Nana Ishikawa - 2015 Program Participant

Plaza in Milano, Italy

The Beautiful City of Milano

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I decided to apply for an international program because I wanted to become exposed to a different culture and I believed that I could only experience that first hand by taking part in an international program.

Why did you choose IES Abroad in Milan?

I decided to apply specifically for my program in Milan because I wanted to increase my ability to speak Italian and to also gain more experience singing.

What was your favorite part about the location of your program?

My favorite part about the location was the perfect size of the city. It was very easy going around Milan since you could basically walk everywhere if you really wanted to. At the same time, regardless of it not being a large city, Milan itself was very dense with a lot of places to go and see.

What characteristics of your program made it unique?

The program that I participated in is unique because Milan itself as a city is unique. Although Milan is considered to be a part of Italy, there are many characteristics of Milan that are different from the rest of the country. There are many linguistic differences that my homestay mother, who has lived in Milan her whole life, has taught me, such as the fact that the North and the South spoke differently.

According to history, Milan was considered to be a part of Germany at one point and therefore makes the city unique in itself. The population of Milan is probably one of the most diverse in all of Italy. Milan is also known as the second largest city in Italy, and I would have had a completely different experience if I went to study abroad anywhere else, since Italy is mostly made up of countrysides. To me, these characteristics of Milan are very unique.

What was a typical day like for you as an international student in Milan?

I would start the day by getting ready for school and having a quick breakfast at home. On some days, my homestay mother would be up and have had freshly squeezed orange juice, a cappuccino, and a croissant ready for me. On days that she was not at home, I would make myself an espresso and have myself a sweet for breakfast. Afterwards, I would walk my four minute commute to get to the metro. Once I got on the metro, it would take around 20 to 25 minutes for me to get off at San Ambrogio and I would walk to the IES Abroad Study Abroad office and sit in on my class, which was usually Italian.

Since the class usually ended around 11:00 a.m. and my next class was usually around 1:30 p.m., I would go grab some food close by, either at Pane Vita, Café Carduccio, or the tunnel with a group of friends. Afterwards, I would walk back to the IES Abroad campus and maybe do some of my homework for the next day so that I would have time that night to spend with my homestay family. After the class ended, I would usually go into the practice room and practice singing my songs for my upcoming lesson. Once I did that for at least 30 minutes, I would take my commute back home.

By this time, Virginia, my younger homestay sister was already back home. I would usually finish up my homework for the next day and hang out with her while eating a snack together or watching a television show like Glee, which was our favorite. On some days, she would play the piano and we would sing Disney songs together or watch Korean music videos together. Our interests were very similar.

The home stay mother would come home around 7:00 p.m. every night and she would put some food in the oven for it to heat up while she prepared to rest at home. I would sit at dinner usually just the three of us and Virginia would run off to either work on homework or to go watch a television show afterwards. I usually ended up speaking to my homestay mother for a long time and every time there were any words that I did not understand in Italian, she would write it on the wall and I would also write the English word, since she wanted to learn a bit of English also. 

The day usually ended with us all watching a movie together in Italian although my homestay mother would always fall asleep five minutes after pressing play to start the movie; she is a very busy and hardworking woman. As the days passed by, I became more familiar with the language and came to understand the movies increasingly better. After the movie ended, everybody would go to bed. The mother would go straight to bed and I usually ended up talking to Virginia for a few minutes before going to bed. And that is how my day would usually end.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

One thing that I wish that I would have done differently is to have gone to the supermarket more and talk to the people that worked there.

View of Cinque Terre, Italy

Beautiful View of Cinque Terre

Tell us more about your accommodation. What did you like best about it?

I stayed at a homestay family, a family of three. There was the mother, the 15 year old daughter, and the 22 year old daughter. Although Carlotta, the 22 year old daughter, was very busy with work, school, and internships, when she had little time to see and talk to me, she was a very sweet and nice person. I am glad that I was able to bond with someone that was Italian and around my age since that was what I wanted to do most.

However, Virginia, the 15 year old teenage girl, was the one who I connected with the most. She loved Japanese culture, and since I am Japanese we were able to exchange cultural information and differences with each other. I would speak Italian with her on a daily basis (although the mother wanted me to speak English to her), while other times I would sit down with her and teach her some Japanese grammar and vocabulary. Virginia also showed me different cultures of Japan that I had not known before, such as different anime television shows and dance moves.

However, the person that I appreciate the most is my homestay mother. Whether it was eating cheese and drinking wine at 10:00 p.m. or taking me to the supermarket to show me that you needed a 25 cent euro coin to be able to use the carts, she truly treated me like her third daughter during my stay at her home. These are what I liked best about my accommodation.

I was able to relate to my family while communicating and learning different parts of the culture by being in an Italian home. The time that I spent with my homestay family is something that I will never forget and is something that I will appreciate for the rest of my life.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?

Outside the normal day-to-day schedule of my program, my favorite activity was being able to travel around Europe. My most favorite, however, was being able to travel around Italy and practice my Italian with strangers. Although sometimes people would give me strange looks while I tried my best to speak and communicate to them, I could physically feel, understand, and see myself grow as an Italian speaker. This was the most favorite activity and also the most rewarding for me.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

Now that I am home, the program has impacted my life greatly. I have changed what I have expected from my life. I want to become completely fluent in Italian. This program made me want to take a test for the translator's certificate for Italian, English, and Japanese. This program has made me appreciate who I am and where I come from. I am proud to be a Japanese American and I am proud to have learned Italian.

I have gained a lot more confidence after coming home from the program. I feel now that the possibilities are endless and that I have the capability to do what I strive for.

I began learning Spanish when I was in the fourth grade and took Spanish until my junior year of high school, when I realized as I sat in my Spanish class of my senior year that I could barely speak any Spanish. That was the moment when I thought that I could never be able to speak another language.

When I went to Italy for the first time in middle school with my church choir, I knew that I was going to go back as I made a wish while tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome. I realized how the Italian language was important to my singing career and that I had a passion for it. When I began going to college, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in Italy. I studied for two years during college before I left for Italy to prepare myself. There was a gut feeling that I had to go regardless of how afraid I was. I thought that the only way that I could become even merely fluent in Italian was to go to Italy, and that has changed everything.