Exam period has finally arrived, which is significant for a few reasons. Not only does it represent the end of my exchange in Milan, it also represents the end of my time at university – no more assignments and exams, no more late nights studying, and no more crazy Dunedin events to be had – something which I will miss dearly! The past five and a half years have made me realise that these years will be definitely be hard to beat; the friendships, laughter and memories gained almost seem unchallengeable in my mind. Finishing up in Milan has been a wonderful experience; the transition from being a so-called ‘scarfie’ to independently studying and travelling on the other side of the world has allowed (or forced) some serious self-development! To everyone who has played a part in my life across the last few years, I cannot thank you enough – without any of you, my life would not quite be the same today. I am also so thankful for the opportunity to study in Milan.
There are many things I will miss (and others not so much) about living in Milan, some of which include…
- Milanese sirens. Comparable to a million police cars racing past in New Zealand, all with different pitches, volumes and siren speeds; when one police car drives past in Milan you cannot think straight for about thirty seconds. No words can describe just how painful this experience is. It isn’t really surprising given the erratic driving of the locals – in addition to the sirens, I will not miss the excessive honking, unnecessary overtaking, and the bizarre parking that we see on a daily basis.
- The parks. Being a large industrial city (opposite to the rolling green plains of New Zealand) natural greenery is on the scarce side; to compensate large parks are regularly dotted about the city – with an excessive amount of trees, playgrounds and designated areas for dogs to play, they are always great picnic destinations, and ideal spots for a cheeky sunbathe between class.
- The dress code. I guess it is to be expected in the fashion capital, but everyone dresses so beautifully – and I quickly had to accept that my scruffiness was always going to make me inferior to these sophisticated people. I feel like I claimed the ‘but this is what they wear in NZ’ phrase more often that I could count. The boys frequently wore full three piece suits to class, and the number of Italian girls that hobbled around campus in stilettos left us gobsmacked. Even when summer arrived early, we noted that people would still dress for the season as opposed to the weather (never mind the sweltering heat) – and we were quickly informed that shorts were not part of the dress code.
- The copious number of gelaterias, pizzerias and pasticcerias that can be spotted on every corner, and every second shop in between. And I warn you, the novelty of this delicious food does not wear off. Coffee is also ridiculously cheap – an espresso on campus costs 30 cents. Needless to say, exams have seen my caffeine intake increase dramatically; but thankfully with not too much strain on the wallet.
- Pickpockets! If you haven’t been pickpocketed yourself, you will surely know someone over here that has been through the frustrating experience of reaching into your bag and finding your phone or wallet missing, often through no fault of your own. I managed to avoid this happening until the last week of semester, when my phone got taken from my pocket at Centrale Stazionale – I was not a happy camper, but at least now I can feel like I’ve lived the true Milanese experience?!
- The different styles and structures of university courses. A lot more engaging and hands on, with a large number of class presentations compared to back home. The exams are also a lot more informal – with a roll call preceding, the exam itself frequently starting and finishing late, and the option of looking at the questions and then walking out and waiting until the next exam session to sit the paper (as a way to boost your mark). Also, never before have I been awarded 31/30 for an assignment! And never again am I likely to be in the same class as the Prince of Belgium.
The people I have met here have absolutely made my experience in Italy’s fashion capital one of a kind. So many friends, from all over the world – I look forward to the day where our paths cross again. I also look forward to returning to Milan – for obvious reasons it will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite its relative lack of tourist appeal, living somewhere for six months will inevitably result in a strong connection with a place, especially one that is so incredibly different to anything I have ever seen before. Before then though, I need to survive these dreaded exams and backpack around a number of wonderful countries, making the most of this amazing European summer.
Ciao for now, and love to you all.