Student Perspective: Università Bocconi, Milan

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to study abroad at Bocconi in Milan, Italy. I knew that I wanted to study in Italy because I was minoring in Italian and really looked forward to finally visiting Italy and practicing the language. I picked Bocconi in particular because it is a “Wharton approved” study abroad opportunity meaning that they offered classes that I could count towards my Business Breadths in Wharton.

How were classes different from classes at Penn?

The largest difference between Bocconi classes and Penn classes is the grading structure. Rather than multiple graded assignments and projects throughout the semester, most classes had 1 or 2 exams that counted for all of my grade. I found that this new grading structure actually helped me to learn to study more frequently and consistently for classes because I wasn’t waiting till the next quiz or test!

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you arrived? How did you handle that?

The hardest adjustment I had to make was definitely figuring out how to meet other students at Bocconi. Unlike Penn, there was a lot less emphasis on clubs and events outside of classes that might have helped me meet people. To adapt and meet friends, I went on a few day trips that were being organized in the exchange student group chat. I was very lucky and met two great friends that I traveled with the rest of the semester and still speak to now!

What were some of the extracurricular activities that you engaged in while abroad?

At Bocconi, I found that there wasn’t a large emphasis on being involved in extracurriculars outside of class. However, this was a nice change of pace from Penn and it gave me the freedom to explore the city and travel in my free time.

What surprised you the most about your study abroad experience?

I was very surprised by the two incredibly close friends that I met while studying abroad. I knew that I would meet new friends but I did not expect how close we would become. We spent the whole semester traveling together and making dinner together during the week. Now, we have so many great stories now and visit each other whenever we can!

What is your favorite moment or memory from your time abroad?

My favorite memory from studying abroad was a day from one of our last weeks in Italy. The weather was really great and my friends and I planned a picnic in a park near Bocconi. We purposely invited friends that didn’t know each other and ended up hanging out for 3 hours and got gelato afterwards. I thought it was really cool that everyone got to know each other and were so generous with their time. Sometimes we can be really busy at Penn so I found this experience really special and an important reminder to slow down and branch out.

How did your abroad experience help you grow?

My abroad experience gave me a lot of time to reflect on how I wanted my life to look and feel back in the U.S.. I really loved Italy so I tried to figure out whether this meant I wanted to consider living abroad or if it was the spirit of studying abroad that I just needed to bring back with me. I certainly will consider living abroad for a small period of time, however, the true magic was learning to make the most out of my environment. I think when we study abroad, we are more open to trying new things, taking risks, meeting new people, and appreciating the small things. I try to do this wherever I am now, regardless if it’s as glamorous as Italy.

How did you feel coming back to Penn after your program?

I was happy to return to the familiarity and conveniences of the U.S. and Penn but I was careful to preserve aspects of my life in Italy that I enjoyed too. I purposely did not overcommit once I was back on campus and had a nice, predominately relaxed, semester reconnecting with friends. Adjusting back to the U.S. wasn’t too difficult in my experience but I definitely intend to visit Italy again soon.

What advice would you give to another student planning to go on this program?

I have two pieces of advice for students studying abroad at Bocconi. First, don’t feel like you need to live or be with other Penn students while you’re in Milan! I had a great time meeting other students who attended different universities and that’s what studying abroad is all about. Second, go with the flow when you travel! I am usually big on itineraries but my friends and I liked to go to new cities with just an idea of the popular spots and wandered the rest of the time. You have the luxury of returning if you’d like!

Zöe Patterson, W’23


Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Concentrations: Finance, Statistics
Minors: Mathematics, Italian Culture

SA Bocconi Program Information