Stepping onto the plane in Auckland was the first time it really dawned on me that I was about to begin the journey of a lifetime, after leaving the only way of life I have ever known. Saying goodbye to my mum and aunty at the airport was pretty surreal, it didn’t hit me until the plane took off that this was the first time in my entire life where I was truly independent, whether I liked it or not. My lack of organisational skills meant I had not had time to get nervous; rather I was just immensely excited for something without any huge expectations.
Thirty something hours later I was pretty pleased to be touching down in Milan; flying in over Croatia and the Swiss Alps on a beautiful winters day was a great welcoming to the continent that would be my home for the next few months. My first interesting experience was the complete lack of customs – I literally picked up my bag off the belt and was on my way. Danielle (another Kiwi girl) had flown in from London a few hours prior so she just waited at the airport and we headed into the city together.
After hearing the horror stories of others not being able to find a place to live, we were extremely lucky in that the first place we looked at we fell in love with. We shared a room, and had two wonderful flatmates – an American called Patrick, a Mexican called Hector and a landlord who doesn’t speak a drop of English – which inevitably resulted in some hilarious (frustrating) communication breakdowns, and a huge reliance on Google translate!
University was a whole new experience. The interaction between lecturers and students was a whole lot more intense than what I ever experienced in Otago (with the exception of the mature students) and everything was so laid back. The lectures were very discussion based, with students often contributing as much as the lecturers. One classic example of how loose the system is: our exam for “The Italian Legal System” was only one hour long, yet worth 100 per cent of my final grade. It was out of only 30 marks – 15 of which were multiple choice questions (A, B or C – lacking the D and E options usually seen back home!) and the other 15 was an essay, of which 8 points were attributed to the content, and the other 7 points were for structure, grammar etc. Sounds pretty easy, but even if I did fail there was two more opportunities to resit the exam.
We practised Italian at every opportunity; Danielle was always a step ahead in that she basically spoke fluent French already and we learnt that there is a huge amount of crossover. My (strong) Kiwi accent saw locals struggling to understand me, especially when I spoke Italian – although that doesn’t necessarily count for much when not even our American flatmate could understand the Kiwi accent!
The city itself is awesome. Having seen other parts of the country we have realised why Milan is definitely pretty far down the list in terms of being an attractive city – however it is so big and crazy that we found it hard not to love. The weather is probably typical for winter, but the constant greyness doesn’t do anything to help sell the city’s beauty, especially to other Italians – most of which appear to dislike Milan. The houses are so cute, Italy appears to have a terracotta/pale yellow/pastel pink colour scheme going on and it works extremely well, especially on the days when you wake up and the sky is blue and the sun is out.