I always enjoyed traveling and meeting people that were different from myself. Before I knew where I was going to college, I knew that I would be going abroad at some point during my time there.
Why did you choose IES Abroad Milan?
I chose the location more so than the organization. I knew that I wanted to go to Italy and Milan had everything I was looking for in host city. IES Abroad was an organization that has worked with my university for many years and was highly recommended by students and advisors alike.
What was your favorite part Milan?
I have nothing but positive things to say Milan and Italy as a whole. My favorite part would have to be the overall way of life in Milan. It is the financial capital of Italy, so it was very pro-business and at times felt like Philadelphia or New York, but they also had characteristics from the way of life in Southern Italy. While everyone was working hard, they always made time to relax and appreciate the beauty of life in everything from art to fashion and food.
What made your experience abroad unique?
The thing that separated my experience from others in my program was that I opted to partake in an internship as three of my credits. I worked at a consumer packaged goods start-up called Banale. I did everything from marketing, order fulfillment, website design and even new product development. They are currently building a prototype based on my recommendations. Not many people can say they have international work experience before graduating college, and even fewer can point to a product on the market and say that, "I designed that and now people are buying it."
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff were incredible. We were having problems with the WiFi in our apartment upon arrival and they were instrumental in getting that fixed. They had events planned from the day we arrived to help us get immersed into the local culture. They also organized and led several field trips throughout the duration of the semester. Every Thursday they would send us a weekend update with events going on throughout the city if we were staying in Milan that weekend. The updates also included the location of potential protests and other threats to security in Milan and across Europe and Northern Africa, especially for Americans, and advised us to avoid those areas.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
The one thing I wish I would have done differently was use the Rosetta Stone subscription for Italian, that they provided us for free, more than twice before going to Italy. There were a handful of students in the program that were fluent in Italian and I feel that at times they were able to get more out of situations by being able to communicate with locals, whether they were the local students the program hired to help us integrate into Italian life or tour guides.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
My typical day in the life of my program was a bit different because three days a week I went to work for five hours per day. In the mornings we would take the Metro to class, and it worked perfectly. There wasn't one time I wished I had a car because the metro ran so smoothly, as well as trams and buses.
Midday there would be a break for lunch where students would go home to cook or to nearby cafes and restaurants. Students might return for afternoon classes, depending on their schedules. We would then go home and get ready for the night. We would either cook dinner, go out to a full restaurant, or just go out for "aperitivo" which is appetizers and cocktails. Then each night there was a different club running promotions for international students. Some nights we went to local pubs to watch "calcio" or soccer matches from across Europe.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time it was fun to just explore the city, going to the different districts and seeing what they had to offer. My favorite was Navigli, or the canal district, because of the cafes for aperitivo.It was also fun to go shopping in the fashion capital of the world, even if a lot of the items were very pricey. On sunny days it was nice to hangout in local parks after classes were over. I even made it to a few soccer matches at the famous San Siro stadium, home to both Inter and AC Milan. Again, the nightlife was incredible and each club offered a little something different.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best it?
We had the option to stay in an apartment, a homestay with a local family, or a dorm room at a nearby university, but I chose the apartment. I stayed in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with four other American students and one local Italian student. We stayed in a very modern apartment that was very spacious. It was in a very safe neighborhood, so that was never a concern. It was actually in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of Milan. The best part was, as they say, the location, location, location. I was only a five to 10 minute walk from the Duomo, which is the heart of the city.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Ideally, everyone should know Italian to make the most of their time, but it is by no means a requirement. Like I said, I did not know any Italian before I got there and still had an amazing time. The one thing that everyone should know is that the IES staff will ensure that their time in Italy is unforgettable and that if they are having any issues, do not hesitate to voice your concerns to any of the staff members.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I always thought that living and working abroad could be in my future and my time in Milan only confirmed that. I am even looking at moving to Europe after graduation for my first job. Living abroad forces you to interact with people that hold beliefs that differ from your own. I always tried to make friends with people from different backgrounds and my time abroad has only made me do more of that.
Would you recommend IES Abroad Milan to others? Why?
I would recommend my program and provider to anyone and everyone. American students are already drawn to Italy for its food, fashion, culture, history, and weather. I believe that Milan is the best city to live in, and it allows for easy travel north to the rest of Europe and south to the rest of Italy. I truly believe that I would not have had as great of an experience as I did in Milan if it weren't for the amazing local staff of IES Abroad Milano.
Everything ran so smoothly and they did an excellent job of creating a community of the students as well as immersing us in the local community.
Kevin Shue is a senior attending Penn State University, majoring in Supply Chain and Information Systems with a minor in International Business. Growing up, he did a lot of vacationing in the islands of the Caribbean. Now he has traveled throughout most of Western Europe. Kevin has interned with a startup in Milan and a large corporation, Bell Helicopter, in Fort Worth, Texas.