Design PF

Jan Mc Greal

at Politecnico di Milano, Mailand

The student of BA in Industrial Design about his semester abroad

– April 2018 – 

The Milanese can’t handle their umbrellas. That was my first grumpy observation when navigating through the stabby black mass of plastic hovering on eye level while trying to avoid drenching my luggage in the deep pools of molten snow forming in the potholes. Rain is rare though, so your eyes should be safe enough most of the time.

Aperitivo turns hungry people into amici. All-you-can-eat buffets combined with a large cocktail for less than a tenner may not satisfy gourmet tastes – but saturated, slightly tipsy Erasmus students can be very entertaining nonetheless. Aperitivi are littered throughout the city and serve as a great place to start the evening on the right note and fill empty student stomachs.

Nothing is really that impossible. Looming deadlines, forms for everything, and the frequent mentioning of the phrase ‘this is not possible’ certainly confirm the stereotype of a bureaucratically gridlocked northern Italy. However, a bit of friendly discussion or suave persuasion can get you pretty far; and I have found myself being able to do the ‘impossible’ on quite a few occasions.

A class bigger than all of HSPFBAID. The Politecnico di Milano is a huge, internationally acclaimed university with a wide variety of subjects and ranks highly in each of its three core competencies (engineering, design and architecture). This excellence is especially palpable in the master’s courses, with highly competent professors working alongside innovative companies, creating demanding challenges students usually tackle in interdisciplinary and very international groups under quite a bit of pressure.

Those who seek will be rewarded. The best spots – pub, club, or otherwise – tend to be inconspicuous, semi-legal, or literal holes in the walls. Whether it’s Jazz evenings in dripping catacombs, Tech House in a renaissance atrium, a bar with menus illustrated à la mode d’Albert Uderzo (Astérix), or simply scrumptious pasta in what looks to be a retired bathroom, Milan offers many unique experiences for the open-minded and perpetually curious.

Watch your hands. The Italians I have met laugh at most of my jokes and are patiently turning me into a real Milanese, so I can’t help but love them. Milan is an impressively international city though, so you will meet people from all over the world to have a good time with. Mafia jokes are still risky, new swear words will never go out of fashion, but watch your gestures, as they can be seriously offensive.

Some quirks. For someone used to late Berlin evenings, Milan can take some getting used to, as everything starts and ends quite early. Also, do not take the night busses, they’re like a rolling rendition of Italian hit-series Gomorrah. If you ever find yourself tired of Milan (which is unlikely), just take a trip to the splendour offered by the city’s immediate surroundings.

I cannot stop recommending a semester abroad - whether it’s here, there, anywhere.