From one student to the next, here are my tips for smoothly adjusting to life in Milan and learning to live as a local:
1. Use public transit: IES Abroad provides all the Milan students with a one-month public transit pass when you first arrive, and to reload it after the first month only costs €22. Each single ticket costs €1.50 alone, making this the best deal in Milan after the ubiquitous €1 espresso. The pass will give you access to the efficient, clean, and well-organized tram, bus, and metro systems that go all over Milan.
2. Bring or buy a coin purse: In the US, we’re used to using our credit cards, student IDs, or Apple Pay to buy just about everything. That’s not the case here; coins and cash are much more common, and it’s not considered rude to take your time counting out exact change while paying, in fact, the cashiers tend to appreciate it. You’ll amass quite a few coins, so have a separate closed container to carry them in so they don’t roll around in your bag when you really need them. And don’t forget, when you only have large bills (€50 or €20), apologize when paying (“Mi dispiace, solo ho una cinquanta.”) or otherwise incur the wrath of the shopkeeper.
3. Order at the cash register first, then show your receipt at the bar: In many cafés, coffee bars, and gelato shops, you won’t be served until you’ve paid first and showed your receipt to whoever is working at the counter. If you’re still learning Italian, this can also be helpful when ordering so that the counterperson knows exactly what you want just by reading the receipt.
4. Don’t freak out about the keys: Italian locks are much more complicated than the ones we’re used to in the states. There tend to be more of them, and the “righty tighty lefty loosey” rhyme you’ve always used will probably not apply in every circumstance. Don’t be discouraged though! Ask your host family or a friend for help—my host family has been incredibly patient with my mediocre unlocking skills—and know that one day you’ll figure it out.
5. Write down all of your important addresses: It can be hard in the beginning to always know how to get to class, your homestay, or your apartment. It’s easy to find things on your email and then put addresses into Google maps, but you may not have a data plan or easy Wi-Fi access, especially in the beginning. Instead, mark all of your addresses on a physical map or keep them written and saved offline on your phone. If you get lost, it’ll be much easier to find your way back.
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<p>Kinsey is a Biochemistry major and Italian minor from Tufts University near Boston, MA studying in Milan for Fall 2016. Everything she does is to learn more about food; catch her studying cheese microbes by day and reading cookbooks by night. She caught the travel bug the minute she tasted her first crepe in Paris way back in 2006, and hasn't looked back since.</p>