The aim of this project is to explore the similarities and differences between the lives of foreign students who come to Milan from around the world: Can Italy can become their new home? How so?

All international students share similar goals: to move forward in their lives through establishing a career.

I met ten young students who currently live in Milan: Daniel from Colombia, Elvis from Russia, Illy from Israel, Jingyi from China, Lavanya from India, Magdalena from Macedonia, Olga from Spain, Phil from South Africa, Vincent from Canada and Yasser from Egypt. 

Despite choosing people from such a diverse selection of nationalities, I often found stark similarities everywhere I went.

Their home - be it an apartment, a room or even a hut - is as universal as their goals and proves that universality is gained through cultural and intellectual enrichment.

Their everyday life is a representation of those goals and, in some cases, also an ode to the sacrifices they have made in order to achieve these goals.

For each person I photographed, I also asked them to answer a few important questions. So they shared with me their feelings as young men and women as well as their hopes and their aspirations:

Why choose Milan?
Was and is it easy as foreigner to live in this city?
What do you wish for your future?

Elvis Karavianskii

Birth place: Minsk, Belarus
Age: 25
Typeof study: Architecture Bachelor Degree

  • Why Milan?
    I'm in Milan because I love this city. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it, about 3 years ago. I appreciate that it's clean and well organised, the public transport works well, the scarce presence of greenery (for me it's a positive.. greenery is beautiful but not when there is too much of it!). I like that it's city you can walk in, hence it's great for pedestrians. To sum it up it's difficult to explain the "why". It's more about how the city makes me feel, its vibe. I decided to enroll at the Politecnico di Milano in the Architecture faculty as I my high school studies were oriented towards the field.
  • In your opinion, is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    The main problem is the language. Those who do not know how to speak Italian well yet, cannot communicate with the people in the city. It is not simply a matter of talking to friends and classmates but above all the possibility of resolving problems at an administrative level. Older generation Italians tend to speak very little English. Apart from this I am convinced that the city offers many opportunities even though  sometimes the paperwork and the process of obtaining a visa ( particularly for someone who is not from the EU) can be exhausting.
  • What do you wish for your future?
  • In the future, after graduating, I would like to gain some amount of work perience and become a freelancer, but I'm not sure if this will happen in Milan. 

Magdalena Grdanoska

Birth Place: Skopje, Macedonia
Age: 27
Typeof study: Communication Sciences

  • Why Milan?
    I wanted to study in an Italian speaking country (Italy or Switzerland) since I already knew the language. My first idea was to study in Bologna, but I received a scholarship from the Cattolica University. Honestly, I was very happy with this opportunity, Milan is the financial center of Italy and therefore rich with opportunities. Today “all roads lead to Milan”..
  • In your opinion is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    It depends on many factors; for me it was not. There are many bureaucratic problems, difficulties in finding apartments, and it's hard to find a job... Unfortunately the cause of many of these issues is a (European) mental closure towards foreigners. Many Italians would say that they tend to be welcoming, but at the end of the day I don't know. Despite this, as soon as I found supportive people, I was able to cultivate beautiful friendships. A strong point of Italy I think is the health system. If I had been elsewhere I would have found myself in a very difficult situation at certain points in time where my health was in question.
  • What do you want for the future?
    I would like to move to another country (I hope for "good") or at least travel much more. I hope to find a job that gives me intellectual gratification, or maybe even start a doctorate. I am optimistic and open to new opportunities. 

Olga Leyva Gutiérrez

Birthplace: Granada, Spain
Age: 22
Typeof study: Fine Arts

  • Why Milan?
    I have always thought that the Heart of Art continues to exist where it was born .. This is why I have always dreamed of studying for a period of my life in Italy. In the beginning I had no certain program, but time gave me the answer. Coming to Milan was also a way to shorten the distance between me and a very important person to me. In short, a new beginning for different aspects of my life.
  • In your opinion is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    I must recognize that, in my case, love called me first of all; the University, the beauty and magic of this city came later. I believe it is a city rich in art, wherever you go you can find cultural and artistic heritage. For this reason, I believe Milan can offer a lot and is particularly motivating for students who cultivate an interest in this area.
  • What do you wish for your future?
    I have not yet decided what I would like to do in the future but I am sure that it will be something inherent in the artistic sphere. This awareness within me has strengthened more and more in the last period, and I am sure that art will always be an essential aspect in my life.

Vincent Wanie

Birthplace: Chicoutimi, Canada
Age: 28
Type of study: Physics

  • Why Milan?
    Ever since I was a child, Italy has always fascinated me. Thanks to my university, I had the opportunity to do a Doctorate through an international collaboration. In my field of study, there is a very strong research group at the Polytechnic  University of Milan. I have come to work with them to acquire knowledge that is not available in my country.
  • In your opinion is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    I do not think so. If you don't speak Italian, it's a problem. English is not widely used here. However, in the end it helped me learn the language. When you are really integrated, Milan is a good city to live in. 
  • What do you wish for your future?
    I  want to continue traveling and meet people who come from different countries as I have been doing since I arrived in Italy. I hope to continue doing research and find a place in the academic field. 

Lavanya Thakur 

Birthplace: Faridabad, India
Age: 27
Typeof study: Graduate Electronics & Communication Engineering / Master in Fashion product & Production management.

  • Why Milan?
    After completing my graduation in electronics and communication engineering in India, I found myself unhappy and unsatisfied thinking about a life as an engineer. I had always dreamt to work for Fashion but coming from a country like India, an industry like Fashion is not very well received. Of course, Fashion is becoming a booming sector but it would still take a while before it could be taken as seriously as Engineering, Medicine or Accounting. Therefore, I took the step to search for a course outside India. I looked for a suitable course and it happened to be only in London and Milan campus. I wanted to really step outside my comfort zone. I wanted to experience a new culture, learn a new language, try a different cuisine. And what is a better place to do all of that than Italy – the Fashion capital, the land of delicious food and quality wine.
  • In your opinion is it easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    Well, it takes a while to get used to it. It is beautiful that this country has preserved its culture and language but as a foreigner it isn’t very easy to learn a language in a very short span of time. I was lucky as I had taken a few lessons before coming to Milan and could make my way though in the first few days. Now, I speak Italian so I am much more comfortable. Even though I haven’t perfected the language I can see an immediate change in behaviour as soon as I attempt to speak. I could not imagine how it would be living here without speaking Italian.
  • What do you wish for your future?I’m working now so I really hope to stay for another couple of years and then see how things happen for me. I wish for a lot of cosy dinners with friends, more wine, more travel and more laughter.

Daniel Arturo Malaver Bogotá

Birth place: Bogotá, Colombia
Age: 26
Typeof study: Industrial Design

  • Why Milan?
    Why Milan... it's a difficult question. When I was in Colombia the only thing that I knew is that I wanted to go abroad to gain life experience, but why Milan? It wasn't about the city, it sounds dramatic but I'm sure it was sort of destiny, like I was just meant to behere. I just acted you know, after I took some decisions and made the arrangements.
    Trust me, I am not a complicated person, I chose a place where I thought my student profile would be accepted, maybe the thing that help me to take the right decition was that I wanted to learn more about the Italian culture and learn the language. Moreover, I am a Designer and Milan is known in the world as a great spot for this profession.But the truth is, that I feel that I'm in the right place at the right moment.
  • In your opinion, is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    Really easy, I think.. Milan received me with open hands.
    The transport, the people, the many opportunities that you can find. As a foreigner, in just one word, “amazing”.
    Maybe the only negative thing is the cost of lifing, but to live in a good place is never cheap. However this is not a problem when you learn how to manage your expenses, and it is all a part of the experience.
  • What do you wish for your future?
    Another difficult question! Let's see... I really don't like to think about that, about the future in right now. Let's just enjoy the present moment.

Jingyi Guo

Birthplace: Guangzhou, China
Age: 25
Type of study: Master Degree, Architecture

  • Why Milan?Generally, for studying architecture Milan is be a good choice, as it is a country full of history and art. And Italy also has a lot of stories of great people and their inspirational work. It's an inspiring place. Besides, for a Non-EU student, being here means that it's easier to travel around Europe. I hope I could see more of the world while I still can.
  • In you opinion is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    I'm an easy-going person, and Milan is a metropolitan with well-developed transportation and other facilities, so for me it's easy to live here. The big international events which show up in Milan are also great! A lot of people turn upto to these events contruting to the multi-facetedness of the city. And I love the mountains and lakes around Milan! Super nice places to relax!
  • What do you wish for your future?The thorn bird hasn't found its tree yet. For sure I love my country and home but I also love staying in foreign countries, and this exciting country gives me a lot surprises. I hope I will still keep a flexible mind, to explore more and fulfill my goal. And I will still love the people who I love and who care about me. 

Yasser Imam

Birth place: Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Age: 26
Type of study: Architecture, Urban Planning and Construction Engineering

  • Why Milan?
    For me, maybe it’s a different situation than others, I didn’t choose Milan, Milan choose me, I wanted to escape my country because of the current political and economic situation, I started to search for universities all around the world, I started to apply for universities everywhere. It was already September and I wanted to be out by March! I was lucky, I found Politecnico di Milano, a well known university specially in my line of studies, that accepts students for the spring semester, not like too many universities that only accept students from September. It was the perfect choice in a beautiful country like Italy. So I applied, I got accepted and now I’m here.
  • In you opinion is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    Milan in my opinion is a beautiful city but it can be more beautiful as it’s really hard to survive in because of the language. Not too many people can communicate with foreigners in English and the cost of living is high unlike like many other countries. Even though Italy has major economic problems, despite prices being high compared to other countries, like say  Germany, with a better economic situation, when you look at everything else Milan is a perfect city to live in also because it’s close to France and Switzerland.  The night life is also one of the best in europe.
  • What do you wish for your future?
    I wish I can learn Italian fast so I can find a job in Milan or Italy in general, as I wish I will live in the beautiful country for a long time and achieve my career aspirations, and maybe I will get married here one day, who knows? 

Phil Kolevsohn

Birth place: Cape Town, South Africa
Age: 25
Type of study: Master of Science in Architecture (MScArch)

  • Why Milan?
    I had recently graduated from architecture school in Cape Town and had 3 friends from the year above me in school who were studying in Milan. They had told me stories of the intercultural opportunities and relationships they had built with people from all over the world, one aspect which really excites me. I have always wanted to live and spend time in Europe, so thought it would be a good opportunity if I could make it happen. Milan, being the centre of design and a leading city in the field of architecture, seemed to be the perfect city to continue and finish my studies, while providing a base from where I could further explore the European continent.
  • In your opinion is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    As a foreigner I have found that Milan really does provide endless opportunities in all facets of life. The city is extremely central in a European context, making travel very convenient. The city is quite expensive, but the standard of living is quite high, with really good infrastructural resources in place, making living and navigating within the city much easier. Everything is really accessible, especially for students, making living in the city a pleasure.
  • What do you wish for your future?
    Unfortunately, being in an extremely competitive and overpopulated profession, I don’t see a very long future for myself in Milan, at least not from a professional perspective. I would, however, like to continue living in Europe, enjoying the quality of life, vast exposure to recognised examples of architecture and potentially gain experience in the professional realm while continuing to enjoy visiting the extremely rich and diverse European cities and landscapes.    

Illy Cohen

Birth place: Israel
Age: 25
Type of study: Political science

  • Why Milan?
    I wanted to study abroad and a friend suggested that I go to Milan. I had never been there, and it always seemed like a lively and interesting city. Now I can say that I'm happy with my choice!
  • In your opinion is easy for a foreigner to live in this city?
    In general, yes, it is a highly developed and modern city. Many international and Italian people who speak English live there (however you still need to learn Italian because in some places it is the only way to communicate). Since it's a fairly international city, you can find pretty much everything you need, which makes it easier for foreigners.
  • What do you wish for your future?
    I would like to continue this wonderful adventure which is living abroad, finding love and being professionally successful. 
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