My Experiences (So Far) as an Exchange Student in Milan

As part of 4-year course, I am on a placement year for my 3rd year at university. Instead of going to work for a year, I decided I wanted to either do a couple of 6-month placements or study abroad. I managed to get the best of both worlds by taking part in the Erasmus program, where I can study abroad for 6 months and then do a work placement for 6 months after that. I was offered the opportunity to study in numerous different countries, but as soon as Milan was mentioned I knew I had to go.

So far, it’s been unusual adjusting to a foreign country where the English level is minimal: I’ve had to do a lot of miming for things in shops, which has made me want to learn Italian more so I can participate fully in these interactions. On the whole, travelling around in Milan is like using the tube, except so much easier, cleaner, cheaper and with much more air conditioning.

As part of the welcome week, there were many Erasmus events organised for us. I made sure to go to all of the events, despite feeling extremely nervous and anxious, and it was the best thing I’ve done so far. Pushing myself completely out of my comfort zone has made me feel so much more confident already and after an initial ‘I can’t do this’ freak-out, I feel so much more settled and confident within myself after only been here two weeks.

On the first day of our course introductory week, we (being myself and a girl from my home university) managed to stumble across two guys from Brighton University and it was encouraging to find someone that we could share our British sense of humour with. We’ve hung out pretty much constantly ever since (despite us all living in different places in Milan), especially on a Thursday evening when we all congregate at the boys house to watch Bake Off on catch up using a VNP (which one of them paid for specifically to watch BBC shows).

One of the expectations I had for studying in Milan was that I’d make many Italian friends; however, what I wasn’t expecting was to make so many international friends. I’ve made friends with people from all over the world: including Poland, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Finland, the Netherlands and Uruguay to name a few places. It’s been amazing to learn about how life is so different for them but also surprisingly similar in many ways.

It seems that us Brits are incredibly easy to identify: most exchange students we meet know immediately, and the majority of the Italians do too. We’ve been told many a time that they love our accent, but that we’re harder to understand than other English speakers (apparently it’s mainly because we use a lot of slang words, and tend to mumble or stumble around a point, unlike the Italians who are more direct and to the point with what they say). Our group of Brits have been asked frequently about our thoughts on Brexit and that always brings a groan.

Despite making friends from other countries, I’ve noticed that most exchange students tend to stick with people from the same nationality, and often the same language. I think it has a lot to do with understanding your own culture and having more to relate to, and therefore discuss, with people from your home country… British humour certainly seems to be completely different from any other.

Time is flying by so fast and I want to make the most out of every moment I have here, and explore all that Italy has to offer. Being away from my family and being in a long distance relationship obviously has its downsides, but I’m so very excited for what the next 6 months will bring… fingers crossed I’ll be able to speak at least a little Italian by the time I get back…

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