Milano, Munich, Paris, Florence, Cinque Terre, Expo, Modena, Brescia, Parma, Torino, Siena, Bordeaux, Cremona, Budapest, Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Rome.
Ever since my return to America (for a grand total of a week, if not less), I’ve been asked the same question, repeatedly: “How was your time abroad?” And amidst all the mumblings of, “Oh, it was good” and, “I had a lot of fun,” I have crafted an answer that realistically describes my experience without overwhelming the audience. Here goes nothing.
I would argue that my time abroad is similar to most peoples’. Traveling, eating and studying with international friends seem to be common denominators. However, my experience was defined by a much-welcomed onslaught of my just a few of favorite things (cue Julie Andrews). First, Milan Fashion Week: getting a front-row (just kidding, second-row) seat in the heart of one of the world’s fashion capitals gave me a good perspective on where I wanted to be in the industry of corporate fashion. This week of presentations, showrooms, premiers, runways and most importantly, networking easily defined my September.
Second, discovering my old soul: I mentally checked out of the whole stereotypical exchange experience pretty early on. As in, I couldn’t rationalize with myself partying at university-organized clubs until 4 in the morning. Instead, I met a group of like-minded individuals who enjoyed a similar lifestyle to mine. We would gather together often to combine our specialties. I would bring two or three types of wine according to each person’s flavor profile while others would cook their country’s food, provide specialty nightcaps, and choose the documentary for the night. These people would quickly become some of the main anchors of my oh-how-much-I-miss-exchange withdrawal period.
Lastly, the culture: as the only one in my friend group that spoke Italian, my experience at Bocconi was quite different. I had a group of Italian friends that were unabashed in berating me for my crass American habits, quickly helping me assimilate comfortably into the Milano lifestyle. I was friends with everybody on my block from my barber to my pastry chef (who sent me home with sacks of sweets and added me on Facebook). My last few days told me exactly what I was going to miss about this experience. Not so much the food, the culture or the traveling; those I can experience time and time again in the future. No, it was coming to terms with the fact that even if I return to Milano in the future, I will never again find the same conglomeration of individuals in one place, at one time. Which, needless to say, was inevitable and just gives way to even more fantastical experiences. However, I will admit that the past few days in America have been difficult in accepting the stark differences in my tastes towards certain quotidian matters. My roommates can comment on my subtle wailing.
I had found my rhythm in a world composed of people and experiences that catered to a world I’ve always imagined myself in. Today, I keep in mind my exchange experience as a goal for the future; perhaps I’ll do a master’s abroad, perhaps I’ll work abroad. Who knows, but I’m still on a travel-high and can’t wait to get back in the jetset lifestyle to see where it takes me.
Arrivaderci, Milano. Grazie mille e ti amo tantissimo.