14 Hours in Florence

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Written by Rachel Fillman, Foster undergraduate



July 11, 2015
The day that best describes my international experience was the day I spent in Florence, Italy with a few of the people from my program. We all got up around 5 a.m. to catch an early train to be able to spend the maximum amount of time we could in the short day we had there. I hadn’t really heard much about Florence so I didn’t know what there was to do there, and I actually almost didn’t even make the trip with everyone because I didn’t know if it would be worth the money and time to get there. I am so happy that I did decide to go because Florence is possibly my favorite city we visited while we were abroad. We hiked hundreds of stairs to the top of Il Duomo, stumbled into old churches while we were lost among the streets, and bargained with street vendors to buy genuine leather goods. Although it was one of the longest days of the trip (14 hours in Florence), I fell in love with the city and the beauty of the buildings. I still go back and look at the pictures I took of Il Duomo because it still amazes me with its magnificence and grandeur. I enjoyed getting to go to a city that had so much to give—history, shopping, uniqueness; all these things made quite the impression on me. My day trip to Florence really stands out to me when I look back on the month I spent in Italy and I believe it highlights my international experience in a way that I will remember for a long time.






Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Written by Kimberly Matsudaira, Foster undergraduate

Studying abroad in Milan at Bocconi University was one of the best moments in my life. A cliché thing to say, I know, but honestly there’s no other way to describe my 5 month experience in Italy.


I made life-long friendships, had incredible experiences (even the not so good ones I’ll look back fondly on) and learned so much about the world and myself. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses throughout my travels and learned ways to improve myself.

Italy_2 Italy_3
Cinque Terre, Italy


Prague, Czech Republic



Budapest, Hungary


United Nations at Geneva, Switzerland

Ultimately, studying abroad was so rewarding and enriching. My final advice: don’t ever have doubts about studying abroad. JUST DO IT! Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Prada, Black, and 3 piece suits

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Shannon Ong, Foster undergraduate

Oops, don’t spill your triple shot espresso on your Chanel wallet. Bocconi University means Prada, black, and 3 piece suits. Studying at Bocconi is a unique, culturally-diverse, and terrific opportunity. For all you finance majors- did you know that Goldman Sachs recruits the most out of Bocconi University for its ivy-league standard of Finance and management education?

I loved being part of Bocconi; everyone is super ambitious and interesting to talk to. Students from all over the world- Argentina, Iceland, Korea, Australia, Sudan, and Brazil study here and it was fascinating getting to know them and talking to them about their background and working with them.

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In one of my classes, I had the opportunity to work with a startup called Picsage in Milan, where I basically helped redesign their application- I was able to prototype and wireframe their application and redesign some of their features. It was so sweet that I was able to have an impact on a startup based in Milan!

Life in the Fast Lane

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Shannon Ong, Foster undergraduate

Milan: a city of business, food, fashion, and design.

Living in Milan is a metropolitan and fabulous lifestyle. Since I’ve been here, I’ve already been to Milan Fashion Week- code for a high-image, luxurious, and expensive event with celebrities and designers sporting everything from Prada to Tom Ford.  In every designer store- there were runways setup showcasing models wearing the latest season and hottest trends. It was such a mind-blowing experience, to be part of the creativity of these designers and to see these models on the runway and celebrate the end of the fashion season with the locals.


Before coming to Milan, I did not really eat bread or cheese—but since living in Milan I have eaten copious amounts of bread, salami, STEAK, cheese, gnocchi – anything pasta related, you name it- I’ve eaten it. And I LOVE IT. Food in Milan is so fresh that once you buy something at the grocery store – you must eat it within 48 hours or it literally will go bad. Aperitivo in Milan is a great cultural experience and “do as the Italians do” sort of thing. It is basically when you order a drink for 10 euros and that drink comes with a full buffet of food- from pizza to beef stews to pasta to soups to fresh salads and to pastry-filled deserts. It is quite an offer you can’t refuse. And don’t forget about the Milan Christmas Markets!



Business and design go hand in hand here in Milan; they have super cool art galleries like Van Gogh and exhibits displaying everything from contemporary art to Picasso to the Renaissance. The economy in Italy is not doing well, but in Milan – it doesn’t seem to show, there are a ton of large corporations in Milan and there also is a plethora of startups. I loved going to the art shows and meeting local designers and seeing their work. The Milanese are passionate about art history and it really shows.


Waka Waka Africa

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Shannon Ong, Foster undergraduate

Morocco- the land of the Souk markets, brilliant tapestries, camels, and nomads.

I went to Morocco this past week with 5 other friends in my program at Bocconi. I couldn’t believe that Milan à Marrakech was only 140 Euros so I had to jump on that opportunity.

At first, with the whole Ebola situation that was happening, my group was hesitant and nervous about going to Africa. However, I was able to convince them otherwise.

Day 1: We arrived in Marrakech and immediately are on our way to the desert. We stop by at a few Moroccan villages on the way and stay in a hotel overnight in the Atlas Mountains. We passed by beautiful, natural landscapes of Berber villages and Boumalene du Dades.


Moroccan food is so good, the Tajin chicken pots, the mint tea, the delectable honey and butter with bread.


Day 2&3: We finally arrive in the desert. The temperature is hot during the day but freezing during the night. We arrive at a beautiful, isolated hotel in the middle of the Sahara Desert. It is stunning, with its castle like fortress and blue lagoon of a pool inside in the hotel. From there, we ride camels to our campsite- for we are spending the night in Nomad berber tents tonight. We hear drum music beckoning us to the campsite in the middle of the Sahara. THIS IS LIVING. Before arriving in the tents, we go sand-boarding through the desert, and admire the sunset. Sleeping under the stars in the middle of the desert was a surreal experience- it made me truly appreciate the nature of silence. The next morning we wake up and camel back to our hotel. Our host at the hotel surprises us with ATVS- so we spend that day ATVing through the sand dunes and swimming in the blue lagoon.



Day 4: We are back on the road on our way to Marrakech; we go to beautiful, fortified villages and see where Game of Thrones is filmed at Ait Ben Haddou. We go to the oldest city in Marrakech and marvel at its splendor of its architecture.


Day 5: Marrakech: the red city of Morocco. The Souk markets are out of this world, all sorts of sights, smells, tastes, and voices immediately hit all your senses. Bargaining with the vendors was quite challenging but fun and when you finally got the price you wanted- it was a feeling of success. I bought a lot of ornate plates, scarves, jewelry, and mantelpieces here in the markets.



The Beautiful Cinque Terre

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Written by Mayowa Laniran, Foster undergraduate

I hiked and explored Cinque Terre, which are beautiful and colorful towns on the Italian Rivera. The journey from town to town was about two hours of hiking, but well worth it each time, and I got to eat some great food along the way. Since it was still September, the weather was great, and the group I went with decided to get on a boat to go explore the two towns we were too tired to hike to. Cinque Terre is definitely one of my top recommendations of places to visit in Italy.


Casa di Clooney in Como

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Written by Mayowa Laniran, Foster undergraduate

Como Lago (Lake Como) is a place where the wealthy keep vacation homes and I see why. Como Lago is about an hour from Milan, and the town of Como offers a lot for such a small area. We took a trip with ESN, and got a boat tour of the entire lake, the coolest site was George Clooney’s house. With over 100 exchange students participating, it was a great opportunity to meet new friends. A sky tram took us up to the mountains of Como, where we were able to look down on the city for a very cool view. There were an endless strip of mansions up there, and lots of cool sites.

Meeting the famous Spike Lee in Italy

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Written by Mayowa Laniran, Foster undergraduate

Today was a very interesting day to say the least. Spike Lee, one of the greatest American filmmakers visited our university today to talk about cinema and sports. But those topics only lasted a little while, as many of the Italian students began asking questions about the issue of police violence against blacks in America. High profile cases of Mike Brown and Eric Garner were revolving around the world news, and Spike Lee used this platform as a forum to discuss the issues. After showing the moving video of Garner’s death, many Italian students wanted to know how they could help speak up and raise awareness about the issue. It was a cool event showing that students from all around the world wanted to invest their time to fight racism. Eventually the conversation turned to discussing racism that exists in Italy and all over Europe. Afterwards, I got the opportunity to speak with Spike for a few minutes and had to snap a picture for the record.


La Bella Vita

Monday, June 3rd, 2013
By: Annika Gunderson, Foster Undergraduate
Arriving in Italy, I didn’t go directly to Milan.  My entire family came to do an extended vacation in Rome, Florence, Venice, ending with moving me into my Milan apartment.  Dragging my 2 suitcases, carry-on, and backpack through 4 cities definitely made me stand out as a stereotypical American.  Italians would jokingly ask “Are you moving here or something??” as I walked past with my suitcase’s wheels rattling obnoxiously on the cobblestone.  I always stopped and said “Yes!  I’m moving to Milan!”  Every time I thought they would tell me how
beautiful Milan is, how excited I should be to live there, how amazing it would be….but instead I got “Why?  It’s ugly and industrial. I would never want to live there.”  Needless to say, I was very scared when I got on my final train from Venice to Milan.  I kept on thinking “What did I get myself into??”
Everyone I talked to about Milan was wrong.  The city is energetic, fashionable, and gorgeous. Milan never sleeps, there’s always a fashion or design week during the day, aperitivo in the evening, and clubbing at night.  Italians are night owls, when I go out I’ll eat dinner with friends at 11, hit the clubs at 12, and sometimes stay until closing at 6!  Good thing Italian espresso is strong!I couldn’t wait for class to start so I could start meeting new people.  I was so surprised when everyone came to class in groups and all sat together!  I realized that I was one of very few exchange students who came alone.  Everyone else came with groups from their university and were already friends!  Being alone made meeting people a lot more difficult, but a lot more rewarding. I didn’t come to Italy to hang out with Americans!  I now have friends from Israel, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, France, and the list goes on!  Some days I really wish I had searched out other Americans here so I could have a little feeling of home, but I know I have the rest of my life for burgers and beer and I should enjoy my wine and pasta while I can!

I somehow ended up becoming closest with a group of models.  I did come to Milan for the fashion, and now I’m in the middle of it!  I love them, but sometimes it’s very intimidating to hear them talking about going to a Versace casting the next day, or online shopping and seeing them all over the website! I always look forward to seeing what they’re wearing because I know they see all the trends before the public does.  Unfortunately, I’m always in something colorful while they’re always in black! I definitely stick out from Europeans- can you guess which one is me in the photo??

That’s all for now, I only have 2 months left in Italy and I want to go out and enjoy them! Baci, Annika

A Week in Italy

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

By: Tiffany Sung, Foster Undergraduate

Hi everyone, it’s Tiffany again, and here’s the post on Italy that I promised! During reading week, I went to Italy with two of my friends who are also on exchange, Yolanda and Karen. We started our journey in Venice, slowly made our way down south to Pisa and Rome, and had a wonderful time!


We arrived in Venice around noon, had a quick lunch (amazing pizza and gelato!), and decided to follow our travel guide’s suggestion: wander around the island map-less. Turned out, that might have been the best
suggestion we could ever get. Since the main island is very small and has literally no cars, we were able to leisurely explore the city, hop on any waterbus, and get lost in the beautiful scenery.

After two days in Venice, we bid the lovely city farewell, took the train, and travelled towards our next destination—Pisa!


We made a special four-hour stop at Pisa to see one of the seven wonders of medieval world—the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And I must say making this extra stop was decision well-made! After all, not only has the tower managed to stand in a leaning position for hundreds of years, but it is also where Galileo conducted his experiment on acceleration. Bell towers do not get any more awesome than this.


We spent the last three days of our trip in Rome visiting the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and Vatican City. We also followed Audrey Hepburn’s footsteps in the movie Roman Holiday and visited the Trevi Fountain, ate gelato on the Spanish Steps, and put our hands in the Mouth of Truth. Rome is such a convenient city for travelling—all the tourist attractions are closely located, the metro is surprisingly cheap, and there is so much to explore!

After our trip to Italy, here are some travelling tips that I think would be useful when planning for your reading

– Invest in a money belt (the really thin ones that can be hidden underneath your clothes). This might sound kind of
silly, but after hearing a lot of pickpocketing stories that happened in Rome, I decided to get one just in case. It definitely made me feel much safer when I stood in the incredibly crowded Roman metro while carrying all my Euros and passport with me.

– Plan ahead of time and you’ll find so many great deals on flight/train tickets and hotels!

– Bring a travel guide with you—especially if the people in the country you are going to might not understand English. It really helps when you have pictures and words to point at while communicating with the locals.

-Take advantage of your time in England, do some research, and plan out amazing trips to the places in Europe
that you’ve always wanted to visit!