Summer of Dreams Past Review

By (George Mason University) - abroad from 07/27/2014 to 08/25/2014 with

George Mason University: Milan - Italian Media, Culture & Society

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Studying abroad was an eye-opening experience-I learned so much about myself, and the Italian culture and society... The sort of things you can't really learn when you're in the mindset of a tourist. It was an absolutely amazing month, and although I had started to miss home towards the end, I was upset when it officially ended. If you have the chance to do this program, take it. You will love it.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Some students claim all they did was party when they studied abroad. This wouldn't be the case here-you may only be taking two classes, and attending for just a few hours a day, but the workload is real. You'll be expected to do the readings, the online quizzes/test/worksheets, and (of course) the essays. That being said, if you attend the lectures and actually read... It's not so hard. The essays should not be saved until the last minute, because no matter what subject you chose it will take time and research to get good material to start writing them. I would highly, highly recommend at least starting them BEFORE you leave the country... less stress, and more time to explore that way! Regardless, it is all a lot of fun and really interesting-you get introduced to so many new concepts, you hear from great guest lecturers who have a wealth of information... Everything is a learning experience. The educational excursions are incredible (The Black Death Tour at the end was one of my personal favorites! )

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

For the Milan Program, Dr. Wright was the one in charge of pretty much everything (with the help of Laura, of course). This program has been her's since the start,and she is extremely passionate about it, and Italy as a whole. You've nothing to fear with her in charge! She's always available to students, and makes sure we are all safe, happy, learning, and having a lot of fun. There was also a washer/dryer combo in the basement, so that students could wash clothes themselves (you have to pay for it).

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

As a student who lives off campus, this was my first time doing "dorm-style living." I got really lucky and had incredible roommates who I got a long with really, really well. All rooms were air conditioned, and cleaned once a week (if you kept things off your bed, that is.) There was a teeny fridge so that you buy snacks and little things to keep for when you got hungry. Location wise, I thought it was great-while not the heart of Milan, we were about a 10 minute walk from Metro, which left the entire city essentially at our fingertips.

* Food:

Only breakfast was provided by where we were staying, so everything else came out of our pocket (except for CGE events, which had been aid with out program fees in advance). It could get pricy if you didn't find the right places, but if someone decided, they could also make use of the communal kitchen and cook something themselves (which would be cheaper).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I think the more I adjusted to life in Italy, the better integrated I felt. I still had extremely limited Italian under my belt, but it became a lot easier to interact, and I think we started looking less and less like tourist. We rode the same metro as them, we started drinking and eating like they did... It made the experience even cooler, because when you start living like an Italian, you get to find the hidden gems that tourist wouldn't really know about.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Never needed medical care.

* Safety:

No matter where you go, you should always be aware of the potential dangers. As an American in a foreign country, it can be especially true. Yet, walking the streets of Milan, I can honestly say I'd never felt more comfortable and safe. The streets were always full of people, especially at night when Italians were going to dinner. I still wouldn't recommend walking home alone at like 2AM, but as long as you're smart and aware, everything will be perfectly fine.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

It wasn't easy. Because I had been to Italy before, I opted to take fewer trips, so I had more money to spend eating like an Italian and buying all the trinkets I wanted. Luckily, we were there during sale season, which made things much, much cheaper. Still, food prices to add up.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? - When going to the markets (the open ones) don't buy at the first stall you come across. Go through all of it, watch the prices. You're likely to find a better deal elsewhere. You can also bargain though-but you have to appear confident in doing so. - When looking for places to eat, it's the same idea, look at everything. Check all the prices and offerings. Talk to people. Don't stay in the main areas where all the tourist are. Go find the authentic places in the off roads, where you can get an amazing meal (and drink) for less more than likely. - Aperitivo for Italians is something before-dinner. Do students? That can be a meal. There are a ton in Milan, you just have to find the good ones, that offer a large selection of foods (buffets are my personal preference). But, you also need to be smart about it. The drink doesn't have to be alcoholic, and Dr. Wright will tell you this, but it can be rude to get more than 2 plates with a single drink. -Overall, know your budget, and what you want from the trip. If you want to leave Milan and see other places, compare prices, but don't try and do it all. Choose the top five you'd love to do, and go from there.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The location
  • The food
  • The excursions
* What could be improved?
  • Can it be longer???
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It sounds odd, but I wish I had known more about which airlines would be most reliable. I flew American/British Airways and had a bit of an unpleasant experience with BA having system errors that elft me without my luggage for nearly half the trip. I also really, really wish I had known more Italian. Not necessarily enough to be fluent, but enough that I could communicate better and show more respect (because I've been told countless times that even if you speak terribly, they will love that you try.) Simple phrases like "How much does this cost" or "how do I get to __" "Can I have ___/I would like...", etc.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!