Rebecca - Politecnico di Milano

Bachelor of Architecture
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

At Polimi I had the opportunity to study many areas of architecture that I would otherwise have missed out on at UQ. I was taking a design studio that focused mainly on Landscaping design and Urban Design, as well as an Urban Planning course and I could even take a masters course specialising in River Restoration and Highway design. Even the history class I took was a good experience, seeing the neo classical to modernism eras from an Italian perspective. I enjoyed the fact that Polimi semesters were longer and therefore allowed more time for developing design projects. Also many assessment is done in group work which makes the overall experience a lot less stressful. One challenge was the requirement for oral exams in some courses. It was an exam setting that I hadn't experienced before, one on one with the professor asking questions directly and you answering them, but I would say that it has been a good learning experience and I would feel more confident if I ever had to do another similar exam. One other challenge was finding a place to work outside of studio hours. Polimi doesn't actually have any dedicated 24/7 studios but they do have an outdoor patio (although obviously this area can get quite cold in winter). Finding places to work with group members though can also lead to finding interesting places nearby the university, although most times there will be a place to work on campus, just not a 24/7 studio. The registration process was one thing that was a bit of a hassle. Signing up for courses is a lot like the sign ons for tutorials at UQ. Design studios are very competitive for exchange students so you really have to get in straight away as soon as it opens. The polimi online services as well- they are fairly easy to navigate once you know what to look for but they don't use Blackboard so it can take some getting used to.

Personal experience

Personally, I gained many things but one thing I enjoyed was the many different people I met on exchange. Everyone was from a different background and it was great sitting down in the piazza at lunch and talking about our various countries. On that too, Polimi has great food stalls around the piazza for lunchtime, and there was a great place to get cheap pizza (very good). I also had been learning Italian before coming to Italy but only by myself so it was a great experience coming to Italy and hearing people speak it and I feel I have definitely gotten more confident in my speaking skills. I would also totally recommend taking the free Italian courses offered by Polimi as its a great way to improve your Italian, just make sure to sign up for the courses as soon as you get to Italy because the places fill up fast. I also found Italy a great place to travel as well, especially being an architecture student, Milan is quite central to many of the northern cities of Italy (its also easy to get to Rome and Naples but more expensive) as well as the French border and the Swiss border. I didn't get to travel as much as I had hoped because of work but I did end up seeing many areas of Italy as well as Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

Accommodation

I lived off campus in a shared apartment. I shared with three other girls who were all from other countries and they were all very nice. A share apartment is a good opportunity to make close friends, and it also allows you more space than a residency hall room would. Polimi offers residency halls however places fill up very fast, so sometimes its easier just to get a shared apartment. I also didn't go through Polimi to find a living arrangement I used other websites to find places. I actually booked my apartment before I arrived in Italy but if you want to check them out first a few of my friends had stayed in Bed and Breakfasts for about a week before finding a permanent residence.

Costs

First of all, buy pasta it will get you through many weeks and it is so cheap. My apartment rent was around 600 euro a month however you also need to include in your budgeting, the deposit amount as well as maybe 500 euro or so for any fees the housing agency will charge. Apart from that, the only real big costs were buying train tickets to visit other places, going to the cities around Milan down to the Florence area a return ticket could cost 50 euro or so depending on the time and day. Going down to Naples or Rome would cost more as the only reasonable way to get there is by fast train.

Professional Development

As I mentioned before I think it was great to experience the landscaping and urban design courses because its given me an idea of what those areas of the architectural profession would be like. The different culture and environment as well has given me an idea of the kind of work expected in other places.

Highlight

The Venice Biennale. Definitely the highlight of the trip, I went with my friends after we had finished our design studio and it was just a really great time. Especially if you stay in Venice for more than just a day, seeing Venice at night is beautiful.

Top tips

Along with all the other tips I have mentioned, I would say- make sure you experience aperitivo. It's a very popular Milanese custom, and a great thing to do after a hard day of work. Keep an eye on ESN events if you want to party, are interested in sports or want to go on trips but don't have anyone to go with.