7 Reasons to Learn Italian When Studying Abroad

Students chatting in front of bilingual signsSo, you’ve chosen Italy as your study abroad destination. You have your favorite travel guide and have read the latest blogs (including MilanoZine!) to find out more about your upcoming experience, where to travel, what to expect.

The only question you still have is a simple one: is it worth the time and effort to study Italian while you’re there? The language is really only spoken in Italy, a relatively small country, you think. You already speak English flawlessly. And, let’s face it, English is today’s #1 international language for business and travel. So why bother with a language that’s only spoken by around 85 million people around the world?

Because of these 7 excellent reasons, that’s why! Here are the top 7 reasons you absolutely have to study Italian while you’re in Italy.

    1. Become a prime candidate in industries of Italian excellence
      With an increasingly smaller world, speaking a foreign language is a great asset to have when looking for a job. And “Made in Italy” brands, especially fashion & design, food & beverage and the automotive industry, will really value your Italian language skills. Your CV will immediately stand out to prospective employers if you can boast a good level of Italian, unlike some of your peers.
    2. Become a master of other important skills
      There are lots of studies that look at the advantages of being bilingual. The idea is that learning (and regularly using) a foreign language can help develop other parts of the brain. Studies have shown that bilinguals are better at using their executive control system, more creative and better at making decisions. That means speaking more than one language can make you even smarter in other areas.
    3. Become a truly global citizen
      Polyglots are said to make up about half the world’s population, whether they speak more than one language and/or dialect. Learning Italian will open your eyes to the way Italy sees and interprets the world an make the world seem just a little bit smaller. In general, it’s easier to get exposed to and appreciate new and different points of view. So you can join the world’s other multilinguals and understand them a bit better.
    4. Become a better person
      Learning a foreign language involves a healthy dose of personal growth. You will learn more about yourself and how you see the world, and how that may change in a new language. And don’t underestimate the personal growth that comes from being a beginning language learner: it’s not easy to express your very grown-up thoughts and feelings using the vocabulary of a toddler!
    5. Become a favorite with the locals
      If you know the local language, it will be a lot easier for you to mingle with people living in Italy. From the guy serving your morning espresso to the lady selling you a train ticket, to the fans sitting next you at a soccer game, you’ll be able to communicate much easier if you speak Italian. It will also be easier to meet friends from Milan and other parts of Italy. So use your language skills and be a social butterfly!
    6. Become an expert on art, music and food jargon
      Did you know that chiaroscuro literally means light and dark? Or that allegro means happy? What about the correct way to pronounce bruschetta (the “c” is hard, not like the English “ch” sound)? There are tons of Italian loanwords in English, lots of which relate to art – the Renaissance had a pretty big influence – music – Verdi, opera, etc. were also pretty important – and of course food – the whole world truly does love Italian cuisine. So as you learn Italian, you’ll also learn more about all this vocab that’s already found in English. And you can show off your skills to all your friends back home who don’t speak the language.
    7. Become a speaker of Dante’s language
      And Petrarch’s, and Manzoni’s, and Levi’s and Eco’s. Italian literature is full of great writers, and if you know the language, you can read them in the original. From “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita / mi ritrovai per una selva oscura” (the first line of Dante’s Inferno) to “Quel ramo del lago di Como…” (the opening line of Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi), you can get a better understanding of what these great writers have said, thus getting a better grasp of Italian culture and history.

These 7 reasons should be more than enough for you to get motivated… so, what are you waiting for? Check out a few of the schools offering Italian language courses in Milan or, if you’re a Bocconi student, get in touch with the Language Center for extracurricular classes. Buono studio!

Top 5 Packing Tips for Study Abroad in Milano

It all started a few months ago when you went to the study abroad fair. You were overwhelmed by the number of incredible options. Then you finally narrowed down your choices and applied. After weeks of wondering, hoping and calling on help from a higher power, you received your acceptance letter. Now, the moment is finally here: you’re about to leave for study abroad!

Amidst all the excitement, this is also when you realize one important detail: you’re not just embarking on a new adventure in a new country with a new language, you also have to… pack! That means fitting all the worldly possessions you’ll need to survive the next few months into just a few suitcases.

In addition to the usual advice for airline travel (be aware of weight limits and carry-on restrictions), here are the most important tips and tricks to keep in mind when packing for study abroad in Milano.

Students studying in common room1. Pack light!
Our number one, most important piece of advice for packing is to pack light. Though you may be tempted to bring your entire wardrobe and everything you might possibly need during your semester abroad, resist all temptations. When packing your bags, it’s a good idea to leave about half of what you originally wanted to bring.
Keep in mind that Milano is a cosmopolitan city, so you should be able to find whatever you may need in or around town. And looking for where certain things are sold can be a bit of an adventure!

2. Pack for the Milanese weather
The Milanese climate is famous for grey skies and fog in the winter, but summers are generally hot and humid. And throughout the year, you can experience pretty much everything in between. So be sure to pack an umbrella for rainy days, sunglasses for sunny ones, and a winter coat and hat/scarf/gloves for the blistery winter months.

3. Pack to look nice, but also comfortable
Milanese style is usually very put-together, even for students – so be sure to pack more than just sweats and t-shirts. Looking nice is not just for the fashionistas in Milano. That said, you should also think about comfort, especially for your feet. If you’re planning to travel or even just go sightseeing near Milan, you’ll probably do a lot of walking, and that means comfy shoes are a must!

4. Pack your travel gear
Many study abroaders take advantage of being in a new part of the world to see as much of it as possible. So be sure to leave some room in your suitcase for everything you need to be a good tourist: a good camera to capture memories, good footwear (as mentioned above), a journal or sketchbook and anything you may need for transit. Don’t forget things like power adapters, and of course your passport and visa paperwork!

5. Pack something from home
Last but not least, we suggest you bring something unique to your home town or region. With an increasingly globalized world, it’s nice to remember that there are still objects or traditions that can only be found in certain parts of the world. You could bring something that reminds you of home to help you on days when you get homesick. Or you might bring a gift for your future friends or roommates, your host family or someone who helps you out as you get settled into your new surroundings. It’s a fun way to share your home culture in a new setting.

So, what are you waiting for? Get packing!

Top 20 Reasons to Study Abroad in Italy

One of the most frequently-asked question you’re asked before you leave for your study abroad program is, “So, why did you choose that particular country to study abroad?” Your response is usually, “Well, that university had just the right program for my academic interests, it was the perfect fit! And I’ll be able to study exactly what I’m interested in and get the experience I need for my future studies and career.”

But we all know the truth: your decision to study in Italy was probably based in part on reasons other than your education! You’re aware that you won’t be spending the whole time in the classroom. And there are lots of aspects to living in a foreign country that you thought about before deciding which place was right for you.

These are the top 20 reasons to study abroad in Italy, the allure of the bel paese:

Lifestyle

1. Italy is famous for la dolce vita: that means making the most of the little things in life, not sweating the “small stuff” and just enjoying yourself!

2. You love the sound of the melodic Italian language. Living and studying in Italy means you’ll be hearing the dulcet tones of the language every day.

3. You’ve always been curious why Italian people are always using their hands when they talk and you want to find out what all those different hand gestures mean.

Festive Ape Piaggio 4. And you don’t really know the rules of cheek kissing: is it one kiss or two? Or three? When you meet someone, when saying good-bye? Part of your informal education in Italy will include the art of the friendly kiss!

5. The cool confidence of the country’s soccer players was palpable at this year’s World Cup (even if the Azzurri team didn’t get very far in the championship!). And if you’re a fan of the game, the culture surrounding calcio in Italy is pretty serious. There are so many the great teams in the Serie A league to cheer for: Milan, Inter, Roma, Lazio, Juventus, Fiorentina…

6. Small city cars and scooters are all over Italy! Vespas, Ape Piaggios, Fiat 500s, Minis, Smarts… And the vintage models are the best! Why not take a drive when you’re studying abroad?

7. Not to mention all the super-sleek and fast sports cars. Italy is home to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Abarth and Ducati motorcycles.

8. You might have gotten a taste of Italy from classic neorealist cinema: think a young Sophia Loren in black and white. You need to find out if that version of the country still exists somewhere.

9. And you know that Italy is famous for amazing fashion and design. Even if you don’t go to any fashion shows or the annual Salone del Mobile in Milano, you can still soak in the easy but fabulous style of the Italians around you.

Italian seaside town at nightTravel

10. The weather: most of the country has a nice, mild Mediterranean climate, not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer. When it is cold, skiing is usually an option. And when it is hot, the beach is usually only a short trip away!

11. Lots of famous art and culture from the Renaissance was produced right here in Italy. That means the museums all over the country are bursting with masterpieces!

12. Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Sicily… There are so many tourist destinations, it’s hard to choose where to start!

13. With 7,600km of coastline, Italy has been ranked the 14th country in the world for length of coastline. And much of that is covered in beautiful beaches, perfect for people watching, getting a great tan and swimming in the Mediterranean. You have to experience it for yourself.

Food and Drink

14. Italy is serious about its pasta. And each of the scores of shapes has a specific traditional sauce to go with it. You need to learn more about all those recipes and especially how they taste!

15. Italy’s famous for so many delicious delicacies: tiramisù, varied pastries, as well as so many kinds of cheese, prosciutto, truffles, olive oil…

16. Lots of Italians take part in the pre-dinner ritual of taking a moment to relax over drinks with friends, usually with a snack or maybe a buffet. When you’re studying abroad, you have to learn more about the Italian tradition of the aperitivo! Try a Negroni, a Bellini, a Spritz, or just a beer, a glass of wine or a soft drink.

Bocconi students tasting wine17. Espresso! And of course caffè macchiato, latte macchiato, caffè lungo, caffè corretto, cappuccino, marocchino, orzo in tazza grande, cioccolata, decaffeinato, however you like it!

18. Because what better way to learn about wine varietals, vintages, aromas and tastes than a Tuscan vineyard? Wine is produced just about everywhere in Italy and each region has its own specialty.

19. Italy invented possibly one of the most perfect foods in the world: pizza! While you’re studying abroad here, you can visit Naples and try the original pizza margherita. Or just enjoy anything your local pizzeria serves up, it’s all wonderful!

20. Italy is also home to the best form of ice cream on the planet. Gelato is served in a variety of traditional and innovative flavors all across the peninsula. During your program you can take your time trying them all!

Bocconi Student Interview of the Day

Today I’d like to talk you about life in Milan from the point of view of an international, non-European student who’s attending the BIEMF (Bachelor of International Economics, Management and Finance) at Università Bocconi. His name is Takin and he comes from Tehran, the capital of Iran. I met Takin a couple of weeks ago and started talking with him about his past and the time he has been spending in Milano, since he came here in July 2011. Read carefully, most of the time the best help can lay low daily life!

How long have you been living in Milan?
I’ve been here since July 2011. I’m attending the first year of BIEMF at Università Bocconi. I came here two months earlier since I was taking part in a language course at Scuola Leonardo da Vinci, where I was learning Italian – and I still have to improve it. The institution had a really friendly vibe. 15 to 20 students formed each class and they all had international background. For me it was more of getting acquainted with different people while learning the basics of Italian language. I would suggest to those students who have the possibility of arriving in Milan few months prior to the start of their university course to attend an Italian language school.

What is the procedure for applying for this institution?
I found Scuola Leonardo da Vinci online, and I submitted my application online too. This Institution provides accommodation for prospective student upon their request and they also organize various cultural events and there are numerous occasions for socializing.

Did you find it difficult to learn Italian and to adapt to Italian culture and lifestyle? What would you suggest to the forthcoming international students?
Since most of the international students attend courses that are held in English they will not encounter any problem in particular. Add on to that, in Bocconi’s environment everyone speaks English sufficiently good as to not let the language barrier be a source of inconvenience for you. I must however say that, this barrier to communication will eventually prevent you from socializing outside the circle of your international friends.

Do you mean out of the academic world?
I would say out of BIEMF course. Even though most of the students at Bocconi do speak English, they lag behind once the content of conversation entails a mediocre understanding of English.
Outside the university environment, for an international student dealing with daily routine works it does not necessitate a previous knowledge of Italian in my opinion.

What did you do before leaving your country?
I finished my high school in Tehran and thereafter I traveled abroad, mainly to improve my English. I spent few months preparing for Toefl and SAT after I was convinced to take the latter instead of Bocconi’s entrance exam since they did not provide a comprehensive guideline for it. Besides, SAT is a globally recognized certificate with numerous publishers providing instructions and preparations for its tests. With having SAT certificate and a high GPA, you would ensure your place at Bocconi.

If you owned a Time Machine, would you change anything in what you did?
I don’t think I would! I made many mistakes and I had my regrets in life, but I rely on those experiences as my personal mentor. They influence you, teach you and build your personality more than anything else, I believe. Yet If I knew I would have difficulties with finding an apartment, I would have been more careful in my choice.

When did you start looking for an accommodation?
I had already found an apartment prior to my arrival. But things didn’t go well, and in September I had to move. You can imagine looking for a place in September is not always easy. I had to look for one or two apartments each day after lectures since my contract was ending. Eventually I found a place in one of Bocconi residences and I am still residing there. This waste of time for me preceded other problems too.

Is there any tip you want to give to students looking for accommodations from abroad?
I just have to mention to those who are looking for accommodation online, they have to be ensured about the nature of housing websites. With those like craigslist you have to be more cautious and knowing that there are many scams! I would suggest the housing websites that are available in Università Bocconi’s website that you can find in house haunting section. I also found easystanza.it and Immobiliare.it useful.

… While once you are here?
Announcements for renting are almost ubiquitous around university. From Notices pinned to trees outside to others on the boards inside the buildings you can find numerous rooms, apartments, and lofts to rent.
Of course, real estate agencies are always available however they charge a commission fee if using their service.

What are the steps to follow to come to Italy as a Non-European citizen?
This – Takin shows me a detailed sheet – is something they gave me in Bocconi: “Relocation in Milan”.
Within 8 working days of arrival, NON-EU citizens who hold a valid student visa for Italy must apply for a permit of stay for study purposes (Permesso di soggiorno per motivi di studio) that is issued by the local Police Department ( Questura – Ufficio Stranieri ).

To be identified as an individual person in the Italian state when dealing with public offices and administrations a Fiscal Code (Codice Fiscale) must be requested and obtained from “ Agenzia delle Entrate”.

In Italy, national healthcare is provided by a public healthcare service (SSN: National Healthcare Service) and only foreign nationals with a valid permit of stay can apply for the service.
Opening an Italian bank account also requires having a Permit of stay and a Fiscal Code.

About softer topics… Let’s talk about cuisine, do you miss Iranian dishes?
Of course I do miss them and nothing would replace Iranian dishes for me. But it comes without saying that if you are in Italy you will above all relish their delectable cuisine. You don’t have to be a chef to prepare a delicious meal because it is easy to make using Italian ingredients.

And what about the habits you had while living in your homeland that you cannot do here?
I cannot recall a particular habit, but studying abroad in general is different than living with your family in your hometown. The spread spectrum and the variety of choices you have in a cosmopolitan city like Milano is not comparable to my hometown.

What’s your attitude towards Milano? Are there any special places in the city you would suggest to go to?
After I strolled around the city center for the first time, one thing that really stood out for me was the most stunning piece of architecture, the gothic cathedral of Milan, Duomo. Milan is a wealthy city of glamorous people, full of stylish boutiques, marvelous restaurants and on-trend nightlife. On Friday and Saturday nights Colonne di San Lorenzo is packed with people of every kind. It is a great place to get to know new people and socialize. I would like to mention that Blue Note is my favorite place. This venue is known for hosting top-notch jazz in a classy atmosphere. Since the ticket prices are a bit steep, a student life will not allow you to be a frequent visitor. If you appreciate jazz music, I would most certainly suggest visiting Blue Note. From nightclubs like Alcatraz with its retro nights and 60s, 80s style, to commercial clubs like Old Fashion and Just Cavalli, you have everything to make your nightlife enjoyable in Milan.