Bocconi University

As much as I wish it, life is not always all roses when studying abroad

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

It’s unrealistic to expect that a study-abroad experience will go without a problem. Yet I expected studying in Italy to go exactly like that- without a single problem. For the most part, it has. However, things like missing American holidays, getting sick, and coordination of two lives do lead to unnecessary frustration.

Thanksgiving Day with my second family.

Thanksgiving Day with my second family.

American Holidays- I wasn’t too broken-hearted about missing Labor Day. Or Columbus Day. Or Halloween. Or even Veterans Day. However, when it came to Thanksgiving, I was determined not to miss it. Thanksgiving is such a family-oriented holiday, I got a little mopey just thinking about it. Luckily, my fellow Americans here in Milan pulled through for me. My friend Mike had his mom visiting the week of Thanksgiving, and she graciously agreed to cook a real Thanksgiving dinner for us- complete with turkey. As Mike didn’t have a stove, I ended up hosting six other American students (and Mike’s mom) for Thanksgiving.

Mike’s mom saved the day. She brought pumpkin pie all the way from the States (Milan doesn’t have a lot of traditional Thanksgiving food). She cooked turkey, sweet potatoes, gravy, and a whole host of other Thanksgiving food. Instead of spending an American holiday Italian style, I ended up celebrating with six of my closest American friends here who have truly become like my second family in this study abroad experience.

Getting Sick: shortly after Thanksgiving, I got sick. At first, I thought it was a cold. But then it got worse- I could barely breathe, my voice completely disappeared, and my head felt ready to explode. Feeling terrible, I went to Bocconi’s International Student Desk (ISD) to ask for advice. They were amazing. With one look at pathetic me, someone whisked me off to go visit an Italian doctor.

In Italy, you can get most medications at a pharmacy, where the pharmacist has the capability of prescribing medications. You can actually get a lot of strictly controlled medications in the US just by talking to a pharmacist free of charge. However, in my case, I was taken to the doctor for a more refined diagnosis. The ISD was afraid I had pneumonia. Thankfully, I only had bronchitis. I was sent home with a variety of antibiotics, cold medications, inhalers, and a stronger version of Sudafed. I was under strict orders to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and to make not developing pneumonia my new number one priority in life.

Getting sick abroad isn’t a whole lot of fun- not that it is back in the States either. After two days in bed, I was ready to die from the loneliness of it. My roommate, afraid I was contagious, was avoiding me like I had the plague. My friends, also fearing for their own health, did the same. I can’t say that I blame them- but it was really lonely there for a while. Especially because I couldn’t talk for several days because of inflammation in my throat, which meant not even phone conversations. I’m now well on my way to recovery- just a few more days of taking antibiotics and then I should be fine.

The third difficulty of being abroad that I mentioned was coordinating two separate lives. I live my Milan life right now- I have Milan friends, Milan classes to worry about, a Milan home (and all the associated worries/tasks), and all the associated things that go with being an Italian (Italian holidays, customs, etc). Then there’s my Seattle life. Trying to keep up with my Seattle friends, my actual family, and what’s going on back home is hard, especially with the nine hour time difference. On top of that, I have to coordinate things for leaving Italy and moving back to Seattle.

While abroad, I’ve found a place to live back in Seattle, missed my younger sister’s bridal shower, gotten an internship offer, filled out masters applications, struggled with the financial aid office, and registered for classes(and re-registered multiple times). I sometimes feel like I’m being pulled in two- and being forced to choose between two worlds. Then I take a deep breath, tell myself I can do this, and move forward. I think mastering the international juggling act is one of my biggest accomplishments while abroad. I can do this, I can do anything. Everybody has been really great and really tried to make this process easier (special thanks to Sharmon in the advising office- you have been fantastic!).

Please don’t get me wrong- I LOVE studying abroad. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything. The things I have learned, the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had- they all more than make up for the minor difficulties I’ve described. Life back home was a difficult balancing act, getting sick was no fun, and holidays were just as difficult to coordinate there. I would highly recommend studying abroad to anyone- just know you have to be motivated, and it’s easier if you have people to lean on.

Finding a home

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

A lot changes when you study abroad. For me, one of the most stressful things was to find housing in Milan. Based on previous students’ experience, I knew I did not want to live in the foreign students’ dorm. This meant turning to the internet to find housing in a country where I barely knew anything about the language. With a lot of searching and more luck, I eventually found a girl heading to the U.S. who needed a sub-letter for her room for fall semester. This sounded perfect to me. We exchanged a flurry of emails over the summer, and then I headed over to Milan in August to officially begin the living-abroad experience.

KWilsonI love my room. I love my Milanese apartment. It was remodeled two years ago, and the inside looks like an IKEA showroom (for good reason: the contractor refurbished the place with purchases from IKEA). Downstairs are the kitchen, bathroom, and lounge area, while the bedrooms are upstairs. Best of all though, I can live with my roommate.

I was really apprehensive about having an Italian roommate. I feared the worst. I don’t speak Italian well, and she doesn’t speak English- so how would we communicate? What if she threw loud parties every night? What if, what if, what if dominated a lot of my thoughts about my roommate before I met her. I never really thought about what she would be thinking before meeting me.

The day that my roommate moved in (I had been in Milan for three weeks by then, taking a language class), she showed up on the doorstep with her entire family- mom, dad, brothers, cousins, etc. The entire family even stayed the night in our tiny apartment (in all fairness, the cousin lived next door, so the extended family stayed over there). As nervous as I was about meeting my roommate, it turns out she was far more nervous to meet me, an American student from the UW.

Since that time, her family has gone home, and we’ve really gotten to know each other. True, communication can be an issue, but we can generally work it out. We have more language dictionaries floating around our apartment than the amount of languages we speak. If there are any problems, we’ve mastered the art of facing them head-on, rather than silently fuming about them. Mainly, our problems have been cultural and not really clashes of personality. I’ve really enjoyed living with her, and learning about Italians more. After all, I came to Italy to learn what it meant to be Italian and to learn what life was like in a different culture.

Still, with all my willingness to learn, it is extremely nice to have my own room. When life gets too overwhelming or too stressful, when I miss the UW or can’t figure out what I’m doing next quarter, I can retreat to my room, and enjoy that rare feeling in Italy of being alone.

“The More Things Change…”

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I don’t know that I would call myself a runner. I can run, but I often don’t. Instead, I jog. Daily. During the past year at the UW, while balancing work and classes, this meant getting up at 5:00 am. I managed- and it’s become a daily ritual since (though not the super-early part). Every (almost) morning that I have been abroad, I have gotten up to go jogging.

The feelings I get from these experiences are indescribable. I have felt the wind and the rain coming off the North Sea as I’ve made my way over the cliffs around Scarborough. I’ve watched the sun rise over Venetian canals, pounding over eerily empty bridges at the near-dawn hour. In Budapest, I have yelled with Hungarian runners from the tallest hill in the city, celebrating our morning uphill run and our victory over the steep slope (that’s my translation of what we were yelling… everyone else was speaking Magyar, but still, the camaraderie was there). The Sonian Forest of Belgium was magical in the way that story tales are magical- for the first time since I was six, I believed in fairy tales again.

In Italy, especially in Milan, running doesn’t seem to be popular. In fact, most Italians think it’s strange. Still, some of my best Italian experiences have been while running. I’ve run with the Hash House Harriers, a group of ex-pats who refuse anything to do with competition. I struggled to fourth place with my classmates and professors through the Bocconi Run, an 8K race put on by the university (much like the Dawg Dash back home). My running community is amazing- and I don’t mean just the runners. The tabacchi shop near my house has an early-morning breakfast crowd, always ready to cheer me to my finish and often, to buy me a cup of espresso after.  I have been offered more rides home by well-meaning Italians (who fear I am only running from necessity) than I can count. In their generosity, when they realize I truly mean to continue jogging, I am often given a water bottle (or in one notable case, a beer) to help me on my way. At first strange, I have come to realize this generosity is just part of being Italian. I’ve learned to accept it, and return it when I can.

In a way, I feel like I’m back at home when I jog. It doesn’t matter that I often don’t speak the right language- all that’s needed are nods of acknowledgment, easily given smiles, and the ability to high-five anyone and everyone. The rules of running (or in my case, jogging) don’t change from country to country. The feeling of camaraderie is always there, the belonging. Some are more willing to accept me as a foreigner, some encourage me to run with them (as they insisted in Germany), but for the most part, these are passing relationships that start my day off right by reminding me that though I am far from home, I am never far from a friendly community that exists everywhere.

Next Sunday, I’ll be running my fifth marathon- though my first abroad. In Athens, it’ll trace the original route of Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to declare the Greek victory in battle, and then died. I’m hoping to avoid the death part. Understandably, I’m nervous, but I know that I’ll be racing in a running community. Even though they speak Greek, the language of running won’t change that much.

Barca-Barca-Barcelona

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

I arrived in my flat around 11pm on August 22nd. I only stayed for 30 minutes to shower and pack all my things. I had met up with Jenna Jones and Daniel Ong; we were set to leave for Barcelona the next morning at 5am. I had met Jenna and Daniel on Facebook; a group was started and we planned a trip to Barcelona and La Tomatina over three different time zones.

I entered my flat in awe; the rooms were large and each with the exception of mine had a small rusty balcony. Our kitchen was modest with aging wood and furniture that was slowly dying. A random long couch sat in our narrow hallway; there isn’t a living room.

The bathroom is tiny. The bathroom is really tiny. The shower is a tiny box with the length of one of my arm.

But it is okay, because I am set to leave for Barcelona in 6 hours.

Once I arrived in Jenna’s flat, I passed out immediately. My nap was too short for soon enough, we were on the tram and then on a bus on the way to Bergarmo airport to take Ryanair over to Barcelona. Nausea was a strong sherryonepresence during my take off and the bright yellow and blue cabinets that adorned the interior of the plane did not help calm my mood. When we arrived, the entire plane clapped. I don’t know whether or not to be happy or terrified at the fact the entire plane clapped that we actually landed.

After arrival, we took an hour long bus ride from the airport all the way to Barcelona. I sat next to a man who spoke in Spanish to me most of the time. I liked him. I liked him because I got to practice my Spanish. It was pretty sweet, he actually understood me.

The first night at Barcelona we attended a FC Barcelona game. The stadium was packed with screaming fans going crazy for their team. The game and experience was so epic, thousands among thousands going crazy for futbol. It’s comparable to a husky football game but with 10 times more the spirited fans.

The next day we headed down to Las Ramblas. It was very very very hot, in the 90’s. There were a ton of street vendors selling los flores y los regalos y mas. In addition, theresherrytzo were moving statues; there was one dressed as Jason who came up to me and tried to scare me away. I love Barcelona. The entire city is breathtaking and if I could live here, I would be happy forever.

We took a two hour tour around Barcelona. I went shopping and got completely lost but managed to find a specific plaza where there was this Gaudi tour. I got to see three of Gaudi’s masterpieces. It was during this tour I fell in love with Gauid’s artwork. Looking up at his architectural masterpieces was incredible. My favorite part was the Gaudi Park with the famous mosaics.

No words can ever do justice in describing the brilliancy of this man therefore I leave you with these photographs.

In addition to the FC Barcelona game, all the sigh seeing, we also went to The Mediterranean. I got to swim in the clear turquoise water that tasted like it had a 5 to 1 ratio (salt 5 cups for every 1 cup water). I actually experienced my first sun burnt. I’m Filipino….I don’t get burn. But here I did.

After 4 nights in Barcelona, it was time to head back to Milano.sherrythree

Milano Life Part 2

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It is so hard to be consistent with a blog when on an exchange program.  That’s good though in a way because it means that I have been doing a lot, experiencing a lot, and meeting a lot of great people.  If you are reading this and are contemplating doing an exchange, my advice is…DO IT!  It will be the most unique, interesting and fun experience of your life.  Companies love it.  You become more cultured by just merely observing different people in different countries with sometimes completely different lifestyles from what you are used to.

One of the best moves I’ve made this year was to join a group of Italians in my Market Research class for a team project.  It was a bit hard at first since most of them didn’t speak English very well, but with the combination of hand motions and basic knowledge of each other’s language, communication became possible.  Being in this group is not particularly the best for efficiency or effectiveness purposes for the project we need to complete, but it is such a good way to meet more Italians and gives me a chance to hang out with them outside of class.  I went to Aperitivo (Italian-style buffet) with them and they introduced me to their group of friends.  We hung out in all the places where the locals hang out.  They showed me all the popular places where students get drinks and just chill at night.  I had the best time, and they were all so welcoming and friendly.  I look forward to hanging out more with the Italians.

I also have an amazing buddy though the Bocconi buddy system.  He actually does a great job of following through with things like showing us great Aperitivos and setting up soccer matches between us exchange students and the Italians.  We, of course, have beat the Italians every time so far, but it’s getting closer and closer each time. :P  I’m not good at soccer by any means, but I’m getting the hang of it.  I scored a few unorthodox goals, and my teammates have been really nice about being patient with me and have actually taught me some techniques.  We often times go to the pub across the street and watch soccer on the big screen.  It’s a good past time and bonding experience with the other guy exchange students.Vance (2)

A week ago we found ourselves in Rome with a great group of 10 people.  All exchange students from Bocconi, and the group was composed of really good friends we’ve made throughout these past couple of months.  We did an obscene amount of sightseeing in Rome for the 3 days we were there.  I was completely exhausted every single night in Rome.  The Coliseum, Pantheon, Palatine, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum, St. Peters Cathedral, Borghese Museum, Trevi Fountain, etc.  The trip was very artistic and historical, as well as tiring.  A highlight of Rome, aside from the sites, was having the chance to take the group to a Filipino restaurant there.  It was so great to have a nice sit down lunch with the group and to share with them a part of my culture.  Well until next time.  Ciao!

Milano Life Part 1

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

VanceRight now I am sitting in Anne Marie’s cabin on the outskirts (the woods!) of Warsaw, Poland in the afternoon.  We knew Anne Marie from UW’s Global Case Competition last spring as she and 3 others represented the Business School over here in Warsaw.  From the very beginning, Anne Marie has been the most amazing hostess.  She has graciously let us stay at her Mom’s beautiful house in a nearby suburb of the city center.  We really couldn’t ask for anything more, and don’t know what we did to deserve such great treatment, but we are so appreciative and hope that we can return the favor somehow in the future.  After we arrived and dropped our stuff off at Anne Marie’s house we headed for the City Center and walked along Anne Marie’s favorite streets.  Spontaneously we decided to have a food extravaganza in Poland and to try out all the best restaurants and cafés in the city center.  Thus far, the best and most successful food run (with sushi, croissants, drinks, and polish food) I’ve had in Europe, and that says a lot since I’m living in Italy.

We arrived here in the woods kind of late last night because of traffic, but it was definitely worth it. It’s a beautiful cabin in the middle of the woods which is peaceful and relaxing.  Definitely something I needed after always being out and doing things in the city.  It’s nice to relax, talk, and eat by the fireplace in the middle of nowhere.

So now I am going to try and summarize Milano, which is no simple task.  Adapting to living in Italy has definitely not been easy, but at the same time, hasn’t been too difficultVance (1) because of the great friends we’re surrounded with here.  One thing that you must get used to in Italy, besides the fact that no one speaks English, is how many things are so inefficient and unorganized.  It’s Italy though, and you just have to accept it.  Stores just don’t like to open on Sundays or Mondays.  There are no dryers for your clothes.  Cars drive on the sidewalk.  One thing that is always very organized here though are the parties put together by Bocconi.  Bocconi never fails us, and you can’t help but have fun and be happy here.  Bocconi just doesn’t allow you to be bored and not have fun.  They do a great job of organizing parties and events to meet people, eat free food, and get the best deals to the most prestigious places in town.  Because we are from Bocconi, we never wait in line anywhere and our always treated as VIP.  The group of friends we’ve established so far has been such a blessing.  I am so thankful to have met such a great and diverse set of friends.  Finland, Portugal, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, London, France, Mexico, Norway… basically the EU.. etc.  Such a great group of people who I would already miss so much, if I were to leave now.  I hope to stay in touch with all of these people and to have a lot of them visit me in Seattle so I can show them around.

A Birthday in Venice

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Italy has been amazing so far. I really love living in Milan, a transportation center with planes, trains, and buses to just about everywhere in Europe. For my 21st birthday, I took the train to Venice to celebrate with friends. Venice is an amazing treat unto itself. The city really is built right on the water. It’s exactly like the pictures- only the pictures don’t convey the amazingness of it, nor the charm, nor the sheer incredibility. Imagine stepping straight from a boat right into a store. It’s amazing. And so bizarre. I felt like I was floating on water for days after.

Kathy1Venice is navigated by a series of vaporettos, or passenger ferries. You can walk from some islands to others, but not all of them can be walked that way. Instead, you have to take the ferry. Luckily, being under 26, we bought cards valid for transport for 72 hours.

Friday, we went to the Venice Film Festival. We got tickets to the premiere of “The Bad Lieutenant” because it was in English, and “The Prince of Tears”- which was in Mandarin but had English and Italian subtitles.  Then, because we had tickets, we went into the main building and celebrity stalked. We went to the press conference level and mingled with reporters while eating amazing cheese, and drinking wine. We eavesdropped on the press conference with Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes, and then for “The Prince of Tears”.

After, we wandered around Lido and waded in the Adriatic Sea, before heading back for the red carpet stuff. Pressed against the barrier, we were able to have front row views of the stars for the Bad Lieutenant. And to see Paris Hilton (though really, what was she doing there? Seriously, not appreciated at my film festival…). In real life, well, Nicholas Cage looked pretty haggard. Eva Mendes though was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.  Sherrylyn, the girl I was with, got her autograph.

Then we watched our movies. I didn’t particularly care for the Bad Lieutenant. Too strange for my tastes, though seeing it at the Venice Film Festival was amazing. The Prince of Tears though, I loved it. It’s a very sad movie, but the colors were gorgeous. And the music was good.

Saturday we went swimming in the Adriatic, watched glass blowing on Murano Island, and just enjoyed being in Venice. We did ride a lot of boats.

Thursday, though, my birthday, was just about perfect. I arrived in Venice, met up with people, had a great Italian dinner with wine, and then we ate coffee-flavored gelato. Pretty awesome. Especially because at night the street lights are tinted pink. Pink! It’s amazing. And you can see this trail of buoys with pink lights on heading out to the horizon… endless. We listened to the street musicians playing violins and watched the gondolas float by, and really, just enjoyed it. It felt very decadent, my word for Venice.

Two Week Break

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Today marked the first day back to classes for me after an awesome two week break from Bocconi.  Here, the school is not as quick-paced as I am used to with UW’s quarter system.  Students at Bocconi are given two weeks off from classes for midterms and most classes offered to international students don’t have midterms.  This means that my finals will be essentially all or nothing, which is something to consider if you’re thinking about studying here.  Fortunately though, this meant I had two weeks to travel around Europe with my friends.

1.JPGMy break began in Greece where I spent two days in Athens and two days on the Greek island of Mykonos.  It was really cool to see the history in Athens, and I’m happy to say that I can now cross the Acropolis off my list of famous world sites to visit.  Mykonos (that place in my picture) was just as great.  I was even able to swim in the Aegean Sea literally two days before Halloween.  Swimming in late October was definitely a new experience for me, as a Seattle native.  After Greece, I spent a couple days in the Swiss cities of Zurich and Bern, which were only about three hours away by train.  One of the great things about studying in Milan is that it’s so central.  With the help of a great train system and budget airlines (EasyJet and RyanAir are the best!), you can be almost anywhere in Europe within a couple of hours, even on a student’s budget.  I also happened to be in Switzerland during the election.  Probably one the coolest and most intriguing things that I have witnessed in my two months in Europe was my train ride back to Milan when almost everyone on train was reading the Swiss newspaper with Obama plastered on the cover.  Everyone seems to love him in Europe.  Following Switzerland, I made one last trip to Berlin, which totally exceeded my expectations.  There was just so much to see there and I can now cross the Berlin Wall off my list as well!

After my jam-packed two weeks of traveling, I am realizing more and more that there’s still so much more that I want to see and experience.  The only thing working against me now is time.  I can’t believe I only have a little over a month left.  Perhaps, another study abroad experience will be the solution…

Hello from Manchester!

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Hello from Manchester! The University of Washington students have been here for about a month, and we thought it was about time to send in a blog update. First off, to introduce ourselves, we are Brianne King, Natalie Lomax, Stephanie Louie, and Thomas Stannard. The four of us are happy to say that we have finally started to get adjusted to the Manchurian lifestyle.

There are about 100 other direct business school exchange students from all around the world that are studying at the University of Manchester, specifically there are around 40 students from other parts of the United States and Canada. While we’ve been here, we have been working closely with The Manchester Business School (MBS) International Society. The MBS International Society has supplied us with great and knowledgeable student mentors who are available for all our questions. In addition, they host many events that allow the international exchange students to mix and mingle- which is a great for helping us to get adjusted and comfortable across the pond.

mbs.JPGSince we’ve been here, we have been proudly promoting the Foster Business School. On Wednesday, October 22, 2008, the four of us represented UW by participating in the International Fair for students who were planning on studying abroad. As we gave out school flyers and displayed our Foster School PowerPoint, we were able to talk to many interested students into considering UW as an option for their future exchange.

That is it for us for now! Thank you for reading up on us as we continue to venture around England!

First Impressions of Bocconi University, Milan & Italy!

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

bergamo-alta.JPGHi all!  My name is Tim Tran and I’m a junior majoring in Finance and minoring in International Studies.  It’s hard to believe, three and half weeks have already passed since I arrived in Milan, Italy, to study at Bocconi University (Univesita’ Bocconi) for fall 2008.  I came into Milan at the beginning of September to take an intensive Italian crash course offered to exchange students.  This took place before official business courses started and the rest of the Italian students arrived.

With over 1,000 international students, Bocconi is definitely a school with an international flavor.  Because all the exchange p1010101.JPGstudents were essentially in the same boat (in a new city where we all knew no one), everyone was extremely open and friendly.  I quickly made a bunch of friends from all over the world and by the first weekend, we were already traveling Italy together.  This was not something that I expected to happen so soon, but it’s definitely something that I love about this school.  With its smaller size, it’s much more intimate than UW, which, to me, was a welcomed change.  Just in the past few weeks alone, my friends and I have made day trips to Lake Como, Verona, Cinque Terre, and Bergamo, all awesome destinations no more than an hour or two from Milan.  The city of Milan is great as well.  Milan is definitely fast-paced compared to the rest of Italy (though still slow by American standards) and there’s a lively night scene.  It seems like the city never sleeps!

p1010472.JPGThe native Italian students, who arrived a week or two after the exchange students, are also very friendly and approachable.  Bocconi has a great international student buddy program that has hosted numerous events to help exchange students experience the school and the city.  These events have included a traditional Italian dinner, an AC Milan soccer match, and what seems to be a Milanese favorite, aperitivo (Italian for happy hour).

Classes have started now and so far, I am enjoying them all.  It’s funny that even though I’m half a world removed from home, the current events that we talk about in class are heavily focused on the US financial situation.  It has definitely been interesting to hear the Italian perspective on the recent financial crisis in the US!

Overall, I enjoying every moment here.  Occasionally, I crave the Ave’s Asian food and I can surely do without all the second-hand smoke I’ve inhaled, but these little things in no way detract from the fact that I am having a blast in Milan!