Xi Yao Alvin - Politecnico di Milano

B. Architecture
Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

Over the course of the semester, I studied a total of four courses. A third-year design studio, Building Physics, Elements of Architectural Typologies and Cultures of Interior Design. I really enjoyed this academic experience in many ways as I was given the opportunity to learn about Architecture from a fresh system.

The academic system was extremely different to UQ's. The courses were taught in a vastly unfamiliar format. The three elective classes were essentially three-hour non-recorded lectures; meaning attendance was necessary. Although initially thought of as a negative, I gradually learned to appreciate the system and began to learn a great deal through the classes. The content taught within the courses was truly eye-opening and I am grateful that the lectures were not recorded. There were, however, some difficulties experienced throughout the semester. The workload at times seemed to be extremely overwhelming and therefore, I would recommend future students to be wary of the courses they choose at the beginning. Additionally, due to the course credit requirements, I had initially been overloading and trying to take 32 credits worth of courses. However, this issue was easily resolved by contacting the UQ Abroad office and faculty supervisors.

The English in which the courses were taught could be difficult to interpret sometimes and it was important to directly approach the professors for any miscommunicated information.

Personal experience

The cultural experience was beyond anything I had ever expected. Through the international students association (ESN) and classes, I was able to meet some of the most inspiring, friendly and incredible international friends. Due to the intensive and humungous welcome week events, followed by the amount of time travelling together across Europe (personal and ESN organized trips), going to meals every single day, the friendships developed at an accelerated rate. Towards the end, it truly felt like I had known my closest friends for years. As an individual, I was able to gain an extraordinary amount from this experience.


I lived off-campus in a studio apartment near the university. This gave me an incredible opportunity to become fully independent and grow as an individual as I had never lived away from home before this trip. The cleaning, washing, grocery shopping and all the other aspects of living on my own forced me to learn how to become more organized with my personal scheduling, daily planning, and financial management.

As I lived near the university, it was extremely easy for me to attend classes. Additionally, Milan is an extremely walkable city and I would recommend future students to book accommodation quite early in advance and look for apartments with direct trams to the university and the centre (the tram 19 line for example).


My overall expenditure was a major issue. The predominant issue was food expenditure. Rent, transport, and entertainment (student discounts were easily obtained using the ESN membership card) were easily manageable however, a problem arose when a constant bombardment of lunches, dinners and apperitivos were organized daily. I would recommend budgeting between 12,000 to 13,000 AUD in order to afford comfortable living, trips around Europe and all forms of social events as they are worth the extra money.

Professional development and employability

The amount I gained from the entire experience on a personal level goes beyond anything I can describe. This entire experience opened my eyes in countless ways and I truly believe I have returned a better person. From communication skills to organization skills to group management, the list of skills I attained or developed during the exchange experience are a fraction of my overall gain. I believe that all the personal growth will play a huge role in the future of my professional development. 


The highlight of the experience was undoubtedly the people I met. The international students across the globe were all extremely ambitious and inspiring characters. Whilst travelling around Europe was also incredible, the entire trip would not have been a fraction of what it was without the people I'd gone with. Even without travelling outside of Milan, exploring the city by foot with the right person was an experience I will always cherish. I met some incredible people along the way and am so incredibly thankful to have had this opportunity.

Top tips

This opportunity won't come around ever again. Take it and really step out of your comfort zone when you do, you never know what you might accomplish. Do as much as you can within the short period of time because it will come to an end much quicker than you realize. I truly believe that this is one of the best things you can do as a young adult.