GMU Milan gave me the best summer of my life! Past Review

By (Communications, George Mason University) for

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a sense of adventure and a passion for traveling. I also learned how to budget and to be more open-minded. On a trip like this, things are often out of your control, so it was important for me to learn how to "play it by ear." I feel like my cultural awareness has skyrocketed, even though this was my only real experience outside of the US. The trip opened my eyes to cultural immersion, and I can't wait to experience the European, and specifically Italian culture even more. I can say with full confidence that this trip was just the beginning of my world exploration.

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.

I learned more about the Italian culture than I ever thought possible, in only 2 hours a day in class. Professors from other universities around Italy were kind enough to give us their valuable time and lecture us on topics ranging from Italian demographics, to Italian politics, and Italian music. To complement the class lectures, we had several excursions to places like Turin, Lake Maggiorre, and century-old monasteries. To synthesize all the material, we had two take home tests which did require some extent of studying. Along with the tests, we also were assigned a 10-12 page paper and a presentation. Some students chose to present on topics ranging from Italian fashion to finding a job abroad, where as others chose to do the photography project, in which you would present in mid-September after the program was completed. Along with the presentation and essay, we were also required to write daily or weekly blog posts, so we would remember our travels when we came back to the states. Overall the work load was pretty light, but students still gain a wealth of knowledge about the Italian culture. What better way to learn than when you're at a lake surrounded by the Swiss Alps or in Turin, drinking their world-renowned bicerin, or chocolate espresso?

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program was extremely well organized thanks to Professor Wright. She is a communications professor at George Mason and has been doing the trip since the mid 2000's. She knows Milan inside and out, and has a good grasp on the Italian language. Because of her knowledge of the culture she was able to give us pointers about what to do and what not to do. She could also help translate for us when the communication barrier became extremely strong. Her door in the dorms was always open, at all hours, so whenever you needed something she would be ready and willing to help. She was an absolutely amazing professor, and she is one of the biggest reasons my past summer in Milan was so unforgettable. The program size could not have been more perfect. There were 24 of us, which gave us no shortage of people to socialize with, but also wasn't so huge that students were left overwhelmed. The group was small enough that we were all able to get to know each other on a personal level and allowed us to create bonds that we won't ever share with anyone else. Overall, my summer in Milan met my expectations and more. The city was exciting and beautiful and left us with no shortage of things to do. The people were friendly and extremely fun to be around. The professor cared about each one of us and was able to give us individual attention. The program left us with a huge amount of knowledge about the Italian culture, but did not require so much homework time that we didn't get to fully immerse ourselves in the culture.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The dorms were very high quality, given what study abroad dorms normally are. They were fully equipped with air conditioning, wi-fi internet, a cafeteria, and a lounge. The students in our program lived together in two person dorms that were equipped with huge armoire closets, a full bathroom, and air conditioning. The rooms also had televisions, and individual telephones which allowed us to call between each others rooms. As if the airconditioning and wi-fi wasn't enough, the dorms also offered stunning views of the alps. They also came with a weekly maid service. The dorms were on the outskirts of Milan, but were in very close vicinity to the metro which took students to the Duomo Piazza and other locations where nightlife was big. The main locations we would go to on a daily basis were about 10 metro stops away, but the metro was quite efficient so it never took more than 10 minutes. Overall, all students were extremely satisfied with the accomodations, as previous attendants did not get so lucky with air conditioning and wi-fi.

* Food:

Students were able to get breakfast for free on weekdays in our dorms. They usually consisted of croissants, yogurt, and fruit, but the dorms also chose to accommodate us as Americans and offered scrambled eggs as well. Every other meal on the trip was paid out of pocket, so it was extremely important to budget our money. There were several delicious dining options close to our dorms which included a family owned Italian restaurant, an all-you-can-eat Japanese sushi restaurant, and a nice little Turkish kebap place. As our campus was close to the center of Milan, we had tons of options for lunch which usually consisted of a panini at outdoor cafe's. Overall, the dining was as one would expect in Italy, absolutely delicious.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We had an amazing non-academic experience in Italy, as our group bonded so much. We were able to use each other to find the exciting areas of nightlife in Italy. Some in the group were very outgoing, which allowed them to meet native Italian's who also would offer to help us find places to go. Along with being able to enjoy the nightlife of Milan, we were also able to enjoy it in other cities around Italy since we were free to travel every weekend we were there. The individual weekend travel was quite memorable, but even more memorable sometimes was the travel organized by the program. These off-site excursions included trips to Stresa and the three islands at Lake Maggiore, and trips to Pavia and Turin. Because of these organized travels, we were able to see even more breath-taking places in Italy, and to go into museums that would have otherwise been unknown to us.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Milan, being a highly cosmopolitan area, was extremely safe, given what I had heard about being in Italy. I only had one experience where I felt threatened, but luckily I was with 4 other girls from the program. I would definitely advise only taking the money you feel like you will need when going out, just so you don't risk losing your entire wallet with ids, or even worse, your passport. I would also advise not walking alone as it is easy to identify tourists or potential targets in crowded areas.

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)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would tell them a thousand times to do this program. Anybody who is looking to immerse themselves in the Italian culture while having the time of their life would benefit from this program. Regardless of traveling situation, financial situation, or personality type, anyone who just maintains an open mind will come out of this program wishing that they had never left Milan. Upon coming back to the United States, expect to want to travel more! Many students, including me, are already trying to plan future trips to Europe, and our beloved Italia.