Italy | Semester Exchanges Blog

Ciao!

 

My first few days in Milan have been filled with meeting new people, learning new things, and experiencing different cultures. The first things I noticed upon my arrival to Italy were the buildings. Everything has so much character and it was surreal to walk through the streets that Olive Garden tries to imitate. Milan itself is different than I expected, but not in a bad way. Being up north, the stereotypical rolling hills and small cottages are not present, but instead, Milan is a modern city bustling with people. The Duomo in the center of town is the most beautiful building I have seen, and almost every other building is unique in some way. I haven’t been able to explore much more of Italy yet, but something I’ve appreciated is how easy their public transport system is to use.

I began classes at Bocconi last week and have been very impressed so far. Located close to the center of town, the campus is a mixture of cool old buildings and sleek, modern cylinders. The classrooms are nice, and the professors have done a great job of getting us used to how things are done over here.

From a cultural point of view. Italy is definitely different from the United States in some ways. One of the most obvious ones is that people are more relaxed and less obsessed with profits/work/getting ahead. The other A&M students and I encountered this first hand when we tried to get some food on one of our first days. Our residence is pretty far from the more touristy city center, so when we went walking around looking for food in the middle of the afternoon, every place we passed was closed. After figuring this out, we’ve become much more in tune with the schedules here, but it was definitely a shock!

I’m excited to continue my journey over here and immerse myself deeper into the Italian way of life!

Categories: Italy

115 days full of interesting people, amazing experiences, and knowledge in Europe. Saying bye was difficult, but the aspiration to be back in Milan, and to see all my international friends again, made that sadness go away. 6 countries and 12 cities, during these past 115 days I learned so much about the world, society, and business.

We have heard dozens of times how business is different around the world. From the US to Brazil to France to China to Australia, each country has its own customs in conducting business. As I took time to collect my thoughts on conducting business in Italy (and with the people I met during my exchange), 2 trends kept popping up in my head: People love to talk about themselves, and people value when you are interested in learning about their culture.

My International Friends and I before Christmas (10 nationalities)

People love talking about themselves, and it gets them to be comfortable with one, as the human tendency to be accepted by another person helps in relationship building. It is within our capabilities to listen actively to others, and when conducting business, being a good listener will prove its worth.

People appreciate when you are curious about their culture, as they tend to jump on the role of being ambassadors of their culture and showing you what it is like. Not only that, one gets to learn many things and gets the opportunity to see things from a different perspective.

(Brussels, Belgium) Visiting cities around with people from different backgrounds opens your heart and eye

Of course, business is still conducted differently all around the world, but who conducts that business? People!! I think if we are able to listen, be curious, and be open-minded, our interpersonal skills will allow us to conduct business with any nationality, background, and mindset.

I believe Italians are as friendly as Texans. Very welcoming and affectionate, the people of Milan made me feel loved. Italians are known to be laid back and very social, and during my exchange, I was able to observe that. Not only that, but they are also driven, and even though they may take breaks more often than others, they are able to get to work and deliver results. A smile goes a long way and trying to speak Italian (in this case the host country’s language) helped in navigating the city and talking to strangers.

I now understand that even though we may have different flags, at the end of the day we are all people who probably have more in common than not. Not only that, I learned that we all tend to be more good than evil. Being abroad has expanded my horizon on how I see the world and how it is connected. I am now more understanding of various cultures that I had never been exposed to (like the ones from Ghana, Cost D’ Ivoire, France, Japan, Chile, China, and Thailand), and I am more tolerant of differences, as I see a learning opportunity in them and a chance to let my curiosity run free.

Being abroad made me a better person, businessman, and leader. It opened my eyes, expanded my dreams, and grew my passion for learning about the world and its beautiful landscapes, cities, and cultures.

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

My time abroad has come to an end. I could speak for hours about the places I traveled to, the people I met, and the memories I made. Looking back at my time in Europe, I learned relatively late the importance of fully embracing the culture of the locals. When I attempted to embrace the Italian culture and language, the locals were more willing to engage with me. Networking and building relationships became effortless when I introduced myself to others with an open mind and with the intention of learning more about their way of life. Without a doubt, my time abroad has changed my perspective on Italy. My initial interactions with Italians made me assume that Italians did not like to speak to foreigners. I no longer find that assumption accurate. I now believe Italians do not mind to speak to foreigners as long as they can see them putting in effort in learning about their culture. I also came to Italy thinking their restaurant timings are similar to the ones in the USA. That is not true! Besides the international restaurants, dining places are usually closed between 3PM to 7PM. This is usually their break/rest time. I also assumed I would only find Italian food in Milan. I was ready to eat pizza and pasta for 4 months straight! To my surprise, Milan is very culturally diverse. There were many poke places, all-you-can-eat sushi places, and Indian restaurants. In the end, I never expected to enjoy my time abroad as much as I did. It was a memorable experience that I will forever cherish.

Universitá Bocconi

My last day eating at Bao Bing. Bao Bing was my favorite Asian restaurant in Milan. It was a 5-minute walk from Bocconi.

Milan in the winter 🙂

Prada Museum with my roommate (who is also from Texas A&M)!

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

As expected, Bocconi is incomparable to Texas A&M University, College Station. Bocconi’s campus is much smaller and all my classes are in the same 1 building. This has made the first week of classes much less stressful for me. Furthermore, I love how welcoming the individuals at Bocconi and Milan are. A lot of people here surprisingly do not speak English; however, they still try to help. There are a lot of differences I have noticed between Italian and U.S. culture. Public transportation is used far more here, students are usually more dressed up, and almost everything is closed in Italy on Sundays. As of now, I am loving the Milan weather. I never sweat and it hardly rains. I definitely am not missing the College Station humidity but I do miss wearing t-shirts and shorts to class every day.

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Whenever I told my friends and colleagues that I was going to do a study abroad in Venice, Italy in the fall, the most popular reaction I was responded with was that it is a touristy destination, the canals and streets would be nasty, and after a while there wouldn’t be much to do on the island. As the summer went on, I was starting to get influenced by these ideas and was not as excited to come here anymore. However, class registration at A&M was closed and there was no turning back considering other logistics had been planned as well. To my pleasant surprise, upon arrival, I was warmly welcomed by our Airbnb host who is the kindest person ever. In addition to the friendly people, we met within the first few days, the island itself is like dream land.

 

I arrived in Venice 10 days before school started and had some time to explore the city and a couple other countries in Europe. Venice is a small island, but there are multiple islands around that can be accessed by “vaporettos” or water buses. Everything over here is aesthetically pleasing to look at and the architecture and roads have so much detail, making the walks to class exciting (it’s a 30-minute walk from San Marco).  Being here for the past three weeks has made me realize, contrary to my prior notions, that there is a lot to do once you integrate with the local community and make friends. I joined the ESN network which is an organization for all international students doing semester exchanges or EU students doing their Erasmus. They host multiple events every week and it allows students to get to know their peers that are going through similar culture shocks. I’ve met a lot of students from other countries in Europe that I hang out with and have had a chance to explore some other cities in Italy with them as well.

 

Some of the biggest differences from the U.S are the fact that we drink cappuccinos and espresso after every meal with no added sugar. It has been hard getting used to drinking coffee so late in the day, but my body is starting to adjust. The classes I am taking here are all master’s level classes, but they seem much easier that the bachelor level courses at A&M. I would highly recommend finding a “buddy” from the list that the university here sends and asking them to help you register for classes, as the university logistics are probably the most complicated thing I have encountered. It’s weird trying to figure out the system as everything is in Italian and they do not send over instructions on how to register for classes. At one point I found myself sitting in class, listening to an Italian lecture even though the syllabus said that it was taught in English. At the bottom of the page there was a little side note saying that they no longer offer it in English, so I would read the fine print before registering for a class. So far, my time in Venice has been nothing short of amazing! The Italians really do know how to have a good time and do not take life vey seriously.

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy!

I’m currently attending Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy, for the fall semester of 2021. I have been attending classes for a few weeks now, and my first impression of Ca’ Foscari is that it has a highly welcoming atmosphere. All the people I have met so far have been very helpful and accommodating to me as a foreign exchange student, which has made it a lot easier for me to adjust to a new country. The professors here are all very knowledgeable and seem to care about their students genuinely. There are many similarities between classes here and at Texas A&M, but there is a different grading system and one exam in most courses. For instance, I must choose to be either an attending student or a non-attending student in class, and my grade will count differently for each. Some courses require group projects, which has been an excellent opportunity to meet other students from different backgrounds.

The city of Venice is like no other. Since living in Venice, the biggest shock I’ve experienced is that public transportation consists entirely of water taxis. The Vaporetto (a boat) is the primary means of getting around Venice and is the sole alternative to walking through the streets. This city also has no shortage of delicious places to eat. When people say all there is to eat here is pizza and pasta, they aren’t lying! However, I’m not complaining because Italian food is one of my favorites! During my first few weeks of studying abroad, I discovered that getting lost on the island is very easy. But I’ve slowly gotten used to the layout of the island, and I’m hoping by the end of the semester, I will know my way around! One of my favorite things to do here is going to watch the sunset while sitting on a dock. This is not only a great way to relax, but it gives me a chance to take in the beautiful island!

Studying abroad in a beautiful city like Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I have enjoyed every moment of it so far!

Jessica Johnson

The Grand Canal!

The BEST gelato!

Sunsets on the dock!

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Today marks over 3 weeks since I have been living in Venice, Italy! Before I arrived in Venice, I was filled with a lot of anxiety about how this trip would go, and how I would be able to adjust to a place that is so foreign to me and that I know nothing about! But let me tell you, ever since I have been here I have felt so comfortable and have felt so at home! From the second that I stepped foot onto this island, I fell in love with it. I find that the Italian culture is so welcoming, even to someone who doesn’t speak any italian like me! The language barrier can definitely be a problem sometimes, but I find that even just learning a few common phrases can help you go a long way here in Venice.

The biggest differences that I have noticed so far between here and the U.S. is in efficiency. I find that here in Italy, the Italians are not worried about being efficient with their time, with their food, or with their infrastructure. For example, Italians like to take their days very slow, and are usually not on time for anything like how we are in America! They show up 15-30 mins late to things, take hours to eat dinner(no kidding), and have a lot of down time to rest during the day. The way they prepare their food is also very different here than in America. Here, everything is made on the spot, fresh and from scratch, and is served in small quantities. In America, food is usually pre-made in large portions in order to serve the customer more quickly and efficiently! Also, the schooling system here is very different than America. Professors often do not provide a complete syllabus, expecting you to remember/keep up with the due dates for classwork. Also, here at Ca’ Foscari, usually around 80-100% of our overall course grade is based on the final exam in the class, which can be very stressful. But other than that, I have really enjoyed getting to sit in a classroom with people from all over the world, hearing their perspectives on things and how they differ from my perspective.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in Venice, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds!

Ciao!

 

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

The fashion capital of Europe, perhaps of the world as well. The financial powerhouse of Italy, hosting a controversial stock exchange with a peculiar piece of art in front of it. A city hosting a top European business institution, Milan is more than beautiful.

Located in Italy, Milan is a city full of culture, interesting people and places, and history. My initial impressions of the business program were a mix of excitement and fear, as I expected for the class environment and teaching styles to be completely different, but there are many similarities between classes in the US and Italy. I started my classes on September 6th, and the process was smooth and simple. The business program here is great. Professors are ready, have many credentials, and are super well connected. The business program at Bocconi is said to be among the best in Europe, and starting classes, I could see why. The professors and students are bright and are aiming to reach greatness and their personal goals, and that has created an environment where people motivate and help each other out.

Milan is beautiful. It is a very colorful city that has a wide range of food variety. Not only that, it has many spots to visit. It is a busy city, but not as busy as New York City. People are friendly and relaxed, and it is appreciated if you try to speak Italian to the locals. People love soccer, and the divide between who to support, Inter or AC Milan, is always present.

Italy is amazing. As you may know, it has many beautiful cities and sites. I have only visited Lake Cuomo as of right now, but in my next vlog I will update you on the other Italian cities I visited!

There are many differences between Italy and the US culture. For one, they are more relaxed. Life seems to be moving slow here, and no one seems to be in a hurry. They are also more social, and it is very common to see groups of people hanging out at every hour of the day. Not only that, but Italians walk a lot. In the US, and in our university, we walk. But here in Italy they WALK. The public transportation system is great as well.

I have been enjoying my time in Milan, and I look forward to the days that are coming up ahead. Until then!

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

It’s been about a month since I have been back home and honestly, I feel like I am in culture shock once again. Coming back to all these products that I can actually read and food that I was once used too is so different. I realize how much I missed home. I HIGHLY recommend if deciding to do business in another country to learn that language. I did not know one bit of Italian and it was just so difficult when trying to talk to students and teachers at school. Also, maybe take a crash course on that different mannerisms because what other countries do are ENTIRELY different than what we are usually used to.

Studying abroad was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences in and out of the classroom. I really did love every single minute of studying abroad from living in my really cute apartment next to St. Mark’s Square to walking over a mile to and from class every single day. The scenery was just so beautiful, walking through all the little alleyways and over so many bridges. Venice, Italy is one of the most visited cities in the world and being able to live there and see things from not a tourist point of view is so different. Living like a local there was crazy and to see how people carry little carts around for their groceries, how people take the trash out on boats, and the mode of transportation was boat or walking. My mom asked me, “Why don’t you take a taxi?” My answer was, “Mom there are only boats.” The boats in Venice took just as long as walking, so my recommendation is just to walk everywhere!!

In the end, I got to visit 14 countries and over 25 cities. In each and every single one I met people who forever changed my point of view on life and I am so grateful for every single one of them. I already miss all the wonderful food in Europe and how every single time I crossed a border I was immersed in a new world with different food and a different language. If you are reading this, take advantage of this wonderful experience you will (or might) embark on and do not be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone because you WON’T regret it one bit!

Cliffs of Moher

Paragliding!!!

Swiss Alps

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

My experience abroad and how deeply it has affected me is truly difficult to put into words. I had the privilege of studying in the city of Venice- it was absolutely stunning and wonderful.

The two visiting professors that I had were excellent, one of which took our class on field trips to the art exhibits around Venice and made sure that we all understood the concepts of the class and gained hands-on experience. She truly cared about her students and would sometimes walk an hour in the floods in order to make it to the classroom to teach us. The flooding was quite an experience- it was the worst consecutive flooding that Venice had seen since records have been kept. Water buses sank as well as an entire bus station. The incoming mobility unit was very helpful to me after I had trouble with the technological side of the Ca’Foscari website and my student account. The schooling system was very different and difficult to navigate.

Despite only having two professors who were organized in their teachings, I learned more this semester than I have ever learned before. Traveling, in general, has taught me how to be independent, how to work well under pressure, how to connect with people from all walks of life, the ins and outs of international business, and so much more. Being in Venice specifically gave me such a deep appreciation for history and art, along with my Anthropology class which allowed us to explore Venetian art displays as well as discuss what they meant on a deeper social level. I have been fortunate to have had numerous experiences with warrant both educational and growth in my lifetime. With this said, I believe that my growth and intellectual growth has been enhanced by traveling more than anything. Being abroad is so rewarding because I want to encourage others to take that step for themselves. In my experience, living abroad creates tough problem solvers all while destroying preconceived judgments and stereotypes. With an open mind, respect for others, and the grit to get through a place or experience which is unfamiliar, there is no obstacle too daunting. It is my hope to be a part of others’ journeys in discovering this new-found confidence. Through budgeting, entrepreneurship, and networking I was able to accomplish all that I hoped to and I know that others can as well. My passion has only grown for experiencing other parts of the world.

When speaking about business specifically, having an international mindset after being out in the world will be invaluable as I move forward. I interned with a company in Hong Kong this summer and was able to learn how to market to the APAC region specifically. When arriving in Italy just after this, it was fascinating to learn how the European market was different in certain aspects to the United States and the APAC region. In general, I learned that marketing in Europe liked to take on a slightly more modest approach than in America. While companies still spend a huge percentage on marketing each year, they want the message to be slightly more upscale. Additionally, when advertising specifically, it is important to understand what type of humor, color code, or message is appropriate for each country. According to my studies at Ca’Foscari, these are a few of the things that we looked at when evaluating other cultures and countries based on how they operate: Individualism is when people are largely autonomous and motivated by personal preferences, needs, and rights. Collectivism occurs when people are motivated by the norm and duties imposed by the ingroup (close social circle).

People in countries of high individualism are more self-sufficient and less dependent on others. In individualist societies, people are concerned with distinguishing themselves from others and expressing uniqueness. Countries which value individualism include the USA, England, Sweden, and Denmark. Collectivist societies, on the other hand, are concerned with enhancing the cohesion and status of their ingroup. Countries that exhibit this are Korea, Japan, and Israel. There are numerous other categories of how to categorize a culture based on what they value and how they interact with one another and the outside world. It is incredibly important to consider these things when expanding a business into these places in terms of location, hiring, marketing, branding, and more. Even when entering a new culture for a simple business meeting it is crucial to know these things in advance to show the utmost respect and understanding for the situation at hand. I have no doubt that having learned these concepts both at Ca’Foscari and through my experience traveling and meeting others, I will make a better employee for any company. These are just a few things that I took away from my time in Venice, it was truly an experience of a lifetime and I am beyond grateful.

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange