For most, studying abroad in a country in Europe means studying abroad in Europe as a whole. Weekend trips to Paris and London are the norm, and students can end up not seeing very much of their host country.
I studied abroad in Shanghai, China last semester and because I only received a single-entry visa, I did all of my travel within China. Despite seeing 14 cities within the country, I still want to go back and see more. This may be the reason that I think it’s so important to discover the country that you are living in, as well as the surrounding areas.
I am privileged to live in Italy, as there is so much to see and do in this beautiful country. I have been here for a month and a half now and have managed to make it to Torino, Cinque Terre, Lake Como, Florence, Parma, Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa. While this does mean that I have spent a lot of time traveling, it also lends itself to helping me understand Milan, the city that I am staying in. From nuanced differences in how to order a cappuccino to completely different dialects, these adventures have helped me to frame Milan within Italy and recognize what role Milan plays for the people of Italy.
At the same time, each of these places has something to offer, despite the fact that I might not have known this before I got to Italy. For example:
In Torino, I went to one of the only cinema museums in the world, ate locally sourced beef tartare, and hung out in a park with friends.
In Cinque Terre, I hiked between two of the five towns, accidentally visited a clothing-optional beach, had dinner at a restaurant on a cliff, took some very colorful photographs, ran into friends from IES Abroad, and ate freshly fried squid, fish and mussels on the beach.
In Lake Como, I spent four hours on a boat with friends, swimming and relaxing, watched the sun set over the lake, and had some of the best pizza I’ve ever head in a pizzeria the size of an airplane bathroom.
In Florence, I visited the Uffizi gallery, one of the oldest and most renowned art museums in the world, waited in line for 20 minutes just to get an amazing sandwich from All'Antico Vinaio, admired designer products at the Gucci Garden, had apertivo in front of the Duomo, and passed on several opportunities to buy an “I heart Florence” shirt.
In Parma, I visited a parmesan cheese factory and ate my weight in cheese, ran the streets of Parma as the sun came up, visited some of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of Italy, heard one of my IES Abroad classmates test out the acoustics at an opera house with a beautiful solo, had a four-course wine-paired dinner at a winery while overlooking the vineyard, participated in a balsamic vinegar tasting, and danced in a park at midnight with locals.
In Siena, I hung out with friends in the same piazza where a famous horse race is held every year, witnessed the sun rise behind the Duomo, had a three-hour dinner with 100 other IES Abroad students.
In San Gimignano, I climbed to the top of a tower and was able to see the rolling hillsides for miles, ate gelato that was voted as being the best in the world, and helped all of my friends buy leather jackets (Tuscany is known for it’s leather).
In Pisa, I climbed the very disorienting Leaning Tower, watched a subway mascot dressed as a sub sing “Gucci Gang” to every tourist who walked past, and took photos in front of a Keith Hering mural that covered an entire wall of a building.
These are just a small sample of the things that I have been able to do here in Italy. While it may seem glorious to add to the number of countries that you have visited, I am a strong believer in quality over quantity – see the country you live in, and see it well, because there is never a better opportunity that you will have.
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<p>Hi, I'm Max! I am studying Real Estate and finance and have spent all of 2018 traveling. I began domestically, visiting St. Louis, Charleston and NYC in January. Then in February, I headed to China to spend the semester at Fudan University in Shanghai! I got to travel to over 15 different cities in China while there. Next, I spent a few days in Hong Kong as a tourist before heading to Mumbai to spend July and August working for a real estate development company. I have a passion for cross-cultural interaction and this year has truly allowed to explore that.</p>