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I am writing this from a train heading home after a wonderful weekend away in the French Riviera; just one of the many perks of living in Milan.

Milan is very much an international city, with a business culture and busy nightlife. What really sets it apart from other Italian cities is that it is really wealthy with a huge fashion and design scene.

After living here for 3 weeks I’ve started to settle into the Italian way of life with the help of my 2 gorgeous Italian flatmates. Major notes: breakfast as we know it is non-existent, here it’s a quick espresso at the bar and maybe a cornetto if you feel like indulging. Nothing opens before 10 so don’t expect to be seizing the day with an early morning routine, however, it is really beautiful to walk around the deserted streets. Italians kiss everyone twice, don’t matter whether you’re a stranger or close family so just brace yourself. Bedtime is midnight with most of the social activity starting well after 9pm, hence a much-needed daily sleep in. Take extra caution crossing the road because each driver has their own style, which means sometimes they give way and sometimes they don’t.

Things I wish I read before I left

–    Don’t worry about packing absolutely everything you think you might need. I am someone that packs the kitchen sink every time I have a weekend away but my mother’s wisdom steered me in the right direction. So long as you have your passport and access to money you can buy anything you need here.

–    Have a rough plan of travel you want to squeeze in on your quiet weekends. This helps you make the most of your time and keeps you busy. This was personally important for me being someone who does get a little bit homesick. Particularly in Milan, the access to affordable trains, buses and flights are amazing I’ve been able to squeeze in so much site seeing already.

–    Make sure you know what kind of person you are when booking accommodation. Both student residences and private housing have their perks for sure, but living in an apartment has been the best decision I’ve made so far. If you’re wanting a young, college, party experience then the student residency is for you. As for me, I wanted to live a more authentic Milanese lifestyle. I would recommend booking as soon as possible in nearby neighbourhoods, Navigli or Porta Romana are really popular.

–    Organize a sim card as soon as you arrive. This is something I neglected to do which resulted in a very expensive phone bill. Sim cards are cheap in Europe, only 8-13 euros per month and are equipped with unlimited social media to help stay in contact with friends and family back home.

–    Do try to learn the language before you get here. It’s not that you need it as pretty much everyone speaks English, but I found meeting Italians much easier if you can at least introduce yourself, order at restaurants and exchange pleasantries. I was really lucky to travel around Italy for a month before starting so I picked up the bare minimum.

–    Don’t arrive too late! Meeting people and making friends is really important in the first couple of weeks. I signed up for the Italian crash course, which started 2 weeks before class (highly recommend). It was such a great opportunity to meet other exchange students and gave me much needed time to organize myself before term started. Being early meant everyone was in the same boat and for my friends that arrived later in the term they have had a little trouble meeting people as everyone gets a little clicky.

–    Be open and say yes to everything. Moving here feels like worlds apart from my life in Sydney and it is so easy to get overwhelmed with change. Make sure you get outside every day, go see what the city has to offer, make plans with new friends and try all the local food. 

Molly O’Toole
Bachelor of Business
Bocconi University

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit:

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