Jenny Perla is a Canadian student taking the new master in international business development (MAIB) program offered jointly by the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, Centennial College in Toronto and Alliance University in India. The Windsor, Ont., native will study in each of the three countries for a semester and emerge from the 18-month course with three degrees, including an MBA. Her first stop is Milan. This is her second post.
I've been in Italy for just three weeks but I've already discovered the country has the best pizza and amazing places to take pictures. I have taken National Geographic-type photos in Venice and Milan. The Lombardy area surrounding Milan boasts beautiful scenery and I have been able to visit almost all of it.
Meanwhile at the university, my program has great professors, which make the classes enjoyable and interesting.
However, studying at Biccoca University has not been easy for me. I kept telling myself to keep an open mind but I definitely was not prepared for the challenges.
In the Canadian education system, we are used to quick responses and lots of support during the start of the first semester to help with the transition. Not so in Italy on many different levels.
When I first arrived, I was extremely excited and I couldn't wait to see the apartment I was going to live in for the next three months. I had confirmed my apartment would be ready … but not so. The apartment had a gas line problem and couldn't be occupied.
The university began to move me from place to place. For the first few days, I just went with the flow and started enjoying the different locations I was living in. But soon I wanted a place to call home for three months.
I decided to contact Centennial College at home in Toronto and my parents for help, and thanks to them, I have found a great place with amazing landlords that treat me like part of their family. Finally I can focus on studying.
The next challenge was the codice fiscale, a document Italy requires non-tourists to have in order to open bank accounts and to get any kind of monthly pass (such as transit or train cards at a cheaper or student price) or even receive money from transfer companies such as MoneyGram or Western Union.
The process is complicated and requires paperwork. It took several frustrating attempts speaking my survival Italian. It was the locals who guided me in the process.
The third challenge has been how to deal with homesickness. But I am thankful for technology. I am able to keep in touch with family and friends using WhatsApp, Facebook or Facetime.
Studying in Italy is also definitely not cheap. As the Canadian dollar continues to fall in value, it becomes more difficult to afford to live and study in Italy. The exchange rate is killing me.
But I am learning how to network with the locals quickly. And I am discovering how to be resourceful in dealing with inflexible legislation.
Although it was difficult at first, I am really enjoying the culture and the program. Studying and living abroad comes with lots of unexpected obstacles, but these challenges have helped me gain more knowledge about negotiating across cultures.
Stay tuned for my next blog. I will be talking about the program and my fellow classmates, who in the past three weeks have become like family.