The English idiom “I can’t wait!” is translated into Italian as “Non vedo l’ora!” which literally means “I can’t see the time.” Throughout the previous year of planning and preparation, I repeated this phrase over and over, when the idea of studying in Italy was more of a distant fantasy rather than an actuality. However, as my departure from Los Angeles to Milan inched closer and closer these past few weeks, I found myself saying this phrase less and less. After months of submitting applications, getting academics in order, obtaining a visa, and more, my semester abroad was finally here. Non vedo l’ora? No! I COULD see the time that I had remaining before my flight left, and it was slipping through my fingers. Those final days in California were nothing but overwhelming; I felt practically paralyzed with anticipation and anxiety for what was to come. Am I ready? Did I forget to pack something? What if I don’t make friends? Will I regret this? Maybe I should just stick to what I’m used to and stay here. But there’s another Italian idiom that says, “Chi non risica non rosica.” In English, “He who risks nothing, gets nothing.” So thanks to the immense support and love from my family and friends, I took the risk.
I have been in Milan only a little over a week, and honestly, my risk has paid off more than I could imagine. The SAI staff made the transition into Milan effortless and comfortable. Upon my arrival at Milan Malpensa Airport, I was greeted by Davide, a driver arranged by SAI, who drove me from the airport to my apartment (he even had water and little candies for me in the car!). From there, Claudia, SAI’s On-Site Program Coordinator for Milan, welcomed me with a goodie bag, my Italian phone, and keys to my apartment! It may be because I’ve spent the last 2 1/2 years living in a student dorm in San Francisco, a.k.a the land where affordable housing comes to die, but my apartment here in Milan greatly exceeded my expectations. We have our own kitchen complete with stove, oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, and even some dishes and silverware to get us started! The bathroom has a tub/shower which has hot water, as long as we are smart with rationing it and don’t shower right after each other. And my bedroom has a very comfortable bed, but most importantly, a beautiful closet with lots of space! I packed very lightly, so I look forward to filling up some of that empty space!
After settling in, I met the 8 lovely ladies studying with me through SAI and, led by Claudia, we began the journey to see our school! Actually, it was less of a journey and more of a hop, skip, and a jump, since NABA is literally about 2 blocks from our apartments. The nine of us quickly became infected with excitement as we wandered around the buildings where our classes would take place and walked past local students who would soon become our friends and collaborators. We then sat down in the NABA cafeteria, where we continued to chat and shared our first true Italian espressos. Our SAI orientation continued later that night, when Claudia introduced us to the local metro system, which thankfully has a stop conveniently located about 3 blocks from our apartment. We climbed the stairs to exit the station, clueless of our location, only to find the magnificent Duomo towering over us! Seeing this marvelous cathedral illuminated by the nearby high-end shopping district of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, with the dramatic night sky as a background, was truly a breathtaking moment. It was then we all realized, we are actually living in Milan. And although that was a difficult experience to top, we concluded the night with a delicious dinner of authentic Italian cuisine, including the best mozzarella the world has ever seen.
The rest of the week consisted of exploration and orientation. Karin and Yasmine of the NABA Student Services staff welcomed all of the diverse participants of the Semester Abroad Program, including students from the US, Mexico, Brazil, and China. We then had two fascinating, but completely different tours. On one day, we were led by Massimo on a walk throughout our neighborhood, Navigli (“canals” in English, since this Southwest region of Milan contains the cities two canals). Along the canals are countless examples of traditional Italian architecture and culture, from the classic churches and tiny terrace-style apartments, to the gelato vendors and family-owned businesses (which are closed on Sunday, Monday mornings, and every day from about 2:00PM-5:00PM!). The following day, Valentina guided us to the most contemporary part of Milan: Porta Garibaldi. This district is home to innovative architecture, modern designs, and trendy hotspots for the young and famous. We had the opportunity to see some of the newest buildings in the region, a chic bed-and-breakfast which provided a great flavor of Italian interior design, and the iconic Corso Como 10, owned by Carla Sozzani, one of the fabulous and powerful Sozzani Sisters.
With so much already under our belt, it is hard to imagine that we haven’t even been here for two weeks. I look forward to keeping you all updated and sharing my experiences with you. If these nine days are any indication of how the rest of my stay will go, I might never come back to the states ;) . Non vedo l’ora!!! Until next time…ciao!
Diego is a student at San Francisco Art Institute studying at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti during the Spring 2014 term.