How to Pick Your Study Abroad Destination?

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Actually I’m not going to tell you how to pick your destination. I’m going to let you know how I ended up going to Milan. I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to go to one of the “most popular” destinations.  “Most popular” usually translates to “touristy” which then translates that I probably won’t get the most authentic international experience. Most of the time if there are 300 American kids in a foreign country in the same program, you won’t ever have the opportunity to really experience the country.  It’ll simply be an American experience on foreign soil.  So that immediately disqualified Paris and Rome. I definitely wanted to learn another language – so buh-bye London. I didn’t want that language to be Spanish – so adios Barcelona and Madrid.

I actually really knew I wanted to be in Italy. I’ve always had some kinda crush on all things Italian. Italian designers, Italian love, Italian leather, the language, and of course the food. I wanted to be in a “city” as opposed to a rural or small location.  I wanted to be able to explore and not experience everything within a month after I’d arrived. So that knocked out Torino (home of the Winter Olympics 2006), Venice, and Florence.  Besides, Florence was full of tourists AND it was small so No and No. Everyone there speaks English to you, unlike in Milan where NOONE will speak to you in English – even if they know how.  It’s kind of rude but I respected that. I didn’t want to come in and change their culture, I personally wanted to be changed (well my language skills at the very least).  I know this is why I was practically fluent in Italian by the time I left. The final reason was because of the opportunity to have an Internship abroad. Milan was one of the few programs that offered Internships – and that was important to me as a Business Marketing major.

So I ended up in Milan partially based on the process of elimination – but it definitely wasn’t an afterthought. I loved everything about that city and could definitely picture myself living there again. It’s the business capital of the country, the nightlife was great, it’s one of the Fashion Capitals of the World, the food is amazing, it’s close to everything, it has everything, it’s the home of Bocconi – one of Europe’s best business school’s, – not one, but TWO futbol teams, and so much more that I know I’m forgetting.

So how do you pick your study abroad destination? Be true to yourself and know what you like (and don’t like).  And if you end up picking a place and don’t like it (which won’t happen), you’re only there for a semester and with low-cost airlines such as Ryan Air and EasyJet, you can country hop and visit many other cities.

(If you’re wondering why I only mentioned places in Europe, I still wanted the opportunity visit those places I didn’t want to live in – and I did! I knew that going to Europe, because all of the major cities are relatively close together, would give me the best chance to visit more places.  Unlike if I were in say, Sydney, Australia, it would be more difficult to get around to other major cities. But now that I’ve “conquered” Europe, South America and Africa are next!)

Travelin’ through Time: Window Shopping

So, I just realized I haven’t really had many photos or stories of my own experiences while I was abroad in Milan.  So Travelin’ through Time will be a series of posts dedicated to photos, stories, memories, and thoughts all from my semester spent in Italy (and Barcelona, Spain, & London). So without further ado, my first Travelin’ through Time post:

Window Shopping in Milan

"Fare la spesa"So this photo from my time abroad showed two things I noticed about Milan within the first week I got there: (1) shopping is a serious sport and (2) dogs are EVERYWHERE (not quite as bad as LA though).  Window shopping is a legit national pastime – as you can see, even the dogs partake in it (I really wonder what he was shopping for that day!?). The only problem with this being a national pastime is that I, as a foreigner, was not familiar with the idea of staying on the outside of the window.  Instead if I saw something cute in a window, I investigated and subsequently purchased said item – hence, my first bout with credit card debt.  But Italians can spend an entire day just walking down those famed streets like Via della Spiga in Milan or Via del Corso in Rome.  Saturdays, Sunday afternoons, any day really was perfect for taking a shopping walk.  And there aren’t any malls – simply streets or districts where all of the retailers have decided to call home. Quite amazing.  Even more amazing are the shops I would find with premium Italian leather goods for what I like to call the “low” :). My only regret is that Italy wasn’t still on the lira back in ’06.  I blame all past credit card debt on the Euro and Italy’s unofficial national pastime!