The Definitive Guide: Exchange Students in Milan

Well done! If you’re reading this you are about to embark on one of the greatest journeys of your life, it won’t be easy or fun all the time but I guarantee once you settle in you’ll have the opportunity to create memories and friendships to last a lifetime. I’ll admit it, when I first moved to Milan I really didn’t like it AT ALL. I didn’t understand certain behaviours and actions, I didn’t understand the weather (which when I arrived was really cold!!), I didn’t really get why everyone wanted to eat so late but as time went on I was able to learn and grow and most importantly ADAPT to my new home. My guide is a compilation of important tidbits I learnt through my own experiences, some “boring” information that is essential to your survival and a few tips from exchange friends.

So let’s get started, andiamo!

Exchange Semester Dates (Subject and Semester Calendar)

Yes quite a boring and obvious one but a critical tip nonetheless is to check your semester calendar! During my exchange I had about a three week mid-semester break, which is the perfect time to plan a trip with friends! I was able to visit Budapest, Vienna and Prague during that time but I know other people who went to around six different cities; so use your time wisely because the semester flashes by in the blink of an eye!

I also had a few friends who spent a lot of time planning their class timetables so they only had two days of class per week meaning much more travel time. If this is something you’d be interested in then remember that classes are enrolled according to a first-come first-serve basis so be quick, especially for the more popular subjects such as finance and fashion management.

Attendance, Grades and Exams 

Attendance for some classes is compulsory and they are pretty serious if it is. In one of my classes we had to log in to register attendance, with the professor then conducting a random audit by calling out names to ensure the people were actually in class and it wasn’t just your mate registering for you. For undergraduates the attendance doesn’t seem to be as strict however and you can also be a “non-attending student”, which means you take a different assessment to the “attending students” with your course work based on a textbook or readings rather than in-class materials.

The grading scale at Bocconi is from 18-30 with 18 = fail and 30 = well done yo! Depending on your partner institution you may need all passes or an average score but speak with them about this before you land yourself in hot water by not getting the minimum grade required. In terms of exams there are a couple of rounds and I believe you can select which one you would prefer to sit, so maybe you found a subject difficult and need extra time to prepare – if that’s the case then sit the next round. I personally took first round exams because I wanted to be done so I could travel! Speak with your professor or International Student Desk (ISD) about this for further info.


I ended up at the Dubini Residenza for my exchange, which mainly houses local Italian students. I loved the dorm experience, however I would say that if you were wanting to be closer to the Duomo “city centre” then I would recommend finding a private solution. There are a number of Facebook pages, independent sites and university housing boards you can check out but be aware and use common sense at all times. Here’s a suggestion my friend made before I embarked on exchange:

okay so firstly, this fb page is good for getting a bit of context on housing. there are a few other facebook pages too, so have a look around.

here’s another one: and kijiji are apparently good ones

It could be worth sending a few fb emails around, and just watching those pages generally as they might give you external leads. As I said, be super careful on there though. Another word of warning is that some places could charge you an exorbitant bond fee, then not give it back to you. 

In general, it’s pretty busy out there. My housemate put up an ad for her house and was getting messages within the day.

First thing I did when I got here (i was pretty early) was to text a million people, regardless of how good the place was. Just scattergun it and see what happens, cause odds are you won’t get a huge amount of responses.

Send texts and stuff (or email) in Italian if you can, wait til they reply and then test the waters with English later, cause that gets you a foot in the door.

Re prices, it really depends a lot. I know people who got extremely lucky and are paying 500 for amazing places, and I also know people who are paying like 700 for places that aren’t so nice. If you find a place that you really like, it’s probably worth just locking it in, but that’s just some context. Also, of course you’ll be paying a premium if you wanna live by yourself.

I got pretty lucky, and so did most of my mates (partly because in august everyone goes on holidays so it’s less busy, but yeah).

Student Visa and Codice Fiscale 

As a non-EU student you will need to apply for your permit of stay within 8 days of  your arrival, you’ll receive plenty of information about this when you get there but please do be aware that the cost was around €150. I had no idea until I got there that I needed to do this and quite a few people were also in the same boat. I have some friends who never completed their permit of stay and seemed to be okay but if you want to be on the safe side then just do it and have peace of mind.

I never got a tax code because I wasn’t living in private accommodation but for those students it will be necessary. You can also use the tax code for other purposes (renting local car share services in Milan) but as I didn’t have one i’m not entirely sure of all the benefits that come with it! So if you need more information regarding this speak to your local ISD office.

Bank Account and Phone Plan 

I opted for Wind when I first arrived in Milan as it was the prepaid plan that gave me the most data for the lowest cost. Most Italian students told me that the providers had more or less the same service reach and cost so I just went with it. I know some friends who went on other provider plans and got free Spotify premium and other services so if that’s something you would be interested in then by all means have a look around.

I never opened a bank account as I used my Travel Money Card most of the time. However for convenience you might want to consider opening a bank account as you won’t be charged ATM fees for withdrawals from that bank, which might be worth it (you will need a tax code if you wish to do this). It was a bit of a pain keeping an eye on exchange rates and in hindsight I should have transferred more cash over when the rate was better, however the fluctuating AUD made it a lot harder for me to know when exactly that would be – so just be mindful of this!

Public Transportation 

I wasn’t sure whether I would need an ATM card but given I spent a lot of time in Milan and I wasn’t exactly walking distance to the city centre and other areas I did finally get one. It was worth it for me but if you prefer to bike or if you live closer in then perhaps you could get away with walking/biking/bike hire. See how you go in the first week but it might be more economical to have the ATM card over single ticket purchases, which can add up! I also had friends who didn’t spend too much time in Milan as they were constantly traveling and they found it easier just to buy single tickets (these can be purchase at metro stations and tabacherias – tobacco shops). I would recommend having a couple spare as it’s not always easy to find one open during the night.

P.s. at the start of every month there are a lot of public transport officers looking to fine people – be aware!

Going Out 

There are plenty of university events happening in Milan and the deals you get with ESN are really very good. I would recommend starting off with these to meet people then branching off to venues with a scene that you prefer (maybe you like hip hop or rock?). During the colder months you might want to take advantage of the cloakroom as it isn’t always safe to leave your stuff lying around in Milan. My housemate had her jacket stolen as did another friend (his wallet was in there…) – so just be mindful, it might be worth spending a little extra to keep your stuff safe. In terms of heading home I would recommend either taking a night bus with friends or just sharing a cab. A lot of people would share cabs back to Bocconi then walk home from there. Some cool clubs to check out are Dirty Monday’s (thought a bit hit and miss sometimes), Cavalli, Le Banque, Old Fashioned and Gattapardo but once you get there you’ll realise there is plenty of choice for nightlife.

Food and Shopping 

Check out my guides for these here:

Theft and Insurance 

It’s not hard to deny that Milan has a huge pick-pocket problem. Unfortunately I had my phone stolen whilst I was at university, happened right in front of my eyes! I would recommend googling common scams just so you’re aware of what is happening if someone does come up to you. Often times we try to be helpful or avoid being rude and it can really backfire, so informing yourself can really help you to avoid having valuables stolen. Another important thing to do is check your insurance policy– how much are you covered for? Are phones covered? Insurance companies are now removing cover for mobile phones as they tend to be stolen so often so make sure it’s on there! Also check your excess amount, how much will you need to fork out before you can even claim anything? I know reading fine print is annoying but having worked at a bank let me tell you DO IT, it is SO important.

Cultural Notes 

1. When you order a coffee you’ll need to take your receipt and hand it over to the barista at the bar (bar means cafe), you’ll probably need to repeat your coffee order to them – most people have their coffee at the bar standing and in the morning they will pair this with either a brioche (croissant) or some other pastry.

2. Don’t stress if people push past or bump into you at the supermarket – it’s just something I got used to and after a while I stopped apologising every time it happened. I don’t know why everyone does this but they do, if you know why I would love to hear from you!

3. People try to push in… a lot! Every time I went to self check-out there would always be some guy who thought he could start his own line, at first I didn’t say anything but the only person losing out was me. So I started saying the back of the line was there and most people respected this. Always be polite, rudeness gets you nowhere in Italy.

4. Parking on the sidewalk? On the tram tracks? What of it? I actually wanted to start a hashtag #italianparking because the sheer amount of times i saw the most “creative” forms of parking was A LOT.

5. A pedestrian crossing might seem dangerous when cars don’t give way to you right? But the thing I found was if i just walked out with confidence then they stopped but please use caution, i’m not suggesting you run out without looking but instead learn over time that you need to be confident to cross. I found this wasn’t a good option when I went to Naples as you might get run over (I saw two tourists get clipped by cars…).

I hope these hints and tips have been helpful! I would love to hear from you if you have any other questions, I’m always keen to learn more about other peoples adventures. Until next time, ciao ragazzi!


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