3 months is too short!

Lily Smith
September 30, 2017

Today marks one month since I stepped out of the train and into Milan for the first time. Though I have already done so much here, it worries me to think I am already one third of the way done with my stay! So far, studying abroad has been a very eye opening experience. It gives you the chance to be selfish with your time and your priorities, and helps you identify some of the unhealthy habits you were too blind to see in the midst of routine in your college campus life.

In terms of academics, I have realized that we tend to focus too much on our GPAs, credits, and grades when what should really matter is what you are getting out of a class: discovering something new about a topic you are genuinely interested in. By taking off the pressure of a rigorous grading system, study abroad allows students to re-think their attitude towards school. The result is that I have never heard so many students be enthusiastic about their classes as on this program!

The same thing goes for social life. Though I have met some great people and created friendships that I know will last beyond abroad, coming into this program knowing no one has made it easy to put myself first. At school, we all get the notorious FOMO (fear of missing out) when all our best friends decide to go have a night. We easily get talked into following the crowd when deep inside we know we should be having a relaxed night in. Abroad, you will always find people to be social with, but it never feels like a necessity and in the end, you are much healthier!

I am still convinced that being in a homestay was the right decision, and that more students should do it. Before going abroad, the expectation was that I would be spending the next 3 months in a sea of Italians. With IES Abroad, this is actually inaccurate because all students on the program are American and we take classes at the IES Abroad center, not at a local school. Therefore, students who live in apartments with other American students are spending the grand majority of their “abroad” time with Americans. My homestay not only allows me to spend time with a real Italian family and learn a lot about Italian culture and lifestyle, but it also enables me to meet more Italians through them. For instance, my host sister has introduced me to several of her friends who are always kind enough to include me in their plans. My neighbors regularly come over for dinner and I get to witness the social scene of Italians: their topics of conversations, the codes of Italian culture, their opinions on Americans (not always my favorite topic)! I know I will come out of this experience with a much better understanding of Italy than those who chose student apartments.

As far as traveling goes, I have been staying put much more than the other students on my program. Most weekend, everyone on the IES Abroad program packs their bags and takes off to different countries of Europe. For me, my weekends are a time to explore the city that I came to discover. I go to museums, try new restaurants, walk around popular neighborhoods, and go shopping. My recent favorite museum is the Armani museum: five floors of splendid collections with explanations on what goes on in the mind of this great man. Warning: you may feel very poorly about your wardrobe post visiting this exhibit!

If I ever feel the need to leave Milan, there are a prolific number of beautiful places just an hour away! The trains are remarkably cheap and efficient. For instance, it took me 45 minutes and 10 euros to go to Lake Como for a day. Another time, I went to Bergamo to see splendid landscapes and walk around the old city. The great thing about this is that it is no big commitment because trains run to and from Milan frequently, so day trips are a perfect opportunity to travel without splurging on hotels and AirBnbs. At the end of every weekend, I feel well rested and more knowledgeable about Italy. I do plan on traveling to places outside of Italy in the next three months, but I strongly believe that students studying abroad should make a bigger effort to discover their own city before visiting all the friends that they will see again back in college.

Milan is a beautiful city and the Italian people are exceptionally welcoming. It is pleasant to be amongst a people that is so proud of their culture and is eager to show it off to everyone. This first month has flown by and I am looking forward to making the most of the remaining time I have in Italy.

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Lily Smith

<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt">Hi! My name is Lily and I am a junior at Northwestern University studying voice performance (opera) and French. I was born in Paris and grew up in France before moving to America with my parents and my older brother. I have always liked traveling, specifically throughout Africa and Europe and now I’m really looking forward to discovering Milan! I think that as a European, I think I can offer a different perspective of the IES Milan program than an American student.<span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:&quot;Times&quot;,serif"> </span></span></span></p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
Northwestern University
Paris, France
French Language
Voice Performance
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