SAI recently caught up with SAI Ambassador Richelle, who helps paint a picture of her semester in Milan.
What was your favorite class abroad and why?
My favorite class while I was abroad was The Fashion Market. It combined my two passions: marketing and fashion! My professor was phenomenal, every class was super interesting, we had really cool speakers, such as one from Vogue Italia, and went on amazing field studies-I even got to attend Settimana Della Moda (Milan fashion week)! The course also focused a lot on sustainability in fashion and what can be done by brands to be more sustainable, which was really cool to learn about in the age of Fast Fashion.
What is your most memorable interaction with a local in your host city?
One evening my roommate and I went over to the canal to walk around and go to this little vintage store that she had found a few weeks back. It mostly sold antique furniture and some old records, but tucked in the back corner of the small shop were baskets full of old photos for 25 cents a piece. We sat there for over an hour combing through these photos. I love old photos, but even more so, old photos from another country is so interesting! Seeing the evolution of their culture and clothes and comparing it to ours. Seeing what was an important time or event for them to have a photo taken. I started making a pile of photos I wanted. I call it my “Instagram collection” because its photos of women that look like they would be posting on social media today-at the beach, with a group of friends, in a really cool outfit, just these women capturing a fun moment in their lives. The shop owner noticed how long we had been with the photos and came over to see what we were up to. He seemed to really like that we were so interested in his photos, we talked a bit, and when we went to check out, he gave each of us a gift! He gave my roommate something she had been admiring in the shop earlier, and he gave me a book on Navigli, which taught me a lot about the history of my neighborhood that I didn’t know!
What felt the most “foreign” to you when you came back to the US?
The money! I know that sounds silly, but I got so use to the Euro and I LOVED it! I liked having coins for small amounts (maybe so that I didn’t feel guilty buying a cappuccino every morning if it only took a 2 euro coin?) Plus I loved the look and feel of the money, and actually using cash instead of my card! I thought I would continue using cash when I returned home, but the bills felt very large and strange and I quickly returned to using my card. Honestly, I miss the Euro!
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
My advice would be to say yes, as long as it’s safe. Say yes to lunch with the person sitting next to you in class, say yes to a trip with your roommate, say yes to whatever you’re asked. Going abroad can be intimidating because you most likely do not know anyone, plus the city, country, and culture is different to you. I did not do the 3 week language intensive program that the rest of my apartment did, because I had already taken Italian for two years and wanted to take it during the semester instead, so when I moved in, my roommates were already pretty settled. One of the girls I was living with had a trip planned with friends from her language class, and they invited me along. So, my first weekend abroad I found myself on a trip to Nice and Monaco. These are the people I ended up becoming really good friends with, and gave me a large group to find travel buddies in every weekend. When classes started, I was invited out to lunch with a friend I made from orientation, who brought along another friend. I ended having a couple classes with the other girl and we became friends and project partners for the semester. Overall, I think saying yes to any opportunity you are presented, at least for the first few weeks, helps to get you out of your comfort zone and meet new people while relationships are still forming!
What is your favorite memory from studying abroad?
The last Sunday of every month, Milan has this amazing market on the Naviglio Grande, which is the largest canal in my neighborhood, Navigli. My entire apartment woke up, grabbed a cappuccino in this really cute little place, meandered through the stalls (I still remember this amazing vintage Louis Vuitton luggage set I saw) and eventually met up with some more friends at my favorite restaurant. None of us could ever remember what it was called, we would all just say “let’s go to the good spaghetti place!” It was a really lovely, laid back day and Iooking back at my Snap-story I have saved from that day always makes me smile!
Richelle was a spring 2017 SAI Milan student from University of Mary Washington.