I always knew I wanted to study abroad from the moment I began college. Study abroad was an adventure I knew I wanted to experience during my time in college, as I thought it was an experience and a different approach in my education that could further my knowledge in design. I looked into study abroad programs that interested me from the beginning of my freshman year, with the mindset that, in my junior year, I’d study internationally. Choosing Milan through the SAI program was not a difficult decision for me. I thought it provided enough information where I felt I could see myself living there. Milan is beautiful, it’s known for being the design capital of the world, and its located in Europe, which gives me the flexibility to travel to other surrounding European countries.
Before going abroad I was nervous about the language barrier and being on my own in a foreign country. In the past, I’ve traveled to the Dominican Republic, as I am Dominican, but I have always gone knowing that a family member would be traveling with me. I also speak Spanish, so immersing myself in the culture and the language was no difficulty for me. However, I have never been to Italy, the few Italian words that I know were taught to me in high school. I initially was nervous about not being able to communicate with the locals and getting around the big city of Milan. I find traveling to be much more enjoyable when you can immerse yourself with the people and do what all the locals enjoy doing. After arriving in Milan, I realized that a lot of the locals speak English and many are understanding to me not knowing the language. As a way to better myself in the next few months, I have downloaded apps like ”Duolingo” to further continue my learning of the language as well as making some Italian friends who are willing to show me around Milan. So far I have been invited to take part in an Italian tradition known as ”aperitivo” which is a pre-meal drink before dinner. What was initially a feeling of nervousness at the beginning of this experience has now become an exciting and learning opportunity.
How has your personal outlook changed now that you are abroad?
Now that I’m abroad I have been able to step outside of my comfort zone. I have gained confidence and independence that I originally did not have before arriving. I have challenged myself by learning terms in a new language, understanding the locals, doing things on my own and being able to immerse myself in a culture in which I know nothing about. I’ve made friends from all over like Korea, China, Peru, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, with whom I got to share some of my most memorable life-changing experiences.
What has surprised you about your host city?
At my home university, I am restricted from certain experiences that Italy has now offered. Through my time here I’ve learned how to use public transportation, how to travel throughout Europe, how to speak basic Italian, and how to understand Italian history through art and architecture. In the little time that I have arrived in Milan, I’ve learned so much about Europe, European history and art, Italian culture and most importantly myself. There is so much experience and knowledge that I have gained in my time here. As silly as it may sound, I feel like I’m ready to conquer the world. My time here has been enjoyable overall.
Raquel is a spring 2020 Milan student from Rochester Institute of Technology.