I'll be honest, when I was preparing to study abroad this fall, one of my biggest worries was what my living environment might look like. I scrolled through countless IES Abroad blog posts to try to find one about housing in Milan, but really only found one. So, once I found out that I was an IES Abroad Correspondent this semester, I vowed to write about my housing in Milan in the hopes that future Milan students can use it as reference and know what to expect for their living environment abroad.
Now, I can't guarantee that you'll have the same housing experience as me, considering IES Abroad typically houses all of us students in various locations throughout the city, and these locations often change from semester to semester, depending on availability, pricing, and safety measures (a lot of measures were taken this year, for example, to ensure all housing options complied with key COVID-19 measures). Nonetheless, I believe that no matter where you are placed in housing, this post can help give you a feel for what that housing may be like!
For me, I live at the Collegio di Milano, which - in a typical semester - is considered somewhat like honors housing for the IES Abroad Milan program. This is because the Collegio is very much like a college campus and houses many Italian students that study at universities all across the city like Bocconi and Catolica, so the Collegio usually only houses a few IES Abroad students each semester, and requires a whole separate application. This semester was different, however, because IES Abroad knew that the Collegio was a safe and trusted housing location, so they used it as one of their normal locations, did not require a separate application/approval process, and they ended up housing many more IES Abroad students (about 25, or a fourth of the whole program this semester).
I won't lie, I was initially pretty nervous about being placed at the Collegio di Milano. Because of the pandemic, this semester all students would have their own bedroom, but there was the option that some housing might offer suite-style apartments where you would share a kitchen, bathroom, and common areas with roommates but each have their own individual bedrooms. On my housing application, I had requested a space like this because I didn't know anyone going into the program and therefore thought it'd be easier to make friends and meaningful connections if I had roommates. However, it turned out that only one of the four housing options this semester were suite-styled, so many students who requested that option didn't get it, including me. And when I found out I was going to be living in a single-occupancy, dorm-style room at Collegio, I was upset and really nervous about it. I was worried about how I'd be able to make friends, but little did I know that that wouldn't be a problem at all!
The Collegio di Milano is actually a really great housing location. It definitely has that American, campus-styled feel to it as its completely gated (requires a key fob to get into), has doormen at the reception desk 24/7, multiple sports fields, a garden, a dining hall, a gym, laundry rooms, a library, and many common rooms for studying, playing pool or air hockey, or lounging around on couches watching TV, or playing chess or WII. So yeah, the amenities here are great! The gym is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and has just about anything you'd need for a complete workout. The dining hall serves us breakfast (just yogurt and croissants though) and dinner every weekday, with lunches on the weekends as well. I think that the food is actually quite good, and each dinner always comes with a choice of pasta or risotto, a meat, fish, or veggie dish (with the option to replace any with a salad), a side vegetable dish, fruit, and bread and crackers.
Also, the doormen, while their English is not very good if not non-existent completely, are really sweet and funny! And then there are the bedrooms themselves, which are surprisingly really spacious and have a lot of room for storage (take it from someone who packed four whole suitcases and still has extra storage space). Each room comes with its own private bathroom (toilet, sink, shower, and bidet), a balcony, bed, desk with chair, and central air with a temperature control pad. And I have to admit, while I had originally looked forward to the opportunity of having roommates, it is really nice to have my own private space to just enjoy downtime and some peace and quiet when I need it. I will say, however, that I may be a little biased with the room review, since I am in the newer, "L Building," as they call it here, which I've heard has much nicer rooms than the older, "Z Building. " This is just because they're slightly more spacious with bigger beds and have a full floor-to-ceiling, curtained, wall-wide window that opens up to the balcony, whereas the Z Building rooms have smaller windows with old shutters. Still though, the Z Building rooms have all of the same amenities, including the bathroom and balcony.
The Collegio also fosters a very inclusive and friendly environment, and I have found it so easy to make friends here even though I don't have any roommates. Three of my closest friends in the program live with me at the Collegio, and I met them all on the very first day in our orientation programs. Every other IES Abroad student at the Collegio is also very friendly and it really feels like we're all a family here, consistently eating dinner together with everyone at the dining hall and always having someone to walk with to class each day, or go out with at night! Even the Italian students here are very kind and friendly, and have taken us out at night to show us the best bars or have played soccer games with us on the fields outside. I was worried, what with the Collegio's prestigious reputation of being more of an "honors" housing option, that the Italian students would all be very studious and not go out much, but I couldn't have been more wrong! They are always hanging out in the common areas with one-another and going out at night to have fun!
So overall, yes, the Collegio is a great place to be! It's location is convenient too, with being just a 5 minute walk (maybe even less) to the nearest metro station which can get you to the IES Abroad Center (aka, all of my classes) in about 10 minutes, to the Duomo in about 20 minutes, and Milano Centrale Train Station in about 25 minutes.
But of course, like anything, the Collegio does have its downsides. For instance, although it is very close to the city center and the IES Abroad Center, it is also very much outside of the city and has a campus-feel, which can be too bad if you were, like me, looking forward to living right in the heart of Milan with more of an apartment-styled, city-feel to it. Also, although the Collegio feels extremely safe with its many security cameras covering the grounds, gates and fence, and very kind doormen always guarding the reception desk, this can make it difficult to have guests over. Overnight guests, whether they are IES Abroad students or not, are not allowed what-so-ever at the Collegio, which can be a bummer if you were planning on having any friends from within the program over, or perhaps any friends or family from home stay with you. This is a regular rule each year, not just for COVID purposes, and the Collegio is very strict about this; you can bear some severe fines and disciplinary repercussions if you are found to break this rule. However, if you do want a guest (maybe parent or friend) to come see you or tour the Collegio during the day, this is definitely possible as long as you notify the Collegio staff ahead of time! There are also plenty of affordable hotel and Airbnb options throughout the city for any overnight visitors you may anticipate having.
Another thing that has proven to be really difficult at the Collegio is the fact that we don't have a full kitchen here. There is a communal kitchen with fridges, counters, and a microwave, so I do keep things like fruit, oat milk, peanut butter, and other snacks in the fridge here, but you really can't cook yourself anything here if it requires an oven or stovetop. This is especially unfortunate for the weekdays, when we don't get lunch at the dining hall, but it's important to remember that you'll usually be out in the city either with friends or taking classes during the week anyways, and it's more than easy to find a delicious and affordable lunch out in Milan (this is Italy we're talking about here!) Also, some days I've been completely fine with just snacking for lunch too.
And the last thing that I would complain about the Collegio is.... THE MOSQUITOS! Apparently this is a very common problem for many Italians in the warmer months (my guess is because it seems like they don't believe in window screens here), but it is nonetheless very annoying. Every night for the past week I have woken up in the middle of the night to buzzing noises around my head and several mosquito bites all over my arms. It disturbs my comfort and sleep in my own room, and most students here have been experiencing it. I kill about ten or more mosquitos in my room each day! However, this problem will definitely subside as the days get colder as fall weather approaches, and there are some solutions in the meantime. My advice to anyone who may experience the same problem: keep all windows and doors closed if possible, use lavender soap/body wash (mosquitoes hate lavender), wear long sleeves and leggings/sweatpants to bed, and purchase an outlet plug-in that detracts mosquitoes as well as one of those LED electric tennis racquets that attracts the mosquitoes and then electrocutes them. I did all of these and my mosquito issue was completely resolved! So yeah, definitely not an ideal situation, but it's only temporary and not the end of the world!
Overall, even with some of its disadvantages, the Collegio di Milano has turned out to be a wonderful home away from home for me while abroad this semester! Please see the photos of my room and some of the Collegio common spaces that I've attached down below!
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<p>I'm Tori and I'm from North Bennington, Vermont USA. I'm currently a third-year student at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts studying Finance with minors in Spanish and Information Design and Corporate Communication. At Bentley, I'm treasurer of the Ski and Snowboard Club, Scholarship Chair of Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority, and a member of the Women's Leadership Program, Bentley Literary Society, and Habitat for Humanity. After graduating Bentley I hope to work in corporate finance or investor relations for a few years before eventually following my life-long passion of starting my own fashion brand! I'm therefore so excited to study abroad with IES Abroad in Milan through their Business Studies and Internship program because I'll not only be able to grow as an individual, meet so many new people, and experience an entirely new culture/see new places, but I'll also be able to have hands-on experience in this huge financial district and fashion capital of the world! In my free time I love to alpine ski, read & write, explore new restaurants and visit Boston, have fun with friends, and of course, shop!</p>