November is the trickiest month of study abroad: you begin with fall break, followed by two weeks of school during which you’re already looking ahead to Thanksgiving break. In this weird in between period, it becomes harder to find the motivation to keep discovering Milan because you’re recovering from a trip and preparing for the one that’s around the corner. In addition, November is when the change of season really hits the city. The sunshine becomes rarer, daylight savings hits and you find yourself under a night sky at 5 p.m. The temptation is to go straight home and call it a day. The commute to your homestay, longer than most students living in apartments, suddenly seems like a burden and life in the homestay has shifted from the original excitation to routine.
But, then it also hits you that only a month remains in your study abroad experience and you most definitely should not be spending it in the comfort of your couch watching Netflix. In a way, November is the most real month of study abroad. By the third month in Milan, the majority of your bucket list is checked off, so rather than having endless museums, clubs, and monuments to visit, you’re left with what all Milanese people have: regular day to day life in the city. It’s in this period that you can truly grasp whether or not you would enjoy living here. Personally, I’ve realized that the culture encourages spontaneity; there is always something to do but it’s up to you to find it. The good news is, your bucket list of places to eat will never be fully checked off in Milan! As for the homestay, it is undeniable that the cold weather and having to fall in the routine life of a family that is not your own is sometimes tiring. However, it is also an experience that allows you to constantly discover new sides of the real Italian culture. For example, one of my favorite nights in Italy so far took place just last week. My host mother wanted to host a dinner, and for fear that not enough people would come, she sent out invitations to fifteen people. Safe to say, she was a bit panicked when she got fifteen RSVP’s the night before the event. So, I offered my services as assistant chef, and together we set out to make all kinds of different food to please the tastes of the various guests. In two hours of running around the kitchen, talking, and laughing, we successfully prepared a grandiose buffet fit to feed a small country…. The guests arrived, gathered in the living room, and within an hour there were two guitars, a harmonica, and a room full of festive Italians of all generations singing classic hits together. We stayed there refilling our glasses of wine and prosecco, discussing a wide range of topics, and eating like royalty for the next four hours. I understood probably less than 15% of what was being said throughout the night, but it truly did not matter. The atmosphere was so warm and joyful that simply being in the room would have put a smile on anyone’s face.
Study abroad is only three and a half months long, you don’t have time to waste. This must constantly stay in the back of your mind, because it would be a real shame to go home and reflect on all the things you wish you had done. And, though November may seem tough at times, I strongly believe that it is a key moment in assessing your true feelings on your city.
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<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:"Times",serif"> </span></span></span></p>