Guide to Studying Abroad at Bocconi University (especially if you’re a UT student)
Overall, I would say the school is easier than UT in a lot of respects. Although, it depends on your type of person. If you procrastinate til the very last minute, it might be a difficult choice. All of my classes consisted on only two grades: a final and a project (mostly group projects). Only one of my classes actually took attendance, which means that you don’t have to go to classes if you really don’t want to. You can choose to take a course non-attending, which means you only take the final at the end for your grade. Since most of your grade (attending and non-attending) is made up of only one final test, there is nothing that “forces” you to read your book or keep up with the lectures until about the last month of school. It is better to make a schedule and pace yourself so you don’t have a ton of work at the end of the school year.
Don’t stress too much about the class schedule. If a class section says “for incoming (exchange) students” that means that you can only choose that class section(s), even if others are offered. Management and finance classes will be the hardest classes you take. Corporate finance at bocconi covers more than the regular FIN 357 and is not the beginner course for students at bocconi, so it might be best to just take it at UT.
Registration at Bocconi is not as stressful as UT registration, but do be prepared and log in at the correct time to be guaranteed of what classes you want. Classes fill up kind of quickly, but the add/drop period offers you some flexibility.
There is this group called the “Erasmus Student Network.” As an exchange student, you are essentially on erasmus, which is what Europe calls its exchange program. Europeans will tell you that being on erasmus is all about partying, which is exactly what the ESN group told us at their introductory meeting. “We are here to get you wasted.” Not even kidding. I was shocked that a group like this was allowed to say this! But the drinking age is 18, so you will probably end up drinking a lot, more on that later.
Italy smokes a lot of cigarettes. The percentages are only like 5% higher, but their tobacco laws are completely different. You’ll begin to appreciate that UT is a tobacco free campus. People here will step one meter outside the entrance/exit and light up. This both blocks the entrance (very inefficient) and makes you have to walk through a cloud of smoke and loitering people to get to your class. Plus the foyer smells like stale cigarettes. Lovely.
Bocconi is a really small school. Maybe like that size of my entire high school campus (main building, parking lot, soccer field, included). It was really different from UT, but nice because everything was close together and all my classes were housed in two buildings.
What to do go
Check out my blog post on Milan Sights to See for some good advice on what to go do. I know you’ll want to travel to other places, but take at least one weekend a month to do Milanese things, relax, and study (yes you don’t want to get too behind). Traveling every weekend is stressful and you will get tired of it. Plus one of my favorite things to do was check out the farmers market on Saturdays right outside of my apartment and get some fresh and local grown fruits. The fruit in Italy is some of the best I have ever had and it was so freaking cheap. One kilo of clementines for 2 Euro!
Food and Grocery
Buy your staple groceries from the Esselungo (“Long S Superstore”). Buy fruit from the farmers market or the local grocery store as it will go bad faster, ours tended to not last too long. Fruit is really cheap and extra delicious! Also the juice is all great, my favorite being the “Arancia Rossa,” aka blood orange.
Milan is special in that is has “apertivo,” which is a buffet-style dinner and drink combo. For around 10 euro or less you can get a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) plus a buffet of food. It was originally meant to be just a snack and not replace dinner, but there are definitely some places that could fill you up all day. Typically aperitivo is between 7pm and 11pm, although it varies place to place. The nicest places are in the Navigli area, right near bocconi. My personal favorite is MAYA. It has a great never-ending selection of italian dishes, and even a chocolate fountain!
Renting an Apartment
Join the “Bocconi Rents” facebook page in preparation to finding and apartment for the spring semester. A lot of students go abroad, which means there are a lot of open apartments. If they want a true cultural immersion, having an Italian roommate would be great for learning the language and having a personal guide of the city. I would also advise against sharing a room with more than one other person. A two-room apartment would be great for 2-4 people, but no more.
Unlike UT, there isn’t a West Campus area in Milan. There are 8 universites around the city and students find accommodation where they can. I highly recommend just subletting a room from someone via Bocconi Rents as that will be your cheapest option. Try to also be close to a tram line or a bike-sharing station, as those are both good transportation options to get to Bocconi (no metro near Bocconi!).
Dorm life. Americans typically get placed in the Arcobaleno dorm, which is a 15 minute tram ride from the school, south of the city (meaning further from the action). It also has no wifi (only ethernet cables) and no oven, which limits what you are able to do. You also can’t have guests past midnight. If you want to meet A LOT of people and do a lot of social activities, it is the place to be. A lot of my friends were living in the dorm and they liked it, but weren’t ecstatic about it.
Things to do after securing housing:
Get your Italian tax code (you’ll need it for the bus pass). It’s not that difficult, you just need to bring a few documents to the tax office. Wait in line to get the form, fill out the form, get a number, and talk to the representative when your number is called.
Go to the duomo or centrale station to get the student bus pass (10 e + 22 e per month)
Go to the Trenitalia ticket office at centrale and sign up for cartafreccia (this gives you discounts on the national trains, which get expensive. ALWAYS TAKE THE FAST TRAIN if possible).
Go to the permit of stay sessions that Bocconi hosts and follow the steps to get it approved. Note: I did not bother with getting a Permisso, but I only left Italy 4 times during my time abroad. Out of those 4 times, only 2 of those times were leaving EU borders, I passed through a bus checkpoint and was not asked for my Permisso card.
Italy & Travel
Italian culture: Stereotypes of Italians. They smoke a lot, eat a lot of carbs (but are still in great health, the Mediterranean Paradox), are late all the time, like to vacation more than work, and sometimes are rude. But if you try to speak italian with them and try to engage with them, they can be very pleasant and be very kind and helpful. Speaking with them really opens them up and shows you that while they might be loud and obnoxious sometimes, they are also very kind and heartwarming. They love to show people what it truly means to be Italian and the lifestyle they hold deep in their heart. Try and talk to other students, people in the bar, the server at your usual casual café, the bartender, the chef, your neighbors, anyone who is willing to talk to you really.
As a women: Do be a little cautious of the men. They are very “hormonal” and can be very fiesty at times. If you aren’t interested, let them know sooner rather than later. At times they can get aggressive. Italy, to an extend, does not necessarily treat genders with equality and power and feminism, etc etc. Even women don’t always see themselves as equals. I had a friend tell me that an italian girl said to her, “American women don’t put out enough.” Be cautious. (Also Italian men are not as attractive as you would think. Most have hairstyles dating from the 90s or look old for their age. Well, at least my personal opinion. )
Food: To cook pasta you gotta put A LOT of salt into the water. Not a sprinkle, but a couple of dashes, along with a splash of olive oil. I promise your noodles will be cooked to perfect “al-dente.” Italy is serious about it’s food. Every type of pasta is to be served a certain way with a certain sauce and there are other rules about what kind of meat or vegetables or ingredients are allowed to be used. I don’t know the exact rules, but you can try a google search for it, it’s a fascinating topic. Italy take their pizza seriously too. Pizza is different throughout the main regions of Italy varying from thin crust to thick crust to the type of dough and ingredients used. Pizza is delicious and it’s always something that I am excited to eat. Most of the pizza is brick oven or wood fired and it’s delightful.
Be Aware of “Coperto” when you go out to a restaurant! They will charge you 1-5 Euro each person just for sitting down. Water is also NEVER FREE. Bring your own bottle or pay ~1.50e per liter of fizzy or natural water.
Drinking: Italians drink with almost every meal. They have these rules about digestion and a lot of what they eat, drink, and do relates back to having good digestion. Alcohol is typically served with an aperitif, similar to a spanish tapa. It is a little snack that you eat with your drink, since drinking is supposed to increase your appetite. After the meal a “digestif” like a shot of grappa is also taken, supposedly to help aid the digestion of all the food you have just eaten. Italians don’t typically binge drink like in American culture. In the clubs you’ll see people who are extremely wasted, but usually they can still handle themselves. Taking a drink at a meal (or every meal) is very common, typically wine or a beer like Birra Moretti, and alcohol is more so part of their culture instead of a taboo.
Language: Take the crash course. Take the test. Right now: download Memrise, Duolingo, or other language learning app or guide and push yourself to do at least 5 minutes or 1 lesson a day. Getting acquainted early will help you a lot and prepare you to take on Italy. Note: The “gli” sound is the hardest and sounds like “yee” (sort of like “yee-haw!”).
Smoking: Like I said, Italians smoke a lot. Marijuana is still illegal, but you’ll occasionally smell it on the street and the police don’t really do anything about it. Beware of the guys who try to sell it to you on the street. From what I’ve heard they will either rip you off, or give you something of really bad quality. So best to avoid those types entirely. Not only do italians like to smoke right in front of doors, they also like to block the whole sidewalks while they smoke and chat. It’s rather difficult to walk anywhere and breathe at the same time. The laws here are very different. It was only last year (2015) that they started putting smoking kills and warning on the cigarette packets. They have stores here called “tobacchis” that carry mainly cigarettes, lotto tickets, and other little trinkets. They also sell postage stamps and metro tickets.
Selfie Stick Guys & Rose Peddlers: These are the most annoying people you could ever encounter. They aren’t just in Italy, they are in every single big tourist area. “Selfie Selfie?” They will ask as they shove yet another retractable metal stick in your face. No does not work because they simply won’t leave. The guys with the roses are just as bad. Maybe you’ve encountered them on 6th street in Austin. They approach mainly couples and hand a rose to the lady. If you take it, the guy will pressure your friend (who usually would be male) to pay for it. The catch is that the guy is supposed to pay for it (an exorbitant amount), otherwise he will look like a jerk if you have to return it. Ignore these guys as well AND DO NOT TAKE THE ROSE. DO NOT FEED THE PROBLEM. The first day you might think it is cute but after 4 months you might be willing to buy one of those dumb selfie sticks so you have something to prode these guys away with. How do you get ride of them? Saying “go” usually works best. In Italian you can use any of these phrases. Vai (you go, informal). Vai lontano (you go away, informal). Remember saying no does not work. It’s okay to be rude because… well sometimes you just have to tell it to them straight.
Places to go in Italy
I went to almost every corner of Italy, but it is still a rather large country and didn’t manage to hit everything. Besides the typical Rome, Venice, and Florence, I got to experience so much more. Notable CinqueTerre, 5 cities with ancient hiking paths between them and beautiful waters. Also, Naples, not as sketchy as people (plus a lot of good day trips around); Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet; Como, there’s a lake…..
Travel within Italy
The train is the fastest and easiest way to get around Italy, and even to some neighboring countries. An in-depth explanation of the trains in Italy can be found in my post specifically about the trains in Italy. Make sure you sign up for the loyalty card as soon as you can to get your “under 26 discount.”
There are several bus companies in Italy, the best of them being the Flixbus.
You can fly to some places in Italy, but in most cases the train will, in the end, take just as much time. The only places you really need to fly to are Sardinia and Sicily.
Place in Italy I recommend you visit:
- Cinque Terre: the 5 little villages with hiking paths between them, go in September
- Verona: Good day trip, Home of Romeo and Juliet
- Torino (Turin): Another short and good day trip, is beautiful in the Autumn weather
- Genoa (Genova): Near Cinque Terre, interesting port city, could be a day trip, better to couple up with Cinque Terre though
- Rimini: Nice beach town, very popular in Summer. I went in November and there wasn’t many people around, so maybe try going in September
- San Marino: 30 minutes by bus from Rimini and a beautiful City-State with a castle, history, and little hikes to do around the main city
- Bologna: Amazing Food! Good university town.
- Napoli (Naples): Stay by the port, not the train station for a good and not sketchy time. The food here is absolutely fabulous and there are so many things to do around. Definitely check out Ercolano, Pompeii, hike Mt. Vesuvius, go to the museum, visit the islands around, and eat lots and lots of food!
- Capri: Beautiful island outside of Napoli. Avoid it during summer, but October was still sunny, but not as crowded.
Places I didn’t go, but still recommend:
- Sicily: Palermo, Noto, Catania, Agrigento, everything. Renting a car is relatively cheap, so a car plus a couple days could get you around and help you see most of the island. There is actually a train that goes to Sicily from Milan and from what I’ve heard the train actually gets on a ferry to get across the to the island. It’s an experience that might not last longer, so act now!
- Siena: I heard great things about this Tuscan city, but alas never got the chance to go
- Assisi: Where St. Francis is from!
- Sardegna: Lots of interesting history there. I hear there is a slightly different culture there than the rest of the italian regions and some places even still speak Sardinian!
- Moderna: You may have heard of this place from your bottle of Balsamic Vinegar
- Parma: Of Parmesan cheese!
- Isola d’Ischia: Another island somewhat close to Naples that is famous for their hot springs
- And last but not least…. the famous Amalfi Coast (just south of Naples). Towns like Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Salerno, etc. A great place for driving, relaxing, and relishing the magnificent views of the colored houses lining the hills.
Travel outside of Italy
Unless you are heading to a nearby country, you will want to fly. Flights are super cheap in europe, sometimes as low as 9-euro one way! Check below for some recommended websites.
If you are traveling to France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, or even Croatia or Germany, you can take a bus and/or a train. The easiest train connection are from Milan to Nice (France). There are no trains that go through the alps, so if you want to go to Munich, you’ll have to bus or fly. To get to Slovenia I took a train to Venice and then from there a bus to the capital city, Ljubljana. Heading into Eastern Europe and it gets harder to figure out the train routes and schedules, luckily I was with a local who knew just what to do.
Some websites I like to use to plan my travels
goeuro.com – search travel options
rome2rio.com – search how to get places (will you need to take a train and then a bus or just 2 trains? etc etc)
skyscanner.com – good for finding flights. Also allows you to choose “everywhere” so you can find the cheapest round trip flights for some weekend
studentuniverse.com – sometimes have even cheaper flights than sky scanner
hostelworld.com – if you want to book a hostel, this is the best website to check reviews
famoushostels.com – Europe’s Famous Hostels. These are some of the funnest and best deals in Europe. Makes for really good suggestions on where to plan your next trip.
airbnb.com – hotels or hostels can sometimes be pricey, so it’s worth looking into the price of rooms
themilanlife.com – ENGLISH blog about Milan! I didn’t find this until after I left Milan, but glancing through it, there are some great suggestions and tips for making your way through Milan. Best and most important part though… it’s in english. Phew.