Hatchet Expat: Ciao Milan, bonjour Paris

As I try to accept that I will be leaving Milan in less than two months, I can’t help but reminisce on what my study abroad experience has given me.

I find it hard to believe I have actually lived through so much in what seems to be a mere few days. From realizing that absolutely every store, supermarket and restaurant is closed on Sundays, to accepting the more laid-back Italian pace of life, I could not be happier about having Milan as my home throughout this semester.

I would be lying if I said every moment in Milan has been pleasant. This city welcomed me in January with endless unfamiliar customs. Still, to this day, Milan keeps surprising me with a culture so different I can’t help but further immerse myself.

Some Italian ways of life I have adopted as my own include paying exorbitant amounts of money to go to the stadium to see my favorite soccer team, choosing a favorite bar or coffee shop where I stop for my daily cappuccino on the way to class and, most notably, speaking Italian with what the locals describe as “an unmistakable Milanese accent.” I have yet to find out if the latter is something I should be proud of or not.

While I should not undermine these achieved objectives by any means, as I prepare to leave this country, I am not focusing on the traveling I was able to do, the new and more rigorous academic environment I was exposed to or even the fact that I finally dare to consider myself fluent in Italian.

The single most important lesson I will take with me is that, to fully grasp the lifestyle in a foreign country, one must respect the local culture and heritage as much as, if not more than, the local citizens value them.

I strove to blend in with the locals and learn about their daily routines as much as I could from day one. I realized I was succeeding once Italians started asking me if I was Italian. They couldn’t believe a foreigner was using colloquial expressions and engaging in conversations they normally engage in. Simply put, Italians seemed to appreciate the fact that a tourist was actually interacting with them instead of behaving like the stereotypical vacationer, whom they so despise.

Living in Milan has undoubtedly been more difficult than living in D.C., and particularly because of this, I have decided to study abroad again next semester. Even though I won’t be in Milan again, but in Paris instead, I am even more eager to accomplish that same objective in France.

As much as I miss being back at GW, it will have to wait yet another six months.

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