“If his destiny be strange, it is also sublime.” Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
There are many things to be said about emerging oneself in a culture abroad. New, wondrous experiences emerge as striking and surreal all at once. Upon my arrival in Milano a mere four weeks ago, I found myself in the unreal state of the weary traveler. Alone, I was an unrefined American in a metropolis devoted to luxury style. There I stood, at the Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by metropolitan men clad in suits and suspenders, and women boasting Gucci, Prada, and Bottega Veneta. I helplessly hassled three duffel bags, desperately directing myself towards the Universita Bocconi Residence, a whole five miles south of the city center. Throughout this ever-mesmerizing experience of wonder and confusion, I found myself to be completely lost. Lost in direction, lost in translation, and somewhat lost in mind. It what could be considered the longest (and heaviest) two hours of my life, I eventually found my way to the place I would soon call home. However, upon arrival at the Residence, my luck began to change, and my disastrous delirium would soon began fade away.
When I arrived at the student residency, I began to feel the same sense of angst and dread I first felt when having checked in to my freshman-year dorm a whole two years ago. While that sense of unease didn’t dissipate all at once, I slowly began to find that everyone else was in the same boat. As general introductions went around, the evening grew more and more lively. Before midnight, the air was filled with auras of food, fellowship, and a fond excitement for the months to come. If there is anything to be said for the international student community, is that it is a social one. Where once I felt like a strange at the table, I am now almost always greeted with open arms and a smile amongst the Bocconi International crowd. Ironically enough, despite having come to Italy, it appears that most of my companions are from the Netherlands. The Dutch students have welcomed me into their circle, with a hearty European embrace. I look forward to building upon these friendships, and developing new ones. So that one day, when I found myself in Europe once more, I will be able to share a meal with the colleagues and companions I have grown to love here.
Though I do enjoy the social scene here at Bocconi, it would not be proper to leave the education portion out of this entry. Universita Bocconi is an excellent institution, which I have found to not only provide an excellent business curriculum, but a distinct, rich cultural education. Through courses such as Management of Fashion Companies, and Competitive Strategies for Creative Industries, I am able to integrate business frameworks and mindsets into the creative, colorful endeavors. It also helps that Milan is a cultural capital of fashion, design, luxury, and art. That being said, I can think of no better place to fully immerse oneself in creative industries. Just this week, Milan Fashion Week held a runway show on campus, which drew the attention of fashion-forward students from all corners of Bocconi. In addition to creative company management, I am able to get my art fix as well. Through Philosophy of Art and Critical Approaches to the Art, I have gained insight into what truly constitutes art, and how I can better myself as an artist and aesthete. If there is any advice to be given to those reading this and thinking about spending a semester abroad: definitely save your international and general electives for the REEP exchange. It is definitely worthwhile.
One would certainly not be able to talk about Europe without mentioning travel. In the words of famed rapper Logic, “I never knew that living out a dream, meant living outta suitcase.” This statement holds true in more ways than one, and I wholeheartedly feel that a European education would be incomplete without taking a train to an unknown land. In the short time I have been in Italy, I have sunbathed on the shores of Lake Como, climbed the mountains of Corgnilia, and taken in the sunset while writing poetry in Manarola. When studying in Milan, these exotic destinations are never more than two hours away, and weekly escapes to the unknown are certainly not uncommon. However, these desirable destinations are incomplete without a fruitful fellowship to share it with. So I strongly urge those who study abroad to travel far and wide, to the corners of the earth they most desire, because true beauty lies just beyond the boundaries of one’s comfort.
In many ways than one I do still feel like the weary traveler. Like a sailor, tossed by the tides yet softened by the sands, I ride this journey into the opportunities and treasures it may unfold. I am thankful for a cultural education, for experiencing art in action and exposing me to new truths I may find along the way. However, more than anything, I am thankful for the good people, and true citizens of the world that have welcomed this stranger at their table, to dine with hearth and comradery, for new adventure on the Mediterranean horizon.