Day 1 The Arrival: Critical Thinking
As I departed California, I knew it would be a fascinating experience full of different adventures. However, I was not expecting to have such an eventful first week. I landed in Milan early in the morning, so I had more than enough time to get home before it got dark. Most people I know that study abroad have their ride ready to pick them up from the airport and take them to their apartment, but I decided to find transportation the day I landed. My first test started immediately after I got past customs, can I get around the train station without getting lost or doing something wrong. Fortunately, I didn’t get lost and I didn’t do anything that would warrant a ticket from the train officers. At that moment I was extremely grateful that my Italian teacher in high school taught us about public transportation in Italy, and the rules for purchasing a ticket.
There isn’t much to say about my arrival, it was all smooth sailing (but it was really hot that day, so I was sweating a lot). Once I arrived at the apartment, I had to keep myself awake. I didn’t want to experience any jet lag at all, my body and my inner clock were telling me it was time to sleep, but I knew that if I did then I would mess up my schedule and not be able to properly sleep for probably a week. As you can imagine, I went to the closest coffee shop and order an espresso, that sure did help. As I said, my first day mostly consisted of keeping myself awake until my roommate arrived and we could go eat dinner.
Day 3 A Tourist Experience Gone Wrong: Problem Solving
All these things are nice to know, but I must address the biggest challenged I have faced so far; getting lost in a foreign country. On the 3 day of my stay, we decided to head down to the Duomo of Milano to see the beautiful cathedral that every tourist takes a picture at when they visit Milan. Getting to the cathedral was very easy since we have the tram station 3 minutes away from our apartment, the real problem started when we decided it was time to come back home. We bought out one-way ticket and waited at the tram stop, we were hoping it would arrive quickly since it was starting to rain. Lucky for us as soon as the first drops of rain fell, the tram had arrived. We validated our ticket and sat down near the window, so we could see the city as we traveled back.
It is a fortunate thing that I have the habit of looking out the window and looking at all the shops we pass by, because as we were traveling down the tracks I noticed none of these streets looked like they did when we went to the Duomo. Like the millennial I am I took my phone out and checked Google Maps. Of course, we were doing the total opposite direction our apartment is. I immediately tell my roommate and we both agree to get off at the next stop. We looked around and decided to regroup in a little bar (bar is what Italians call their coffee shops, I know it’s a little confusing). We looked up directions to get home using public transportation and it kept telling us to get back to the Duomo and then take the proper tram home.
Sounds like an easy solution, just get back on the tram going the other way, it wasn’t that easy. The pass we had purchased was only for one trip one-way, we couldn’t simply get on the other tram and go back to the Duomo, we had to purchase a whole new ticket and validate that in the tram inside. Luckily, we had read earlier that day that we did not need to go to a station to buy tickets, since several bars and newsstands sold them. Great! Now all we had to do was look for a place that sells them. Well, in Italy, August is the month of vacationing. Italians have a celebration called Ferragosto and it is know that much of Italy stops their normal scheduling and normal hours due to this celebration.
Just our luck, none of the bars near us were open or sold the tickets. So, we were stranded in the opposite end of where we had to be. We had no other choice to but to walk. We didn’t want to get even more lost, so I was quick to remember what my high school Italian teacher told us to do anytime we got lost in Italy, follow the tracks. I made us walk back to the tram tracks and follow them along the sidewalk. Google Maps was trying to lead us into “shortcuts”, but they looked dark and really secluded, so I insisted we follow the track even if it’s longer. We walked for almost 40 minutes in the dark, but we found a beautiful museum that is the home of the Last Supper by Leonardo DaVinci. We couldn’t go in since it was closed, but even seeing the outside of that building was breathtaking. Once we finally saw the beautiful Duomo again we felt like we could breath. Luckily the main metro station was right there so we didn’t have to worry about finding a shop.
We got our ticket, boarded the correct tram and took a deep breath. I knew coming to a new city I would have to learn how to get around using public transportation, and it was inevitable that I would get lost at some point. However, getting lost wasn’t as horrible of an experience as I thought it would be, we got to discover beautiful places and saw some magnificent things we would have not seen otherwise. We even found a nice movie theater with really reasonable prices. It was scary at first, but that fear went away quickly because I knew what to do. I knew it was safest to follow the tracks and get to familiar grounds than to try to find shortcuts.
This first week has proven to be exciting, and I have so much more share about this week alone! However, this post is already really long, and I wanted to address how I adjusted to public transportation. After this scare, I feel much more comfortable using public transportation, because no matter where I go, I know tram 3 and 15 take me home.