Pamela - Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

B Arts
Semester 1, 2019
It was a great experience and I loved the variety of classes I took and the relaxed schedule of classes.

Academic experience

Courses I studied were: Writers & Painters, Words and Colours: Italy and the Arts; Italian language course (pre-session intensive and semester course); The Discovery of Italy through its culinary traditions; Reading Milan and Italian Cities: Place-making and Cultural Resources.
Different academic system: relaxed learning environments; field trips made the coursework very interesting and memorable; Blackboard used for updates on schedule or class changes.
Challenges:  simple things like using photocopy machines to copy or print – the instructions/settings were all in Italian; online library resources did not always identify selected articles etc – needed to visit the library and ask for assistance.
Enrolment/registration process – the time differences between Italy and Australia meant that enrolment opened around 11pm Brisbane time.  Not all links in registration emails would open and I had to communicate with the international team in Milan on various occasions to ensure I could access the correct web pages and action my preferences etc.

Personal experience

Boost to self-confidence by living and studying in the foreign speaking country
Greater exposure to fellow-students from around the world; greater appreciation for different interpretations on group projects for example due to different language and cultural backgrounds
Greater self-reliance due to living, interacting with local foreign-speaking residents and travelling solo
Greater appreciation for how difficult it is to speak Italian ‘on the street’ after a year’s language study.
Due to the 4-month exchange term, I was able to form ‘acquaintances’ among local store-keepers, café baristas and restaurant staff, most of whom did not speak English.  Created memorable moments of interaction and friendship that became evident when they knew I was due to return to Australia.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus.  I rented an apartment through AirBNB for the 4 months. I had a choice of tram routes to the campus and it took me around 20-30 minutes to reach campus.  Often I walked to the campus (the trams did not always run on time).  I found that fellow students were living in a variety of districts and not all of them were close to the campus: some were about an hour away by train.  
It is difficult to know what are the best areas to look for accommodation.  I originally looked at apartments much closer to the university but when I arrived I discovered that around that area there was a lot of construction work being done on a new train station, so there was reduced ambience in the area because of the noise and the hoardings around the buildings etc.

Costs

You can find very inexpensive places to eat, and coffee is cheap.  The travel pass is ideal and it allows you to travel unlimited and on most forms of transport, eg trams and trains, for the period of time you are there.  Most neighbourhoods have Saturday markets so you are able to buy anything from food, shoes, clothing, homewares very cheaply.

Challenge

The biggest challenge was the weather in January/February – unless you are used to cold weather and snow!  I was prepared to perhaps catch a cold or flu but when the flu progressed to an infection in my lungs I went to the University medical clinic and was prescribed antibiotics.  These worked within a few days and fortunately I didn’t miss any classes because of it.  But if you aren’t careful the cold temperatures outside and the constant change of temperatures going into heated classrooms or apartments can be a bit tiring if you aren’t used to it.

Professional Development

I was able to utilise my existing skills and expertise in terms of managing my schedule of classes and homework.  The requirement to participate in group projects and present in class gave me opportunity to utilise my organisational skills and help develop strategies for my groups to meet our objectives.  This was more rewarding because of the mixture of nationalities represented in my groups and learning to allow for the differences in English language comprehension and ensuring non native-English speaking students were enabled to participate fully.

Highlight

There were 3 key highlights for me:
1.    Attending venues for Milan Fashion Week
2.    Seeing the streets and piazzas of Milan transformed during Design Week
3.    Participating in a series of field trips to different parts of Milan which helped me to see so much more of the city and go to areas I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I quickly became very familiar with the city and felt confident getting around on my own during my time there.

Top tips

The University international team were very helpful and responsive during the lead-up to the exchange and once I was there.  Be prepared for the fact that your classes may not be held in the main campus: the university has 3 other locations.  I was in one for my pre-semester Italian language class which was the furthest from the main campus.  My semester classes were spread within 2 other buildings which were easy walking distance from the main campus.