Emma Morgan - 2015 Program Participant
The obligatory Duomo di Milano picture, because it's too beautiful not to post a picture
Why did you decide to study abroad?
Since the beginning of high school, I had always wanted to travel somewhere outside of the United States (not including Canada, since it's so close to where I live anyway). My high school was small and did not allow for many trips outside of the country. I made it my goal that I would study abroad somewhere during my time in college, because if I didn't do it now I was worried I would never get another time as perfect as now to go abroad.
Why did you choose IES Abroad’s program in Milan?
I chose IES ABroad Milan because I am half Italian. I wanted to learn more about my family's background. I also knew that Italy was fairly centrally located in Europe and that that would make it even easier for me to travel elsewhere through Europe while I was abroad. This specific IES Abroad program offered some interesting courses with hands-on experience that I knew I wouldn't be able to get elsewhere. But what really sold me on this program was the fact that IES Abroad included some great field trips in the program cost. My favorite field trip was when we went to Parma and Modena, where I had some of the most delicious food I have ever had!
What was your favorite part about Milan?
I loved that Milan was such a modern city that still incorporated old architecture and older Italian customs into Milanese daily life. I loved being surrounded by all different types of people and all different types of architecture. And, as I mentioned earlier, Milan and Italy are fairly centrally located in Europe, so it was easy to travel other places outside of Milan, as well.
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul - I visited a friend from the University of Rochester who was studying abroad in Istanbul for the semester.
What do you think makes your program unique?
My program encouraged the students to participate in Italian life in every way possible. They announced aperitivi (kind of like a cocktail hour with a buffet meal, a very Italian thing) that were happening all over Milano. They told us where we could go to see different design week exhibits. They took us to the EXPO to make sure we experienced that world event. They made sure that our housing assignments were in interesting (and safe) neighborhoods throughout Milan, where there were always things to do.
IES Abroad Milan makes it very difficult to ever be bored. I had to remember to take days off from everything to just relax once in a while!
How did the local IES Abroad staff support you during your time abroad?
The IES Abroad staff on my program were great! They knew just how much to help the students to get us used to the Italian lifestyle, while they also gave us time and space to explore on our own. If someone ever had a problem with their housing, with their courses, or with their health, the appropriate IES Abroad staff member was always available to help make sure you got everything figured out.
Just a street we found while exploring Milano
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have been even more engaged with my homestay family, right from the beginning. When I first arrived in Milan, I was overwhelmed. It was my first time being out of the United States and it was really my first time being away from my parents. That being said, I immediately felt at home with my homestay family. They were so welcoming and they understood everything I was going with being away from home. However, to no fault of their own, I was still a little shy and closed-off at the beginning. I wish I would have immediately started asking them questions about their lifestyle and culture, and that I could have gotten to spend even more time with them.
My homestay family really helped to make my time in Milano what it was: wonderful and life-changing!
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
On a typical weekday, I would wake up, get ready, eat breakfast with my homestay family, and then I would go to my first class of the day on the city bus. After my class, I would grab lunch at a small bakery (a pasticceria called Pane e Vita) down the street from the IES Abroad building. I'd then take my lunch at either a nearby park or the IES Abroad library to eat with friends. After lunch and hanging out with friends, I would go to my second class of the day (I only had two classes a day and the occasional Italian class on Friday mornings) and then I would take the bus back to my homestay.
Once I got back to my homestay's apartment, I would go to my room and do some homework. After I finished my homework, I would either watch TV with my homestay sister, talk with my homestay mom, or I would just sit in my room with the windows open and read, while listening to the city sounds outside my window (that probably sounds strange, but I really just liked to hear the city and enjoy the sounds of Milan). My homestay family and I would eat dinner, prepared by my homestay mom after she got home from work, around 7:30 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. We would have nice conversations about our days over the dinner and dessert, and then we would each go to our separate rooms to have some alone time after a busy day. After that, it was bedtime for everyone and then started the next day.
What did you enjoy doing most outside of your coursework and scheduled program activities?
I really loved travelling to Bologna and Torino with friends I made on my program. I had great food in both cities and it was nice to experience Italian life in another city for a little while. Like life in the United States differs when comparing the East coast with the West coast, the Italian lifestyle changes based on the region of Italy you're in. It was so interesting to me to observe these changes, along with the changes in architecture, fashion, and food.
Another trip I really loved was the weekend I spent in Istanbul visiting a friend from my home university who was studying there with IES Abroad. Istanbul is such a beautiful, amazingly huge city with great food and an interesting history. I think my trip to Istanbul was my favorite excursion from my whole semester abroad. It was great to experience Turkish life with my friend!
Santorini, Greece - I spent my spring break in Santorini and Athens.
Tell us more about your accommodation. What did you like most about it?
As I mentioned above, I lived in a homestay family that consisted of a mom and her daughter. I loved it because when I found I was really missing my family back in the United States, I had a family (and they really did become my family) right there in Milan too. They made me feel welcome at all of their family events and they treated me just like a part of the family. Having a homestay family also allowed me to learn about their culture and customs in more depth than my friends who were living in apartments with other American students. Sure, it made it a little more difficult to make friends at the beginning of the program, but given the chance to choose again, I would still pick the homestay family because they gave me some experiences that I know I wouldn't have gotten living in a student apartment.
Now that you're home, how have you noticed studying abroad has impacted your life?
Since being home, I've noticed how much more confident I am in myself and in the decisions I make. I was already fairly confident and independent before going abroad, but now I KNOW that I can live on my own, travel alone, and do anything I put my mind to. I'm also noticing that I adopted a little bit of the "go with the flow" attitude that Italians have. I always wanted to plan things far in advance before I studied abroad. Now, I'm more comfortable just doing things as they come up and enjoying the little surprises.