I have always wanted to study and travel abroad for four years at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. However, at the end of my first year, COVID-19 hit, and I found myself unable to travel to keep myself and others healthy.
The pandemic finally started to clear up at the end of my third year at UTC and I was finally able to travel. My first study abroad ever, in Milan, Italy. I didn’t have any preconceived notions about how my trip was supposed to go, what I needed to bring, or what I needed to be sure that I did.
However, as soon as I got to Italy my classmates and I were immediately thrown into their timezone as well as their cultures. With little class time and few scheduled tours, my classmates and I were able to completely immerse ourselves into the Italian culture.
While walking around the sidewalks of Milan, also found out it is weird to call them “blocks” like in New York City, each building held a different style of architecture. From modernism, classical, and military architecture. During the Great World Wars, many streets of Milan had to be rebuilt immediately to give shelter to its citizens. Which resulted in a plain, or simplistic form of architecture.
As well to the building changing characteristics along the streets, the overall culture changed from street to street. One area, which is the heart of Milan, is also the heart of modern architecture. With many people buzzing around like in New York City. Whereas a couple of blocks away are the historical POC communities ranging from Jamaican restaurants, kabab pop-ups, basilicas, and large LGBQT+ cafes.
Many of the local restaurants and buildings house a multitude of uses, many of which switched just by the sun going down. Many of the cafes in Italy typically begin early in the morning serving coffee/ bar drinks seamlessly transitioning into lunch and dinner with a small menu selection of food, and again slowly transitioning to a full-on bar within the night. Which shows the adaptability of the local businesses within these areas and represents a smart business model in which to make more money.
A couple of my classmates and I also became very close friends with waiters and waitresses at the local restaurant, “Churchill”. Which allowed us to talk with them about where they came from, how they grew up, as well as a continued conversation on both sides of the differences between our countries. It was really interesting to find that everyone had grown up in completely different countries and found themselves in Milano, as well as their views on what was going on in America currently.
I learned a lot from this trip and hope to travel again in the future. There isn’t any other way that I believe someone can gain this new knowledge and perspective without fully immersing themselves within the community in another country.
Emma McLean (BS Interior Architecture) spent Summer 2022 in Milan, Italy as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Emma had the following to say about study abroad, “Immerse, Engage, and Educate yourself in a different culture.”
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