Halfway?! I got here yesterday!

I was shocked when I looked at my calendar and realized I had more days behind me than in front of me. I sat there and realized that I am more than half way done with my study abroad experience. While I was sitting there, I started to think more and more about what it even means to study abroad. As I sat in Piazza del Duomo, I realized that study abroad is not just about the actual classes you attend abroad, in fact I think it is based very little on that. I believe study abroad is about the whole experience and the learning that takes place out of the classroom is somehow more important and more real. Who knows? Maybe I’d only like to believe that because I’m not doing so well in one of my classes or maybe it’s because I like to think there is real value in my trips. Either way, it is evident that every single second I am learning.
When I first arrived in Italy, I stayed with family friends in a small town called Fabriano. They continually asked me, “tutto a posto?” which means, “is everything okay?” Even though I had studied Italian, that phrase was something I had never heard before. It bothered me that the first simple thing I was asked, I couldn’t answer. This is when I decided I would try to learn everything about every place to which I went, and this started with Milan.
Milan is a very big city with so many opportunities to offer. Unlike many study abroad students, I was not just looking for where the best bars were but rather I looking to discover the history of the city. Don’t get me wrong, I looked for the good bars too but my search didn’t stop there. In Milan I learned that the “quartieri” or regions of city, like Porta Romana or Porta Venezia, were named after actual doors in a medieval city wall, in some cases the doors are still there. In medieval times, it was where the travelers from Rome or Venice would meet the city gates. Every day in Milan I learn a little fact like this but I didn’t come to Europe just to learn about Milan, I wanted to learn about everything. I wanted to travel everywhere. I haven’t found the same type of friends in Milan that I have at BC and at home so I thought it all the more reason to travel and to explore.
My favorite trip thus far was to Ireland and London with my mom, but what can I say, I’m “un mammone”. Before travelling to Ireland, I reached out to distant family members and old friends who have been to Ireland so that I could plan the perfect trip. I learned so much about Ireland before I even set foot on the old sod. I learned about the Anglo-Normans, Strongbow, Cromwell, and the Easter Rising. These little bits of history I learned before my trip made my experience even more worthwhile. I really enjoyed Ireland because I was learning so much about family heritage and the history of Ireland in general, a history, which I never learned about in school. Ireland was also very interesting to me because I visited sites where I stepped into the past. Unlike an art museum, historical sites like Blarney Castle and Kilmainham Goal make the story of Ireland come alive, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This is what abroad is all about. While I value the things that I’ve learned in class, I have realized that truly wonderful parts of study abroad are just waiting to be discovered outside of the classroom.
Although Ireland was my favorite, I was voraciously learning in every place I went, and not just about history. These trips have taught me about budgeting, planning, and organizing. Abroad as a whole has taught me so many things thus far because as someone famous once said “the best things you learn aren’t learned in a classroom.”

Look at me in Italy!

Somebody once said, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta,” so I thought to myself, ‘what better place to spend my first semester junior year than in Milan, Italy?’ My name is Michael Flynn and I am studying Economics with a minor in Italian. Since I was a freshman, all I could do was think about spending a semester in Italy. Then, the day finally came.
​When I arrived, my mind was agog with all the possibilities this new city offered me, and I could not wait to seize every one of them. I spent the first week seeing everything I had wanted to see in the city (my list of sites was the product of many intense Google sessions over the summer). One of the sites I found while researching was the giant middle finger statue in front of the Italian stock market. Another was the Last Supper by Da Vinci. That first week seemed amazing and I thought, if the rest of my time in Milan continues like this, I will just have to stay here forever.
But there was something for which I was not prepared – the second week. After I spent the first week exploring with all these new people and seeing all these new things, I finally stopped for a second and just thought. I thought about how I missed my family, and my friends at BC. I thought about how I just spent every day with these people running around Milan but they knew little more than my name. I purposely chose to come in the fall because I wanted full immersion in Italy and I knew not a lot of other BC students were coming. When I saw everyone else, however, already traveling with their friends from BC that all went abroad together, I began to doubt that I truly wanted that. I was not immersing myself the way I thought either. I had signed up for an Italian class and sat in it for 15 minutes before dropping it, so now all my classes were taught in English, and I was missing everyone at BC. I did not like this feeling at all so I decided it was time for a much needed self-date. A self-date is when you treat yourself.
​I went back on Google and looked for “homey” restaurants, and I found one. I went and I practiced my Italian–and it was wonderful. While I was enjoying the best food that I have had in Milan, I sat there and I thought some more. How did I make friends at BC? It seemed like I had one good friend at the beginning, and then making new friends just became so much easier. But I met all my new friends through my old ones. Even though I was in Italy I thought to myself “why can’t that work here?”.
The next day, I reached out to a teacher from my high school who moved to teach in Milan and she gave me the contact of one of her old students, Annamaria. I was finally doing what I wanted to abroad, get outside of my comfort zone and meet Italians. I reached out to a family friend who lives in Italy and is studying at Bocconi and we went for sushi. She speaks almost no english at all pressing me to practice my italian even more. Then I started to meet people from my dorm, which is almost entirely Italians, because I refused to live in the International dorm that was 15 minutes away by tram. I mean what kind of junior wants to live on Newton?
All of these choices that I made to push me out of my comfort zone so quickly became quite daunting during my second week as I tried to adjust to classes and what seemed like a whole new world. But I’m happy I made them. Although I had a rough second week because of them, it seemed like everything was falling into place. I love my classes and my new Italian friends. Life in Italy can truly be amazing if you just drop your fears and allow yourself to experience it. I mean, I am just an Irish guy pretending to be an Italian, and with my vocabulary and comfort level picking up, people are finally starting to fall for it. I’ll let you know how I am doing later but the big test is this week, fashion week – Wish me luck.