First Impressions Are Often Entirely Wrong—First Days in Milan
I’m going to be perfectly honest here; my first two days in Milan were a certifiable disaster.
When I say disaster, I mean an eight on the Richter Scale. That’s enough to level a city. Why was it so insufferable? Let’s just say that nothing ever goes the way you plan it. Don’t worry, Milan has been amazing, and I love it here. However, sometimes, you just have a day that’s way too chaotic and where way too many things go wrong. Here’s the story of that day, co-starring jetlag and unreliable flight times.
On the flight to Milan, I was in total bliss. My choice of flight couldn’t have been better. I took Emirates airlines, which was a cheap, cheap flight. I highly recommend you fly Emirates if you can—they were great. I flew out on Super Bowl Sunday, something I relished, considering I don’t care much for sports. Due to this, the plane was almost empty. I read, I slept a bit, I ate two whole meals. When I got off the plane to arrive in Italy, I was still in that state of bliss. I walked through security casually, quickly realized every single person was speaking Italian—a language I only knew a bit of—and smiled, because, after all, that was what I came to Italy for. It was 10AM, and I had a whole day in Italy ahead of me.
I walked out into the airport lobby with my two large suitcases and realized my plane arrived two hours early, something which is usually a welcome surprise, but, when you’re getting picked up by a car service at a specific time, is a nightmare. I couldn’t think of what to do. I had no phone, barely any euro, and nothing to go on. I tried using my debit card to payphone the school, but the operator thought I was committing identity theft. I wandered the airport for a while, failing to get wifi, and, as luck would have it, found some kids who had suitcases even larger than mine.
While I am horrible at breaking into a conversation, eventually we realized we all were going to the same school. Luckily, the car service was picking up another group of kids, and I was able to tag along, after about an hour or airport wandering. Stepping outside, I quickly found it was pouring rain. Another damper on the day, with many yet to come. We were on our way to Milan though, which was a fifty minute car ride from the airport. I bonded with a few foreigners in the car with me, though, which was the saving grace of the journey. I wasn’t even in Milan yet, and I had met an Italian, an Australian, a German, and a kid from Holland. They were all very nice, and we discussed the differences between our countries and schooling systems.
Arriving in Milan finally, I was taken aback by the scope of the city. It was like New York City, but somehow, more magical. I know that sounds way too saccharine, but it’s the honest truth. I had dreamed of traveling to Italy for basically my whole life. It had finally come true. Through all the twists and turns, I was in Italy. I was in Europe for the first time, the first of many times I hoped I would get to visit Europe in my lifetime. The beginning of a great four months, and the beginning of a beautiful, life changing experience.
Before I could get to that experience though, I needed to get to my apartment. Which seemed so simple, but was excruciatingly complicated. First, I was chauffeured around Milan with the other three kids, as we brought them each to their respective apartments. This took two and a half hours. While it was nice to see some sights of Milan, it was painful to not be able to leave that car. I was then brought to my school’s headquarters, as the car service did not have the keys for my apartment with them, since I had arrived so early. I then had to wait in a dimly lit room at the school for two hours while the car service did their rounds, then came back to pick me up again.
By this point, jetlag had hit me severely. It’s like that crashing feeling you get around the middle of the day when your coffee has run out and you’ve just eaten lunch, except worse. I felt like crumbling into a pile on the unswept floor. My knight in shining armor, Mattia (who would go on to become my first Italian friend—more on that later) helped me carry my bags downstairs and helped load my luggage into the car to finally go to my apartment. After another hour and a half or so of driving around Milan, dropping everyone else off, I finally made it into my apartment, at 6PM, eight hours after I had landed in Italy. I thought this was the end of my suffering. Oh, how wrong I was.
I had chosen an apartment with two single rooms, and one shared room, in hopes that I would get my own room—a treasure for an avid recluse reader/writer like myself. I found I was the last to arrive, and was paired up with a roommate in the double room. I couldn’t deal with my disappointment. I declined going out to dinner, and passed out in my bed from jetlag. I was too annoyed. Little did I know, I’d become amazing friends with my roommate, Sean. Once again, more on that later.
I woke up three hours later, confused. I hadn’t eaten all day, and had no food. I left the apartment to find some food, knowing that my search would be futile—in Europe, most places close after or around 9 o’clock. By sheer luck, I found an asian grocery and a vending machine, which provided me with a soda, a bag of chips, and some ramen. The finest Italian cuisine I could find. I tried to shovel the food into my face, but jetlag messes with your metabolism. I passed out again.
Waking up at 5AM (once again due to jetlag) I was ready to go to our orientation. Getting to orientation was simple, and it was nice to finally traverse the city. I was in awe at the architecture of my school, and the architecture surrounding it. Once again, I felt like a newbie freshmen, just floating around being nice to people in hopes that we would stay friends. It was exciting, yet nerve-wracking. The orientation was typical, but the true torture came in the form of sitting in an auditorium, waiting for my name to be called for an Italian language assessment. Two hours later, I went up, and embarrassed myself as memory loss brought on by jetlag caused me to forget any and all things I knew about the Italian language. I went home, defeated and sleepy. I napped, right before telling Sean to wake me up for that night’s dinner—I wasn’t going to sleep through the fun again.
That night was when my experience in Milan turned around completely, one hundred and eighty degrees. We went out to an authentic Italian pizza place with a bunch of locals, including the aforementioned Mattia. There were two types of water (natural and frizzante), two giant carafes of white and red wine, and of course, pizza. I actually got a calzone, which was basically just a prosciutto pizza flipped in half, but I got to try a bit of a few different kinds of pizza, and let me tell you—the pizza in Italy makes me never want to have American pizza again. The dough was fresh, the tomato sauce was sweet, the cheese was strong, and the prosciutto was to die for. The night was perfect. We bookended our meal with some espresso, and I went home completely satisfied, knowing that, while sometimes a landing can be chaotic, once you’ve caught your balance, all it takes is a good slice of pizza and a cup of espresso to let you know that you’ve made the right choice.