Reflecting on My Time Abroad

Guest post by Jamie Koffman, a Junior studying finance and marketing. Jamie attended Bocconi University through our Foster Exchange Program. 

Vienna, Austria

 

(Un)certainty

As I packed up my belongings to leave for Italy four months ago, I was uncertain about the adventure that I was about to embark on. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly excited, but nervous about the ambiguity of the adventures that were in front of me. As I landed in Milan on August 26th, I made a promise to myself: pursue the uncertain. As somebody who likes to be in control of most aspects in my life, one of my goals for this program was to be more open to spontaneity and adventure.

This idea was tested numerous times throughout my four months in Italy: making new friends, last minute travel plans, and disorganized professors. However, as my time abroad comes to a close, I can say this: in times of uncertainty, nerves, and ambiguity you will learn more about yourself and the world around you than you ever thought possible. Relax, kick back, and open up your mind to a plethora of new experiences, because I am certain choosing to go aboard is a decision you will not regret.

Duomo, Milan, Italy

Food

Before I left to go abroad, if I was to make you a list of things I was most excited to experience in Italy, food would be at the top of my list. Not only is the food incredibly delicious in Italy, but it allows you to learn a lot about the local culture. For instance, it took me a while to adjust to the times at which meals were eaten. I normally have dinner at 6:00 pm at home, so to wait until 8:00 for most restaurants to open was a culture shock. However, living and dining in Italy for the past four months taught me the following two things.

  1. Do not judge cultures by your pre-conceived notions about them. This is a lesson that shouldn’t have to be stated, it should be acknowledged by everyone. Many of my friends in my programs had a pre-conceived idea that spaghetti and meatballs and alfredo sauce were staples of Italian cuisine. Turns out they are not. If you find either of those dishes at a restaurant in Italy, you are most certainty at a tourist trap that is selling you over-priced, mediocre food. Learn to appreciate foreign food, and the overarching culture in local and authentic ways. Authentic Italian Risotto Milanese or spaghetti carbonara will beat mac-n-cheese any day of the week.
  2. Learn to live in the moment. This is hard for me to do sometimes, because I am constantly looking ahead at what’s to come. At first, dining out in Italy was hard for me because service was slower and meals took longer than I had been used to; this is intentional. Food in Italy, like life, should be savored and enjoyed.

 

Travel

One of my favorite parts about studying abroad in Milan, was the accessibility to travel to other parts of Europe. Milan is services by three different airports (Linate, Malpensa, and Bergamo) as well as the 8th busiest train station in all of Europe. This allows for cheap and easy travel on the weekends. My advice to people studying abroad is to take advantage of these accessible travel opportunities, because it will lead you to many incredible adventures and memories.

Clifs of Moher, Ireland

Over the past semester I was able to travel to 10 different countries in Europe. I was lucky enough to see a NFL game in London, the Anne Frank Haus in Amsterdam, and the gorgeous Christmas markets in Munich. Each country that I visited brought me an opportunity to have my perspective on the world shaped by new ideas and cultures. I hope that when I return to Seattle, I can take all of these lessons that I have learned while traveling and have them provide me with a new perspective in life.

Verona, Italy