Surviving Italy

Before you leave
When you arrive
What you need to get your student Visa
Packing suggestions
Tips for using public transportation
Tips for using Google Maps in Milan
Directions to Statione Centrale(Central Station) from the main airports in Milan

Before you leave:

1) Get all the documents for your visa ASAP. This is important because I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare and ended up not being able to leave at the time I had originally intended because I couldn’t get my visa in time. Also the university is CLOSED in August, therefore it is nearly impossible to reach anyone at the university if you have a problem with your paperwork.To find out what you need to get your visa go to the what you need to get your study visa section

2) Book your residence ASAP. The spaces in the residences go fast and it is hard to find affordable housing outside the residences because Milan prices are out of control but the residences are subsidized by the government. If you want to learn more about the residences check out the residence section on the Eagles life page

3) Know what to pack. The study abroad office has a guide for this which is pretty comprehensive and has really good suggestions, but if you want to know some of the stuff that I learned specifically about what to bring for Poli Mi go to the Packing suggestions section. Also, one thing that is super important is to bring copies of ALL the paperwork you used to get your visa. They tell you to just bring the acceptance letter from Poli Mi, but you should bring all the paperwork because I had a problem getting my permisso sogiourno(residence permit) and they made me present all my original documents, which I didn’t bring to Italy with me because I didn’t think I needed it. Just bring it as a safety measure(especially your health insurance, acceptance letter and proof of funding).

4) Contact someone at your residence to let them know when you are coming. There is 24 security at Casa Della Studente and most of the residences but they CANNOT check you in. Only the residence director can do that and they do not work 24/7. In fact they only work from around 8:30am to 12 and then 2pm to 4pm. You also need to notify them so they can have your room prepared. I had to wait for 3 hours for my room to be cleaned and prepared with my luggage. Luckily there is a little waiting area with internet access so it wasn’t too bad, but after a 9 hour journey you really just want to be able to take nap and relax in your own space.

5) Get a good bank that doesn’t charge international withdrawal fees or a German Bank. Most banks will charge you a 2%-5% fee to withdraw fund from an ATM outside of the USA. This is on top of the exchange fee for converting from USD to Euros and can cost you a lot of money. I personally got a Schwab brokerage account which is linked to a checking account that allows you to withdraw funds from it in any country. You can get an Italian bank account but I didn’t because while I was in Milan the Italian banking system was not stable. If you are going to get a bank over here your best bet is a German bank, there are plenty of them here and they are very stable right now.

6) Get a good credit card that doesn’t charge international fees. Credit card companies pull the same things that banks do with their international policies. Capital One seems to be really the only company right now that doesn’t charge all sorts of absurd International fees and they have some really good options for students.

When you arrive:

1) Get money at the ATMs in the airport because they don’t usually charge fees and  you will need cash in your first couple weeks in Italy. There is going to be stuff you forgot that you will need to buy and credits cards are not accepted everywhere. Usually big chains(like Ikea and Carrefour and large supermarkets) do but small shops(kebab shops, pizza shops, Cartolerias, etc.), street vendors, and print shops do not. Also you will need cash for pretty much any form of transportation.

2) Take the bus to Statione Centrale(Central Station)When I arrived I was really disoriented, had two big heavy pieces of luggage as well as my carry-ons and I felt like no one spoke English and my Italian wasn’t good enough to communicate, so I took a cab to my residence. It was around 120 euros, which was half of the money I got out of the ATM at the airport. DO NOT DO THIS! If you are flying into Malpensa get instructions here. If you are flying into Linate get directions here. If you are flying into Orio get directions here. If you want to ask how to find the bus in Italian try saying, “Dove posso trovato l’autobus?” But make sure you also say, “Non parlo bene Italiano.” if you don’t know how to take directions in Italian because as soon as you say anything in Italian they assume you are fluent. But if you let them know you don’t understand they will usually help you or point you to someone who can.

3) Check in with your parents/ Let SOMEONE know you have arrived. If your mom is anything like mine she will want to know you have safely arrived and people at Drexel actually do care that you made it safely. This isn’t necessary, just nice. It is a good idea to go to the US embassy and announce that you are in Milan and will be there for however long so that they know you exist in case of any emergencies.(I didn’t actually do this because I was really overwhelmed when I first got to Italy, but it would probably have helped me to go there because the people there can probably help you avoid a lot of the Italian bureaucracy that exists.

4) Get a campus map. I have uploaded a file with my beat up map of the Leonardo campus, but you may want to get your own non-tattered, updated version. You can get them at the Infopoint, which is in Edificio 3(Building 1). This will be very useful and I did not have this for the first week or so I was in Milan which made finding classes and everything very difficult. Leonardo_map

5) Meet the EAGLEs program director at Poli Mi. When I was in the program this was Michela Gregori who has probably already been in contact with you if you have already been accepted to the program. She is awesome and will help you with registration and everything. But if you can’t meet her before you register you can go through the regular process.

6) Registering. Even though you have been accepted, you still have to register. Go to Edificio 22(Building 22). They only give out a certain number of tickets per day so get up early in get in line by 8am. You are going to have to wait for a while but at least you’ll get registered. Then you need to take a ticket for International Registration, someone there will be able to help you and will speak at least enough english to help you get your ticket. Then just wait until your number is called and the office will help you with everything.

7) Get your Permisso Sogiourno(Residence Permit). Yes this is required because you will be in the country for more than 6 months and yes it is a pain in the butt.

What you need to get your Student Visa:

I know the study abroad office will give you information on this, but there is stuff they leave out so here is some stuff I learned through my struggles with the Italian system. I hope everything goes much smoother for you than it did for me.

1) A valid U.S. Passport– This should be obvious but just in case make sure you have a valid passport that will stay valid while you are abroad(you will need to renew your passport if it expires anytime that you will be abroad because they won’t give you the visa unless your passport is valid for the entire time you need the visa for)

2) TWO ORIGINAL COPIES of the acceptance letter from Politecnico di Milano that MUST include:a) the EXACT dates that you will be studying at the university b) the EXACT name of the program you are accepted into(just saying you are accepted to the school WILL NOT WORK) c) it MUST indicate that you have housing through them or you must provide some other proof that you have housing, but I HIGHLY suggest you get housing through the university and that they write it on your letter d) the letter MUST  be in ITALIAN AND ENGLISH (trust me, this is why I did not get my visa in time)

3) A letter from Drexel that supplies any information not included in the letter from Politecnico di Milano such as the fact that you are indeed a student at Drexel who will be participating in a study abroad program and that you have a scholarship/ are financially supported, etc. This is pretty easy to obtain/change if needed because the study abroad office at Drexel is amazing and very helpful about this kind of stuff.

3) Proof of health insurance. If you have health insurance outside of Drexel the letter must include: a) that you are covered for up to $50,000 worth of health insurance while you are abroad 2) Must include the EXACT dates that you are covered(the Italians are real sticklers for this stuff I don’t know why, but even if your plan started 5 years ago and doesn’t end until you cancel it just put the exact date it started and have the company make up a date in the future that is after the time that you will be in Italy so they know for sure you are covered. This is super important) Probably the easiest thing is to just sign an affidavit of insurance which says you promise to buy health insurance in Italy and just buy PoliMi’s insurance plan.

4) Proof of financial support. If you get the EAGLES grant then have the study abroad office write that in your letter from them and get a letter from Drexel listing any other scholarships you have. If that doesn’t cover your living expenses you either need to have your parents sign an affidavit saying they’ll support you or get a signed letter from the bank stating that you have sufficient fund for the year. You should get them to say the exact amount you have in your account which must equal or be greater than 5400 euros. If you can have the bank write the amount in USD AND euros or you will need to provide something to show that the amount in USD equals or exceeds the amount needed in euros.(I used a print out of google currency converter and they accepted it)

5) Travel Itinerary– You MUST book a ROUNDTRIP flight. You have to prove that you  have a flight back in June or they will not give you the visa. If you book a refundable flight you can cancel it once you get to Italy and get a cheaper flight later.

Also, the study visa should be free, but if you want them to mail it to you, you have to bring a prepaid envelope and may have to pay. Either way you should be prepared to pay in CASH because the Italian visa office will not accept anything else and you don’t want to have to leave and get cash and wait another three hours just to pay for something. Trust me, even with an appointment you are going to wait for a long time so bring  book and clear your schedule. (This is true of any Italian office just FYI)

Packing Suggestions:

1) If you are living in Casa Dello Studente “Leonardo Da Vinci” (and all of the dorms that are not apartments) have a linen service so you don’t have to bring sheets or a pillow or a comforter. The apartments are very well heated and you can control the heat so don’t worry about blankets or anything. If you do need something Ikea is pretty easy to get to. If you need directions go to the Ikea directions section.

2) I brought mostly cold weather clothing when I came to Milan because people said it would be cold, but honestly the “winter” was 55 degrees Fahrenheit every day and it rare precipitates. We really only had two weeks of cold weather and the rest is pretty nice. So bring warm weather clothing and you can always buy stuff abroad if you forget something. But beware that Milan can be very expensive, but there are plenty of cheap little side stores that are fun to poke around in.

3) Peanut butter. I know it sounds ridiculous but it is very hard to find in Italy because they don’t really eat it, and when you do find it, it is expensive. It is one of the few foods I truly miss here because I am too lazy to walk an hour to the only grocery store where I have seen it and too cheap to pay the 5ish euros for a tiny container of it.

4) Writing utensils(pens especially). I know it sounds silly but believe it or not I somehow arrived in Italy without this stuff and needed to fill out a bunch of paperwork and had to steal a pen from the front desk of my building because I had trouble finding pens. If you do end up arriving without something to write with you can get pens in the grocery store(there is a Carrefour market(which is a chain of grocery stores in Italy) really close to campus and to casa della studente, or at a Cartoleria, which is a stationery shop.

5. Power Converters! Once you get to Europe it is hard to find converters so you can plug in your American appliances, and if you do they are very expensive. One thing I did not do that would have been very helpful is bring an american power strip and 1 converter so that you can convert the entire power strip. Also be very careful with some appliances where the power needs to be transformed, because in Europe they have 220 V power while in America we operate on 110V. This mostly applies to things like hair dryers and stuff and be careful because sometimes the transformers have a maximum operating time. I killed my alarm clock because I left it plugged in for a week and my transformer was only supposed to work for 2 hours or something.


Tips for taking public transportation

1) You can buy tickets in the metro from the automatic machines and in many of the stations there are little shops that sell tickets. Also many tabaccherias sell tickets as well. If you are going to be taking public transportation often you should apply for a student pass which is discounted.

2)  It is super important that you stamp your ticket on the bus or tram because there are controllers that walk through the buses/trams and check for stamped tickets and there is huge fine if you don’t have a stamped ticket. It doesn’t matter if you are in possession of a ticket, they don’t care, it needs to be stamped because it is not considered valid without the stamp. This is not really a problem in the metro because you can’t get into the metro without stamping your ticket.

3) In Milan there are a lot of metro systems strikes(usually on Fridays), so if you live  far away and rely on public transportation to get to classes you should always have an alternative route/pay attention to the Milan metro site(http://www.atm.it/it/Pagine/default.aspx) which publishes information about when the strikes will be occurring and what form of transportation they will affect.


Tips for using Google Maps in Milan

Google maps/directions are extremely well-developed and helpful in the USA and I use it all the time. However, it is not as well-developed yet in Europe. The driving directions are pretty good, but the public transportation directions are not really complete and the walking directions are basically just the driving directions so you have to pay attention and be careful when using them.

1) There are a lot of roundabouts in Milan and if you look at a street map, Milan looks like a crazy Spiderweb. . When Google directions says something like turn right onto Piazza 14 Novembre, turn left onto Piazza 14 Novembre,  turn right onto Piazza 14 Novembre, and then turn left on Viale Frisi, it is basically saying go around the roundabout until you find the street named Viale Frisi. So basically just walk around the roundabout and look for the street after the Piazza that you need to turn onto.

2) Milan is not a nice block system like New York or Philadelphia, so if you miss a turn you can’t count on just turning the same way at the next street because it may lead you in a completely different direction and not towards the next street you need to turn onto, so look at the map and make sure the streets you are turning onto connect to a street that will lead you in the right direction.

Directions to Statione Centrale(Central Station)from the main airports in Milan

Malpensa

Look for signs for the Malpensa Shuttle. I believe it is gate 4 and you can buy a ticket in a Hudsen news shop, or at the Malpensa Shuttle stations. The ticket is 7.50 euros. There is a train that goes to Centrale as well as other buses, but the Malpensa shuttle is the cheapest bus and I have been to the Malpensa airport many times and have still never found my way to the train, which either says it is hard to find or I am really special. Once you get to Centrale you can take a cab to your residence if you want(you will probably want to) and it should only be 20 euros maximum, but make sure you go to the cab stand to get a cab because sometimes random people will self appoint themselves cab drivers and  will charge you much more than the standard cab fare. If you are feeling up to it/didn’t bring a lot of luggage/are crazy you can look up walking directions on Google maps, but read my tips for using google maps before you do, or you can look up how to take public transportation on http://www.atm-mi.it/en/Pages/default.aspx. You may also want to check out my tips for taking public transportation.

Linate

There is supposedly a bus that goes directly from Linate to Statione Centrale(Central Station), but I’ve never actually found it and I’ve been to this airport multiple time while traveling around Europe. However, Bus 72 goes to San Babila where you can catch the metro(taking the Green M2 line) to Centrale or just take a cab to your residence. This will probably be a 15-30 euro cab ride, however the bus ticket is cheap(2 euros) and if you have a lot of baggage it is worth spending the money to avoid dragging large bag on an overcrowded metro car or bus. If you do want to take public transportation this site can help you figure out which line/bus you need to take  http://www.atm-mi.it/en/Pages/default.aspx. You may want to check out my tips for taking public transportation. If you live close to San Babila you could also walk and use Google maps to find your way. If you do this check out my tips for using google maps before you do. I would suggest flying into Malpensa when you are coming from America because it will be easier to get to your residence from Malpensa especially if you have to drag a bunch of bags with you. However, this airport is fine if you are just traveling around Europe.

Orio

I have never actually visited this airport but I do know that there are several buses that go directly from Orio to Statione Centrale so try to find one. I think the fare is around 7.50 euros but it may be a little more expensive because I think it’s further away from Centrale. Once you get to Centrale you can take a cab to your residence if you want(you will probably want to) and it should only be 20 euros maximum, but make sure you go to the cab stand to get a cab because sometimes random people will self appoint themselves cab drivers and  will charge you much more than the standard cab fare. If you are feeling up to it/didn’t bring a lot of luggage/are crazy you can look up walking directions on Google maps, but read my tips for using google maps before you do, or you can look up how to take public transportation on http://www.atm-mi.it/en/Pages/default.aspx. You may also want to check out my tips for taking public transportation.

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