Last week, our IES Abroad program took us on a three-day weekend trip to Tuscany, all expenses paid. On Friday morning, 90 of us boarded buses for a five-hour drive in the beautiful country side of Italy. We arrived in Sienna in the early afternoon and checked in to a nice little hotel in the center of the city. We had previously been given the option to choose our roommate for the weekend, so most of us ended up getting to share a room with a good friend. After freshening up, we met up in front of the town hall to get a walking tour of Sienna which was extremely interesting as this city is old and full of history. Later that night, we gathered at a restaurant in which IES Abroad had pre-ordered a delicious menu for all of us and I ate more than ever in my life. Every time I wanted to stop, a new dish would come out that looked even more appetizing than the last one, and I just couldn’t say no. The next day, we had breakfast at the hotel room and headed out to a charming village with a skyline of medieval towers called San Gimignano near Sienna. We were given lots of free time to explore and the day went on with another IES Abroad planned meal at a beautiful vineyard farm, followed by a tour of the vineyard and of course- a wine tasting. On the third and final day, we left Sienna and stopped in Pisa to climb the leaning tower and discover the city before going back to Milan. I was really amazed by how well organized the trip was. Despite being responsible for 90 students- and not always easy ones- the chaperones managed to have every activity be mostly on time, and made it a great experience for everyone. I was particularly grateful for the amount of freedom we were given throughout the whole trip because I felt as though I had time to do my own activities in addition to those planned by the program. I really don’t think that going alone would have been nearly as good of a trip, and it was pleasant to be spoiled since that becomes rarer when your parents are a continent away!
Upon our return, we faced the inevitable college student’s midterms week… All of us naturally got very nervous about these exams as we all knew we had not been doing as much work as we are used to at our respective universities. We delayed the work as much as possible, which resulted in the biggest 48-hour cramming session one could imagine. However, all those who had managed to pull together some serious studying found the tests to be completely fair, really covering in class material rather than trying to trick us with ambiguous questions. In the studying process, students had each other’s backs with shared notes and study guides which was necessary considering teachers here don’t have “office hours” so they were not made available to us for extra help. This period was one where I saw the benefits of being in a smaller program, people are more attentive and available to you. Moral of the story is, midterms and finals really do exist in the “abroad paradise”, but with a will to work hard for a few days, they are nothing to worry about.
A particular aspect of the midterms week of music students was that it was topped off with two nights at La Scala. After our Monday exam, we went to see Der Freischütz by Weber, and the next day our exam was followed by Verdi’s Nabucco. The idea of going to the opera Monday night frustrated me at first, because I was nervous to lose a whole night of studying for the next day’s test. However, it turned out to be a good distraction and we were even surprised with luxurious box seats. Then we saw Nabucco, a fantastic and renowned opera, but it was unfortunately on Halloween night so many of us had to cancel our original plans so as to attend the performance. This is an important point to make about studying abroad: you must keep your priorities in mind. Sure, I wanted to go out for Halloween. But, I came here for the music program and to take advantage of Milan’s rich musical culture. Going to La Scala for free is an incredible privilege and though these dates were arguably not ideal, the IES Abroad program does not get to be picky about what the opera house offers them. I think this was a good lesson and in retrospect I am very happy to have been given the opportunity to attend these performances because they enriched my knowledge of opera in a way another night club most likely couldn’t have…
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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>