and I have even started practicing this ourselves. We won’t start cooking dinner until everyone’s returned from their internship.
Being a tourist in a new city can be fun when you first arrive. However, getting to act like a local can be even more fun the longer you are in that new city. I truly feel like I know my way around Milan and love to give recommendations to new people I meet now. Milan is becoming my home away from home, and I couldn’t be happier! Because I took the time to fully immerse myself in this beautiful city and all it has to offer, I am having a way more enjoyable experience here. One complaint I’ve heard from people about Milan is that there’s nothing to do. If you’re looking for major tourist sites in Milan, you can see the Duomo, the Galleria, the Last Supper, and it pretty much ends there. I did all those amazing things, but then I also went and saw a ballet at the famous opera house in Milan and go to the “local restaurants,” far away from the ones tourists frequent. Milan has so much beautiful history and culture here, you just have to search a little deeper to find it. My time in Milan is almost over, so I’ll be using this time to be as much of a local as possible. Until next time, ciao!
More Blogs From This Author
<p>I'm a rising senior studying psychology at the University of Miami. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do so I am so excited to be studying abroad this summer. I've always been known to have a "passion for fashion," so being able to do a fashion internship in Milan is amazing!</p>