I’ve just returned from a semester studying architecture at the Politecnico di Milano in Italy. It is a brand new affiliation between the universities and I was one of four first-timers that were involved in the exchange.

I’d never really considered doing a semester overseas before, until I heard there might be the chance to study in Milan. So I put together an application on a whim, not really expecting much, as the process was still in motion when I applied. But I’m glad I did as the agreement was finalised and I had an epically memorable semester abroad.

I decided to get a place off campus mainly to have the opportunity to live more like a local and learn the language, so I found a share-apartment online via easystanza.it. It was a bit of a trek from uni (in Romolo, about 40mins on the tube) although I lived in a great part of town with some really friendly Italians who taught me a lot, not just the language but also how to cook traditional food, which was quality.

The architecture course was interesting although the workload was relatively light in comparison to the deliverables expected at UQ, which gave us the opportunity to travel a lot in the first few months. Milan is literally a day-trip away from a number of notable cities and attractions such as Como, Bologna, Pisa, Florence, Verona, Turin, Genoa, and others, so often we spent our weekends on random excursions. Also, cheap flights and train tickets make other parts of the country very accessible, so we also had the chance to plan some trips to Rome and Sardinia.

The Politec is pretty seasoned with international students and so the process of enrollment is pretty straightforward and there are loads of facilities to help new students settle in. These range from accommodation services to cultural adjustment seminars and even budgeting advice. Most notably the uni runs a free language course for all international students looking to improve their skills, which is an excellent program.

Outside of uni, Milan is a classic place to live. Everyone usually gets up late and stays up later. It’s not uncommon to have dinner at 8-10pm and then go out to meet friends. It’s generally an incredibly friendly and social city for students. Highlights include; frisbee days at Parco Sempione, evenings at Colonne di San Lorenzo and weekends eating gelato pretty much anywhere.

Milan can be expensive although if you get off the tourist trail and hit the weekend markets in Navgli, you can get some beautiful fresh fruit and veg direct from the farmers, which is a better way to do it. Also, a brilliant Milanese tradition is apertivo, which is basically an Italian version of tapas. For the price of a drink you can eat as much as you like and bars throughout the city have aperitivos most nights after 6pm.

If you're considering studying abroad i would definitely recommend the effort, it's such an amazing opportunity to meet a new assortment of people, learn in a new environment and explore a new country. It's just a shame it goes by so fast.


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