The "Study" in "Study Abroad": Taking Classes in Italy

Victoria Pembroke
November 15, 2021

This semester, while abroad in Milan, I am taking four classes (15 credits as my Italian class counts for 6 Bentley credits). My classes are: Managing Fashion and Luxury Companies, History of Italian Cities, Venture Capital and Entrepreneurial Finance, and Beginner Italian Language Abroad. All of the classes are really cool (especially the fashion and history ones as we often get to go on mini field trips to check out historical sites in Milan or fashion companies), and taking classes abroad has definitely been an incredibly interesting experience. For starters, this was my first semester fully back to in-person classes after the pandemic, so having that experience in a completely foreign country is really cool. It’s so nice and rewarding to actually get to be in the classroom with my other classmates with more of a hands-on experience and closer connection with the professors, but it also has its downsides as well.

For instance, it requires much more energy to engage and participate in in-person classes. I think Zoom really conditioned us to have a shorter attention span, as we could zone out any second during a lecture and just check our phone, head to the bathroom, or even grab a snack, all without the professor even knowing and with the comfort of knowing we can just watch a class recording later if we missed anything. This is definitely not the case for in-person classes, and I often find myself struggling to pay attention to lectures for so long, especially in my classes here in Italy. One thing I’ve really noticed about Italian professors is that they are lecture-heavy and don’t really try to make class very engaging or ask students to participate. For me, this is really difficult because I often learn best in more interactive formats where I’m forced to listen and participate either through games, class discussion, or cold-calling.

I also don’t get much homework in my classes here in Italy, which can seem like a good thing at first glance since I spend so much time traveling here and discovering new things, so having limited homework frees up my time to do more fun things. However, not having homework does make reviewing for classes hard, since homework naturally helps you apply what you’re learning in class as you learn it and is a good way to see what your professor wants you to be taking away from each lecture and therefore what he’ll expect you to know on exams. Homework therefore is a natural study-aid and really helpful review for quizzes and tests, so without it here, I’ve found myself not paying as much attention in classes because I know I won’t have an assignment on it, and then in effect, I have to really cram the week of midterms or finals to study everything in my classes that I should have been continuously reviewing!

That was one challenge I struggled with last week (when we had midterms). I realized how much I could have been learning in my classes but wasn’t really because of the lack of work and my attention to lectures, so I had to stress myself out for the week to study for all my exams so I could do well. Luckily, I learned a lot about all of the material in each of my classes through studying it this way, and I think all my exams went pretty well, but still, this is not the way to approach classes because it causes you unnecessary stress while abroad! I definitely learned from my mistake here and have since been focusing on each lecture in real-time, taking good notes that I review after each class as my own form of self-assigned homework. This way, I still have enough free time at nights and on weekends to have fun experiences abroad while still mitigating the stress and amount of studying needed come finals week in December!

There is one class, though, that I have particularly enjoyed and that does assign us regular homework: Italian Language Abroad. As a Spanish minor back at Bentley, I’m definitely used to taking language courses and know I have a natural talent for learning new languages and memorizing foreign vocabulary and grammar rules, and luckily Italian turned out to be no different! I had never taken an Italian class before, so I am in the beginner one here abroad, but I absolutely love it and my professor! I find it so fascinating to learn the language in the classroom and then be able to actually apply my knowledge and use the language outside in the real world throughout Milan and the rest of the places I’ve been traveling in Italy! For this reason, this is definitely my most rewarding class because I can actually gauge how much I’m learning in it just by how I feel more and more comfortable each day with using it! And, like most language courses, this one is definitely very interactive and requires heavy participation, which (like I said before) is how I learn best, and it helps me to not lose focus or get too bored in class! Also, since we have homework after each class, I didn’t find myself having to really cram for the class during midterms week as I’m continuously working on the language outside of class from doing workbook exercises to using it in cafes, shops, and restaurants! I even took advantage of the opportunity to be matched with a high school Italian student here who is learning English, so we get to meet up at a café every couple weeks to help each other learn the other’s language!

Overall, my classes abroad are definitely very interesting and rewarding, but nonetheless took some getting used to - but hey, you live and you learn ;) I've also attached some images below of the IES Abroad Center in Milan and what some of the study rooms, offices, and classrooms look like!

Victoria Pembroke

<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 &amp; write, explore new restaurants and visit Boston, have fun with friends, and of course, shop!</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Bentley University
North Bennington, VT
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