First Six Months in Milan under Double-Degree Programme
Already for six months, Ekaterina Khozyainovaа and Elizaveta Chesnokova, 2nd-year students of the Master's programme 'Arts and Culture Management', have been studying in Italy under the double-degree programme with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart: they immerse themselves in the industry, visit cultural places of Milan (for example, the opera house La Scala), and enjoy the art. Read more about the students' thoughts and impressions in the article.
— What impression of studying and living in Milan do you have?
Ekaterina Khozyainova (EK): Before the trip, I was practically 'trembling'. I had to collect the documents, work on projects, the internship and the term paper. On the departure day, I even was in doubt about whether I should go and – start all over again in a new country, where I do not know anybody.
As soon as I walked down the airstair, all my doubts disappeared. Wherever I lived: in Omsk, Moscow, St Petersburg–everywhere, I felt restless and out of place. Milan felt like home for me, despite another culture and the language barrier.
– Did you have to face the language barrier?
Elizaveta Chesnokova (EC): It is a little hard as I lack knowledge of the Italian language. We had a language course for one semester, and now I continue studying it myself. I know French, and it helps me somehow. The Italians are calm about the fact that you might not know their language. If you do not understand each other, you can always explain yourself with gestures—they will understand!
We got into an established student community. There are some Italians who speak Russian. If I have any difficulties in work, I turn to them. They are rather open-minded and friendly.
EK: Of course, I had studied the language, but it turned out to be not enough. The Italians just melt when you as a foreigner try to talk to them in their language, even if you do it awry. In such a way, you show respect for their culture and language–they appreciate that enormously. Their reaction is extremely flattering. In general, I can easily keep up the conversation on everyday topics or at least understand what they are talking about. But it is completely different when you work with native speakers. I talk with colleagues in 'Itanglese'. Now full immersion in the language is happening.
– How is the educational process structured at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart?
EC: I got my Bachelor's degree in Europe–Hotel Management in Switzerland. I studied in a specialised business school. The studies consisted of two parts: theory and internships at hotels.
As compared to the business school, the Italian university is different in a strong theoretical base. The most common format of classes is a classical lecture where we listen to professors and write notes. There are also seminars which are held in the form of group work. The main assessment element is an oral exam. It is surprising as the last time when I was assessed in such a way was in middle school.
This year, the subjects are mostly humanitarian based on Sociology and Anthropology: cultural and urban studies, and courses on the Italian language. But there are also courses in the field of Management: cross-cultural management, and performing arts.
EK: We had a lot of courses in the framework of which we visited art institutions. For instance, the course 'Performing and visual arts' allowed us to visit the opera house La Scala twice. During the first visit, the marketing director of the theatre shared the peculiarities of building a promotion strategy and fundraising with us. During the second one, we went to the opera 'Fedora' by Umberto Giordano. In some courses, there are guest speakers from the industry–creative figures of Milan.
At the University of the Sacred Heart, you can choose your co-supervisor for your thesis. Thus, you can get support from both the Italian and Russian sides.
— In the framework of the double-degree programme, the host university does not provide students with dormitories. How did you solve the accommodation issue?
EK: We rented an apartment which is a 25 minutes’ walk from the university. We walk through the city centre and get aesthetic pleasure. Here, they have a very comfortable system of trams. But in Milan, there are often strikes of public transport workers. In the morning, you might get ready for your classes, but the metro is closed, and trams do not run. Taxi is very expensive, and there is no Uber. We are lucky to rent an apartment in the city centre and can walk to the university in case of another strike.
— What do you do in your leisure time? Do you miss your home?
EC: Milan has lots of museums and organisations, which are worth seeing. Studying art in Italy is an amazing opportunity! We go to neighbouring cities and travel.
Lovers of delicious food can get tremendous gastronomic pleasure here! I am still shocked by the amount of rice and pasta which the Italians eat, though I had known even before coming here that they liked these dishes. You may not find soups which Russian people are used to in cafes. In different regions, you can try special local dishes. For instance, in Venice–seafood, and in Bergamo–a dessert made of polenta (corn porridge). To be honest, I love our food: meat dumplings, buckwheat, and borsch. I miss it. There are some stores with Russian products, but the price there is very high.
EK: I miss my family, dogs and friends. Now all of us are spread around the world. But as they say, you can only see the big picture from a distance–we became even close with some people, being many thousands of kilometres apart. Sometimes, I really want to discuss events, whether good or bad, in person. I miss physical contact with my loved ones. Even though sometimes I like being alone, from time to time, I simply want to hug someone. Besides, in winter, I missed the snow. In all the other aspects, Italy is my dream country, and I am extremely happy to live here.