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To Milan and Back - Andiamo!

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October and autumn had come, and it was finally time for a bunch of us IEGS students to indulge in a one-week exchange to Milan. The anticipation had been building up gradually over a long period, and - needless to say - the expectations were doubtlessly met.

To go on an exchange is a unique experience. What distinguishes it from a stereotypical five-star-hotel vacation is the opportunity to truly get a taste of the lives of the locals, as a family is hosting one. This forces anybody out of their comfort-zone, whether they like it or not, and gives a more truthful and accurate picture of the area that is being visited.

Fortunately, the Italian custom, generally speaking, was far from an unpleasant zone to find oneself in. What seemed like never-ending different types of pasta, exquisite risottos, and bulks of parmesan cheese (not to mention the trademark Milanese Spontini-pizza and Panzerotti Luini) caused mouth-watering on more than one occasion.

The formal purpose of the trip was to pay a visit the renowned Food Exposition, which this year went by the somewhat banal motto, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” 145 countries participated by constructing their own characteristic pavilions, in order to represent their country in the best possible manner. As tiring it was exploring the gigantic Expo (the area occupied an astonishing 15 kilometers), the reward was substantially greater; being able to take part of such a wide range of cultures condensed into a single space was educational beyond sitting behind a classroom desk taking notes on how integration is beneficial for societal structures.

As active and practical as the journey may have been, bits of it were spent joining our hosts in their classes at Liceo Classico Cesare Beccaria, one of the most academically challenging schools in Milan, according to its students. Classes varied from ancient Greek and Latin to Italian literature, in which lectures were held on topics ranging from (supposedly) rudimentary grammar to Machiavellian politics. A new and unusual academic environment, least to say. In addition to these classes, lectures were held on the philosophy of food. This genuinely made one to contemplate the importance of food’s impact on our daily lives - what weight does eating and socializing carry in contemporary ideology? Is it worth discussing? Why, or why not?

Entering the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie to gaze at Leonardo da Vinci’s fastidiously painted The Last Supper or being constantly met by formidable cultural monuments spread around the city were uncanny experiences indeed, but they were not the ones that characterized the essence of the journey… to break bread with people one has just met; to laugh over communicative misunderstandings; and to share world-views. These were the variables that made this exchange as uniquely enjoyable as it was.

Grazie mille, Milano! Payam Masarrat, NV3E

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