Natalia Ursinyova gives us her top tips when it comes to living and studying abroad in Milan, Italy, from accommodation to Italian culture, giving you the best advice about student life, where to go and loads more...
I would recommend starting to look for accommodation as soon as possible, really. If you're thinking about whether to live in an apartment or university halls, I would recommend university halls. It’s a great way to meet people. Do not go looking for an apartment with your English friends or mates off your course because you won’t get the real Milano experience. I made some friends from America on my year abroad and there was about 10 of them from the same university and they ended up doing everything together. When I spoke to them and asked them about their time in Milan, they said it seemed just like a really long holiday for them because they were always with the same crowd and thus not living the ‘Italian’ way. If you want the whole deal, you want to make some Italian friends.
What to pack
The weather in Milan is similar to Britain’s. It rains quite often and when it rains, it rains for days. The only difference is that the summers are lovely and it’s a lot warmer overall, so you don’t need to pack that many jumpers.
The biggest culture shock I got was the lack of organisation here. Italians have these long breaks (siestas) around lunch time (including the banks here which are open only for few hours a day so make sure you check the opening times). The undergraduate office at the university is only open for about 2 hours a day so make sure you look at the office hours carefully before going in. Erasmus students get a more relaxed treatment from the university and are not marked as strictly as the full-time students. The grading system is a lot different to the English system. The highest score you can obtain is 30 and you need 18 to pass (60%), but the good news is that it’s actually possible to get 30/30 whereas in the UK it becomes almost impossible to get anything above 70%. The most important point I'm going to make is to keep an eye out of for the exam dates because they DO and WILL change. At Bocconi, if some students don't agree with the date of the exam or have other exams on the day (which is quite common), they usually send out a paper around the class for all the students to choose an alternative date. Unfortunately, I did have my exam date changed and because of that I had to change my flight which ended up costing me quite a lot... Bear this in mind!
Grasping the language
Another good thing about Milan is that a lot of Milanese speak English, especially the students, as Bocconi offers most of the courses both in Italian and English so if you don't speak Italian or very little of it, you don't need to worry at all. From my experience, there are also thousands of international students coming to Bocconi to study English so you will meet people from all over the world.
The good news is that you can get pretty much everywhere either by tram or metro or via the bus network. The bad news is that trams are always late, don't trust the screen with estimated arrival times because it’s almost never accurate. It’s also important to keep in mind that the metro stops running at 12:30am and starts again around 6 in the morning.
The Milano nightlife is amazing! It is definitely worth your time exploring the different clubs. The clubs usually open/get busy around midnight, so don't bother showing up earlier because chances are they will either still be closed or completely empty. If you are an Erasmus student, make sure you join/sign up to the ‘International Week Milano’ on Facebook which lets you know of all the events every week. You’ll also get cheaper deals than the locals. The two best night clubs (well, for me) were the Old Fashion and Karma. BUT... be careful ladies, it IS true what they say about Italians. They are too friendly, and at times a bit too pushy. I must say at the beginning it can be quite fun, especially compared to the ignorant and passive English guys you meet in clubs back home.
Coffee and aperitivos are two words you are going to hear a lot in Milan. Italian coffee is said to be the best in the world so if you are a coffee drinker you will never be able to drink any other coffee ever again! If you don't drink coffee, well... You won't for long. Aperitivos are just like buffets except you pay a fixed price (usually between 8-10 euros) which also includes one drink. Almost every restaurant does them and they usually begin around 7pm and run until 9.30pm. When I first discovered aperitivos I ate out pretty much every day of the week. It is an amazing concept especially when you can't decide if you want pizza or pasta, at aperitivos you can have both, plus a salad, french fries, vegetables etc.
My favourite restaurants and places to visit
- Colonne di San Lorenzo
- Best Creperia on Porta Ticinese
- Best ice cream place called GROM also on Porta Ticinese
- Best aperitivo: Cheese
- Chinese buffet at the "Centrale" Metro stop
- Castello Sforzesco