Host University

University of Milan

Host Country



SP5, 2017


Bachelor of Journalism & Professional Writing, Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) 

Why did you choose your host university?

I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, and Milan offered the best courses related to my field of study. Milan has quite a central location in Europe too; perfect to travel to France, Switzerland and Germany. Italy also has a really good railway network, so I could reach anywhere in the mainland within a few hours. Milan is modern, cosmopolitan city known to have a lot of international students, so I thought it would be an amazing place to meet people from all over the world – and it was! I had no prior knowledge of the Italian language, which didn't prove to be a problem at all. All of the friends I made, international and local, spoke fluent English and my university subjects were offered in English too. I was also able to take free language lessons, which I’m sure many host universities offer.


Annabel BowlesWhat was the university like?

University in Milan was very different to university at home. I didn't have small, interactive classes, but basically two-three lectures each week per subject. This meant that the whole cohort was always studying together. I went to uni three days a week, but there were more contact hours, and so I spent whole days there with the same group of people – it was a lot more social!

I didn’t have assignments, just exams, and so there were a lot more readings than what were used to at UniSA. Some of the exams were oral, which were pretty daunting, but a great way to develop a different set of skills than I would have at home. I had more responsibility to motivate and discipline myself to continue studying throughout the semester in the absence of small assignments, which was a beneficial learning curve.


What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

The best part of exchange for me was meeting so many amazing people from all over the world. Most of these people I lived with in my university residence, and I was sharing this living space with around 30 people. It was a totally different experience to anything I would find in Australia, but I loved it. If I’ve learnt one thing during my time overseas, it’s that life is about people. Not money, not careers, not material possessions, not even the places you go to - but the people you share life with. The best aspect about travelling is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Any opportunity to share a meal or a conversation with a new person from a different culture is a gift.

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

It was really hard to find student accommodation in Milan, especially as my exchange wasn't confirmed by my host university until about two months prior to the exchange starting. All of the options were quite expensive, but I was expecting this in a city like Milan. I ended up in a private residence that housed young people, both students and employed, both foreign and international.

It was such a dynamic space and I had so much fun. It was very expensive, but I had my own bedroom and bathroom in a suburban apartment close to public transport and everything else I needed. I shared the common areas with around 30 people, who I became very close with by the end of my four months there. I recommend residences to those who are social and outgoing. I can’t imagine I’d make so many friends living in an apartment with only 2-3 other people! For only a semester exchange as well, I think it’s worth sacrificing some privacy and sharing a space with a lot of people – you’ll have a blast.

Annabel BowlesDescribe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I did travel quite a lot around Italy throughout my exchange. University was flexible and I was able to rearrange my lessons here and there to get away for a few days. Most weekends were also spent day-tripping around the country. After my exchange, I deferred my next semester of study at home (SP2 in 2018), and so I spent seven months travelling around Europe. I definitely recommend tacking some travel on the end of your exchange, even if only for a few weeks. I’ve backpacked around almost 20 countries, and slept in the cheapest hostels or on any bed/couch/piece of floor someone has been kind enough to offer me. I’ve often decided where I’m going on a day-to-day basis and taken cheap buses to places I’ve never heard of. Every day has been an incredibly eye-opening experience.


Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

I’m quite a shy person naturally but I made so many friends on exchange – mostly through my university residence. The people I lived with became like family and I didn’t feel homesick after about a week there. I didn't focus on studying too intensely, but more so on immersing myself in my new life and the new people in it. This meant that I said yes to almost every opportunity and I didn't regret any of it. I was also part of Erasmus; a Europe-wide exchange student society. There were so many Erasmus events; parties, cultural nights, language tandems, weekends away (a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich was one that I went on), games, sporting events, anything you can think of! With Erasmus, it’s almost impossible to not make any friends. I also tried learning a little of the language of my host country, which was a lot of fun and it made me feel much more comfortable. I took my host university’s free language lessons, and I also had a private tutor outside of university for a few lessons.


Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

Definitely! It has improved my confidence and my ability to socialise and adapt to new situations and new people. I thought this was especially important for someone studying a communications degree. I was quite shy before going overseas, but I’ve developed so much as a person and really changed for the better. I’ve also made connections with a vast range of people from all corners of the world. Each of these people have taught me something about life and about myself, and I value that so deeply. Escaping ‘normal life’ for a while has also allowed me to take a step back and realign my passion with my studies, and I look forward to pursuing that when I come home. Those who don't travel have no idea what they’re missing out on. There are worlds out there you can’t imagine without experiencing them.

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

If financial reasons are holding you back, there’s always a way around that. Take advantage of the financial support the university offers, as you probably won't find any better opportunity. It isn’t cheap to study overseas, but don't focus about the money you’re spending, and rather the life-changing experience you’ll gain. As twenty-somethings, we shouldn't be worrying about saving up for a house deposit or a new car. We need to soak up our youth in the precious few years we have it. If you come home with no money to your name, I think you’ve done it exactly right.

Top tips

Don't think about it too much, just go! I applied for exchange on a whim, with half a mind that I wouldn't actually be accepted by my host university. It eight months before I received final confirmation from my host university, and throughout that time I was never completely committed to the idea. When I did receive final confirmation, I just went along with a mindset that I had nothing to lose. My first week in Milan was awful. I knew absolutely no one in a foreign city and I was terribly homesick. Little did I know, the best time of my life yet was about to begin. I haven’t met a single exchange student who has felt otherwise.