Why did you move to Italy?
I was teaching German in Ireland and I wanted to live in different countries, like an ambassador moving around every two years. I started out with Italy as I wanted to read Dante in Italian.
I arrived in Milan in 2000 and stayed for two years before getting a PhD scholarship in Aberdeen. I went there for a year then I realized that I wanted to go back and teach.
Why did you choose Milan?
The school I was working for in Ireland was international and they sent out requests on my behalf; Milan was the place where work was and I didn’t think twice about it.
What was your first impression?
All I knew about Milan was fashion and pollution! Milan was incredibly polluted in 2000, there would be no rain for three weeks and it was unpleasant to open the window.
I remember going to work in the morning in 2001 and it was one of the very few days in the year I could see the Alps; it was so remarkable I called my Mum! This has now changed and you can see the mountains quite often.
What are your favourite things about Milan?
There’s no better experience than going to work in the morning, passing the Duomo and smelling fresh coffee. It’s like a travel magazine and I really appreciate it.
Even though food wasn’t a priority at first, one of my student groups took me to a restaurant called Anema e Cozze, and I actually cried when I had pizza with buffalo mozzarella!
Santa Maria presso San Satiro church is an amazing piece of architecture; in the design Donato Bramante used a warped perspective on the floor tiles to make it look bigger!
I’d also recommend Le Tre Gazzelle for gelato and a visit to Villa della Spiga to see the fashion world.
Are there any negatives?
In the early years there were a lot more strikes; being a freelance teacher it would affect me every single time. If you don’t show up for a lesson, you don’t get paid.
The trains used to be quite late, in the morning you could never tell if you would be on time or not. But everyone in Italy knew about the delays so they were understanding.
I think this has made me a lot more flexible in problem solving; every now and then I go back to Germany for work and I find it hard to get on with Germans - they always want to stick to the programme!
What is the Lombardy region like?
I’m not a big city person and I was happy to move out to one of the small downs just south of Milan, where I live now. It’s green all around and you can go horse riding along the river.
Lake Como and the mountains are just a stone’s throw away.