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by Mario Villani
Have you ever been wondering about where should you go for your Erasmus trimester, semester or for your Master’s?
Have you ever been thinking about going to a country where you can have almost everything just around the corner such as skiing, beaches up to the maybe most amazing parts of history and art in Europe?
Have you ever thought that it is pretty boring just talking in English with everyone and felt like going to a place where no one can help you if you speak in that language?
Well, my friend, you are looking for a study destination in Italy!
First of all, you should know that the first university - intended as the modern definition of this term- is an Italian one, our jewel "Alma Mater Studiorum, Università di Bologna". The same name, university was coined as well in Italy, directly through Latin.
Italy as a matter of fact claims 13 universities out of 45 that were established and run in medieval Europe before the colonization of America.
Coming back to our topic, let us talk about internationalisation. Scrolling through a couple of statistics Bologna comes back again! It has reached the top concerning the incoming/outgoing international students ratio as well as the teaching staff mobility. But not only within Italy, Bologna University sticks out. It is also the second biggest city in the whole Europe concerning Erasmus exchanges. There are many reasons for that. Of course its long tradition and prestige plays an important role but also the student-friendly ambience and the nice location of the city are important factors. Last but not least it’s worth to mention that the Bologna University is not the only one! There are many other superior universities around.
A little warning I would like to give to all the students who wish to take a chance to come in Italy is that it is really common here to have oral examinations after the classes, and the grades are so cutely expressed in a scale that goes from 18 (minimum) to 30. For the top students the 30 might even become a 30 cum laude (30 e lode in Italian). This is something that fascinates a lot of foreign students. On the one hand this oral examination makes life easier for a lot of students, but if you’re a bit shy or your Italian is not that perfect yet, you might feel a bit uncomfortable with this kind of examination. Getting already some Italian skills at home before you leave or an ERASMUS language course in advance can be very helpful in that matter!
Examination sessions are usually similar to the rest of Europe, that means: Jan-Feb, June-July Sept-Oct. Exceptions ‘Italian’ Style might be possible – especially for the Erasmus students. As an exchange student you can usually benefit from extra exam dates and sessions so that you don’t have any trouble with your home university.
Coming back to our topic Italy: it seems to be the perfect place to enjoy an Erasmus period just for the way it is made. Geographically it is a peninsula that allows you to ‘jump’ into a bus or train for just a few euros to escape from the cold and foggy Milano, or from the chaotic Bologna for example, straight to some of the most beautiful beaches of the world.
Almost every big city is also perfectly connected to European and non-European countries with 87 airports. Train-wise all the bigger Italian cities are interconnected with 77 (main-) railway stations. That makes life easier for many students that do not like much travelling by car or by plane.
Renting a car though is not a bad idea and sharing the price of the car and recruiting a bunch of friends could make you enjoy the funniest road trips, stepping (why not) in one of the 44 UNESCO’s world heritage sites. The fact that there is a well-constructed system of highways can make the difference and I made it coast-to-coast myself several times.
Italy is the place in the world that has more world heritage sites than any other country on earth. According to me this a very good reason for itself to choose Italy as a place to study.
Tradition and language-wise Italy is a place that can’t be described by one page or a guide only. It is really reductive to throw on a paper the stereotypes as the more than 500 different kinds of pasta or the 100 different kinds of pizza. But yes, these things are also a part of the Italian culture.
But did you know that we have more than 30 different spoken languages, known mostly (and wrongly) as dialects? That’s just one of the many facts that doesn’t show up very often in the picture of the typical Italian people could see around in the media and they are definitely worth a further investigation when you decided to live in Italy! Not only dialects (or languages) hide in certain areas or just a single village – there are hundreds other aspects such as food, clothing, behaviour or architecture for example that are waiting for you to be discovered!
Food-wise for example, I can tell you that you just can’t find a kind of pasta or bread made in Apulia, if you go for shopping in Milan or Rome, same things regarding cheeses or even certain traditions and so on. Let the beers to the truck drivers and start enjoying good Italian wines instead. A bottle of good one can start for as little as three Euros!
As in other countries in the southern part of Europe, life in Italy starts and ends late in the evening. At 20.00 the streets are full of life, and sometimes is this the time when life just begins. I’ve visited many cities in Nordic countries or in France, joining an Erasmus friend of mine and at 18 o clock the city looked like was switched off out of sudden, no people around anymore and the ambient was really driving us to depression. This is definitely not going to happen in Italy! In a city of average dimension containing a university I must say that going for a walk at 21.00 or 22.00 especially in spring-summer-fall makes you feel ‘in company’, always surrounded by people. In the southern part the most part of the shops have the closing time at 20.30 and that makes life easier for students who always forget to get some food before the closure.
Confirming some well solid and famous stereotypes I would (personally) say that it is true that: