I’ve just been to Milan for the first ever IECA symposium held outside the United States, and I am still processing what an incredible experience it was for me as well as my friends and colleagues who were there, too. But before I say more, first a bit of my own personal background.
My Love for Italy
My love affair with Italy started when I was 16 years old. I had been selected to be an American Field Service exchange student for the summer, and was placed to live with an Italian family in a remote village in the Apennine Mountains near Modena. During my stay, the entire extended family made me feel like one of their own, and though it’s been decades, I still stay in close touch and visit as often as I can. While on this trip, I went back to see “la mamma” who is now in her 80’s and we had the chance to have a chat in Italian at the kitchen table. As the late afternoon sun streamed through that window on an early spring day, I was able to hold her hand and say thank you, for when they opened their doors to me way back when, it truly changed the course of my life.
Fast forward to years later….I combined my degrees and love of international studies, languages, and education and now work with students and families around the world as an international educational consultant. When I first started working as a sole-practitioner in 2006, there were only 28 of us who were members of IECA working outside the US. With a few other internationally minded consultants, I got very involved in helping to launch the professionalization of those practicing across borders and cultures.
Today that group of international consultants has increased 10-fold, and in particular, the European group is especially active and collaborative. It’s no surprise then that they decided a few months ago that it was time to have a “meeting of the minds “ in person in Europe. Therefore, when I heard that this first-ever international symposium was going to be held in Milan, I didn’t hesitate. I knew I had to be there!!!
I wanted to give the reader that background in order to be able to fully appreciate what a personal thrill it was for me to see my colleagues fly in from the US, Canada, UK, Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Turkey, Kenya, and India for the first IECA Milan Symposium.
IECA’s Milan Symposium
Bocconi University graciously hosted our group, and in addition to university tours throughout Milan, we also filled our well of knowledge from the sessions offered by participants. It was some of the most advanced professional development I have been to ever. Yes, some of the sessions were that good!
When Ibrahim Firat, the president of IECA who was also present, asked us during his closing remarks what would be our biggest take-away from the days we were together, the answer was almost unanimous – the opportunity to be together with our colleagues to learn, laugh, and forge bonds together was the highlight for us all. No single individual can know everything there is to know, but we have a network of friends and colleagues who will be there for us when we need insights that will help us to better work with our students. That alone made it worth the trip!
For those interested in learning more, I made a one-minute video that shows the universities we visited – Bocconi, Istituto Europeo di Design, Istituto Marangoni, Universita Cattolica, and Arsutoria, aka “the shoe school”. I also made two videos that documented what it would be like to live and study in Milan, surely one of the most stylish and dynamic cities in Europe! Though I have been going to Milan since I was 16, there were so many places that I had never seen. Thus, I explored as much of it as I could fit in while there, and I will say that I found Milan to be immensely walkable, attractive, and safe. For the adventurous student, it would be a fabulous experience to study there, whether for the full degree or as part of a study abroad.
And as I learned when I was just 16, there is no experience in the world quite like being immersed in a foreign country where there are friends and family just waiting to be introduced!