Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have a clue where to start?
With so many countries to choose from, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. From visa requirements and researching new job markets to finding friends and assessing the cost of living, jumping ship can seem pretty intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.
That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.
In a series of short interviews with guys and girls like us who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.
Over to you, Karolina…
Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?
Hi there. I turned 26 in January and got my first white hair this week!
Born and raised Croatian, I moved to Milan in 2011 to do a Master’s degree in Cognitive Science (a fancy name for psychology) – at least, that’s what I told my parents. My main motivation for moving to Milan was actually to to be with my Italian love! After a year, though, heartbreak pushed me to Madrid where I met two new loves: a new guy and entrepreneurialism. And now, after 2 years of Spanish adventures, another heartbreak has pushed me back to Milan where I’ll be staying until…another heartbreak I guess?!
As for what makes me tick – I love quality, processes, people and stream-lining products and services to maximise growth. Career-wise, I sing opera, work with start-ups, design webpages and attend jewellery fairs (the latest being in Basel, Switzerland – tough life!) My dream job would be a professional mingler.
Anything else you should know about me? I’m a dog person. Woof!
What Inspired You To Move Abroad?
(Un)fortunately I’m from Croatia, which though rich in beauty, doesn’t have a great deal more than that. I was raised in a happy family of internationally active opera singers brought up to think outside the box (and the boundaries of one’s native country). My upbringing has had a huge bearing on what drives me in terms of love, education and travel.
How Big Is Milan?
Big enough, I’d say. The city itself has around 1 million people, 5 million including the outskirts which makes it just a bit smaller than Madrid. Milan is the 5th largest European metropolis.
How Did You Manage The Change?
Actually, if you know the language, you’re at home. Milan is almost not “abroad” for me – I have an amazing network of friends there and I know the majority of the city’s secret pockets. However, in my experience, a successful transition is enhanced by keeping busy and throwing yourself in.
What Are The ‘Must-Sees’ In Milan?
- Anadima Bistrot – The ravioli with zuchinni is a must-try – absolutely mouth-watering.
- The Old Tavern – Try the donkey meat ragù… incredible.
- Osteria Conchetta – Traditional Milanese cuisine which is delicious and inexpensive.
- Bastianello – A patisserie serving outstanding brioches and cornettos (similar to croissants).
- Luini’s Panzerotto – The tomato and mozzarella panzerotti (savoury filled pastry) is, quite simply, unforgettable.
- Deus Cafe – Think burgers, pancakes, sandwiches, fresh juices – you honestly can’t find one flaw in this place.
- Pinch – Cocktails to die for in a buzzing social area.
- Rita – If you’re looking for some seriously good drinks to kick off the night, Rita is brimming with a young, hip, good looking crowd and is almost always full.
- Nombra De Vin - A seriously cool, vaulted wine cellar with lashings of atmosphere and sex appeal.
- Ugo Bistrot - Ugo is a snazzy bar with mainly gin based cocktails located along the canal in the south of Milan. Very classy.
- Duomo rooftop - The stunning Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete. The 5th largest church in the world and the largest in Italy, the Duomo is well worth a visit.
- Da Vinci’s Last Supper – Housed at the Dominican convent adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, this is Italian art at its best.
- Pinacoteca di Brera – The main public gallery for paintings in Milan, it contains one of the foremost collections of Italian paintings.
- Museo del Novecento – Located in the Palazzo dell’Arengario, this a public venue dedicated to Milan’s collection of Twentieth-Century Art.
What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?
Spring – no question! Seeing magnolias and cherry trees blossom in the Parco Sempione with the Arco della Pace at one end and the Sforzas’ Medieval Castle at the other is breathtaking. And that’s not the end of it.
April is also the time when Navigli, the ancient canal system, fills up with water and the whole neighbourhood lights up which makes you forget you’re in the centre of a metropolis. Everyone is out on the streets, there are all sorts of flea markets, festivals, concerts, performances and exhibitions. It’s magical.
What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?
I call this the Slav paradox.
Croatians and everyone East of the Italian border are generally considered “those who clean and serve”. It’s no accident that the Italian word for slave (schiavo) comes from Slavo (Slav in Italian). Although we’re talking about hardcore stereotypes here, I sometimes felt I had to make an extra effort to avoid being stigmatized, especially during first encounters. In terms of what I mean by the Slav ‘paradox’ – most Slavs in Italy are actually more international than those inclined to stereotype
What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?
The rent. You could get a seaside villa in Croatia for the price of a Milanese flat! In other words, it’s not cheap. I’d say most accommodation in the centre costs between 550 and 800 euros a month.
What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?
As always… the people. Obviously, Italians are so easy to approach. By the time you’ve thought about how to make the first social step, they will already have introduced themselves, everyone around them and invited you to their home for some of Mamma’s pasta.
What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?
Italians love words and communication in general. Which is a great thing unless applied to areas which are supposed to be quick and efficient. Basically, if Administration was a marathon, Italians would be a dead turtle.
What Other Cities Are Near Milan?
Milan is surrounded by beautiful places from Lake Como, Lake Garda, Genoa and Florence to Lugano in Switzerland – all within a two hour radius. And if a long weekend away skiing is your thing, Chamonix in France is just 3 hours away!
What’s The Biggest Difference To Croatia?
Food etiquette. There is a completely different culture behind the way food is selected, prepared, combined, enjoyed, admired, served and talked about in Italy. It’s an art form.
How Did You Find Making New Friends?
Easier then the easiest. But do make an effort to speak Italian because the soul of these exceptional Mediterraneans will never fully sing unless you touch it with the right music.
What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?
I’m not really sure but instinct tells me that Madrid, for instance, is more international then Milan.
Do You Get Homesick?
When I do…
Seeing my family is a 4 hour train ride away. It’s super comfy and only 30€!
How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?
I’ve never tried as Croatians don’t need to. But getting the residency permit requires a few hundred Euros for the health insurance and some administrative efforts.
What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?
Nothing. Maybe just.. not having hugged those I care about before leaving Madrid.
What Advice Would You Give To Someone Thinking About Moving Abroad?
Becoming an international person is the closest one gets to living more then one life only.
So if you have nothing to do, it’s better to have nothing to do abroad then at home.
And if you do have something to do, challenge yourself and grow.
What’s Next For You?
How Can We Contact You?
And if you’re in Milan, more likely you’ll find me at Pinch, the best cocktail bar in the City ;*
What’s Your Favourite Quote?
“I have no favourites. No favourite colours, songs, animals, quotes… I’m learning to embrace my horizontal and versatile personality and to admit that I have as many “favourites” as moments of life.”
Karolina Sober, just now