by Mario Villani
Have you ever been wondering about where to go for your Erasmus trimester, semester or for your Masters studies?
Have you ever been thinking about going to a country where you can have almost everything just around the corner such as skiing, beaches, and maybe the most amazing historical sites and art creations 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 don't speak the local language?
Well, my friend, you are looking for a study destination in Italy!
A short history lesson
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 also coined in Italy, directly through Latin.
As a matter of fact, Italy claims 13 universities out of 45 that were established and ran in medieval Europe before the colonisation 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. However, Bologna University does not only stick out in Italy. It is also the second biggest city in Europe when it comes to Erasmus exchanges offered to students. Of course, its long tradition and prestige plays an important role, but also the student-friendly ambiance and the nice location of the city are important factors. Last but not least, its worth mentioning that the Bologna University is not the only one! There are many other superior universities available in Italy. A few other examples include Italian higher education institutions such as:
- Politecnico Di Milano
- University of Milan
- Sapienza University of Rome
- University of Macerata
- Ca' Foscari University of Venice
A little warning I would like to give to all the students who wish to take a chance to come to Italy is that it is really common here to have oral examinations, and the grades are so cutely expressed in a scale that goes from 18 (minimum) to 30. For top students, the 30 might even become a 30 cum laude (30 e lode in Italian). This is something that fascinates many foreign students. On the one hand, this oral examination makes life easier for a lot of students, but if youre 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 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. Italian style' exceptions might be possible especially for Erasmus students. As an exchange student, you can usually benefit from extra exam dates and sessions, so you dont have any trouble with your home university.
Italy in general
Coming back to our topic, Italy. The country 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 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 UNESCOs 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 in itself to choose Italy as a place to study.
Lifestyle in Italy
Tradition and language-wise, Italy is a place that cant be described in just a few words 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? Thats just one of the many facts that doesnt show up very often in the picture of the typical Italian people offered by the media. They are definitely worth a further investigation when you decide 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 that are waiting to be discovered!
Regarding food, for example, I can tell you that you just cant find a kind of pasta or bread made in Apulia, if you go shopping in Milan or Rome. The same thing goes for cheeses or even certain traditions and so on. Leave the beers to the truck drivers, and start enjoying good Italian wines instead. A good bottle can start for as little as three Euros!
As for 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 this is the time when life just begins. Ive visited many cities in Nordic countries or in France, joining an Erasmus friend of mine, and at 18 p.m. the city looked like it switched off all of a sudden. There were 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 good 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 closing time.
Confirming some famous stereotypes I would (personally) say that it is true that:
- In Italy everything can be arranged in the take-it-easy way;
- We cant leave without coffee and we consider the American-French filtered coffee dirty water;
- Most of us just cant digest English, but we nevertheless try our very best to understand it and speak with you;
- Most of the guys chase after girls easier than in other countries. The specialists can be found in the biggest cities frequented by tourists;
- We dont have many blonde guys or girls.