Pop culture has ingrained in us, and young women especially, that Italy has a magical transformative qualityー ever heard of Roman Holiday or Lizzie McGuire the Movie? I have to admit that I fell for that allure when I signed up to take Italian freshman year, but despite not becoming an Italian popstar, I found Milan and Italy to be far more awe-inspiring than what I saw on the silver screen. As my semester comes to an end, I’ve reflected on the small, but meaningful personal transformations I had while living in Milan.
1. I can cook something that doesn’t require a microwave. My study abroad program fee came with a grocery store gift card, so I did a lot of cooking at home. I started making things from fresh moreー instead of buying tomato sauce from the grocery store, I made some at the beginning of every week to incorporate with the recipes I learned from my culinary class. By picking up basic cooking skills, I felt like a master chef, and to some extent, a fully-fledged adult. Now I’m ready to host some dinner parties in Oxford when I return!
2. Money spent on study abroad is real money. For many, studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to live in a different country. With that mentality, I didn’t want to put as many restrictions on my spending as I would in Oxford, especially since I had spent the past year working so that I would have the funds to afford this experience. However, a professor cautioned me when I arrived was that study abroad is a routine, not a vacation, and I developed my spending habits using that advice. Despite living above a pizza shop, I resisted eating out constantly and learned to cook for myself as I mentioned. I set a travel budget before going abroad, and I proudly stuck to that number. (Sidenote: ALWAYS ask for student discounts!)
3. I learned to take it slow. I am someone who thrives in a frenetic environment. Though I was living in the second-biggest city in Italy, it was still slower than I was comfortable with. The rumors of the inefficacy of Italian bureaucracy hold some truth (throwback to the five hours over two days that it took me to get my metro card), and the Milanese are far more relaxed in their daily commute. I found myself eventually taking the more beautiful but less efficient path when I had the time, stumbling upon the random Roman ruin and post-modern statue of a middle finger along the way.
At some points this semester, I felt incredibly lonely and incapable. I struggled with the language and the lifestyle, and I lacked a sense of home. However, over time, my confidence grew, as did my love for the city. My life has changed in the little ways for the better. Milano, mi mancherai!