Hi there, my name is Julia Farleigh and I have just commenced my fourth and final year of Interior Architecture after only just returning from student exchange in Milan, Italy.
For me, the idea of student exchange was something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember, but not something I ever thought I would be lucky enough to experience. After spontaneously attending the Student Exchange Expo in my first year, I was set on studying at Politecnico di Milano in Italy. I really wanted to study in Europe and especially in a country where English is not the native language. So Politecnico was perfect as it provided courses in both Italian and English.
Politecnico di Milano is the largest technical university in Italy with about 7 campuses throughout the country. It is the oldest university in Milan and only teaches courses in Engineering, Architecture and Design. In Milan there are 2 campuses; mine was located in an outer suburb of the city called Bovisa. The campus at Bovisa, although much smaller then UNSW, was a really nice environment to study in. It was relatively new and had some good workshop spaces as well as cheap Italian food. Most days at university I would spend the equivalent of about $6 on a big bowl of delicious pasta.
As Politecnico is a very international university, I was able to meet and make friends with many other students from all over the globe, as well as many other parts of Italy. Also being an exchange student in Europe meant that I was able to join ‘Erasmus’ student societies, which organised many events and weekend trips around Italy and neighboring countries.
I was enrolled in classes for the Masters of Interior Design subjects, as these were the only studios taught in English. Ironically, I ended up taking the opportunity to change my Design Studio to the Italian stream. Although it gave support in English the language barrier and different class dynamic proved to be quite challenging at first. Not only was I studying in a foreign language, but almost all assignments and projects in the university was completed through group work. This meant that I was working on my design studio project in a group of 4 people, who were all conveniently fluent in Italian except for myself. Although it was tough at times, making the leap of changing my studio was one of the best decisions I made overseas. Not only did I improve my understanding of the Italian language, but I was able to experience working on a project with other Italians and made some life-long friends from other parts of the world. The other class I took whilst away was history and theory, reverse modeling and a week intensive workshop with Graeme Brooker, all in English. Not to mention the university provided free lessons in Italian twice a week.
In Milan I lived in a student residence called Galileo Galilei. Even though my residence ended up a 30-45 minute commute from campus, it was in a central location in the city. I was located in a really nice area and so close to every part of the city. I was only a 10 minute walk away from the Duomo and main shopping district as well as super close to any forms of public transport. Meaning all great food, bars, attractions and shopping was easily reachable.
Also living in Milan meant that it was really easy to reach any other part of Italy and Europe. With the semester not commencing till October and finishing at the end of February, I was able to take advantage of travelling in the break before semester, over Christmas and New Years as well as some weekend trips here and there. Travelling around Italy and Europe gave me the opportunity to experience so many other cultures through food, language and design, as well as exposure to some of my favourite pieces of art and architecture. I was able to meet so many other travellers and catch up with overseas friends and family. Highlights included spending a white Christmas skiing in the Italian alps, enjoying Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, sailing through Croatia, drinking Limencello in Sorrento, enjoying a French picnic in Palace di Versailles, watching Les Miserables on London’s West End, experiencing ‘real winter’ in Budapest and hanging out in Copenhagen with new Danish friends, just to name a few.
Spending a whole six months in Italy was one of the greatest experiences as a young designer and traveller. Although challenging at times, not only did it enrich me as a person, living and studying overseas was the best way to experience new cultures, meet new people and connect in the European design world.
If anyone wants to know more about spending exchange in Italy you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org