Italy, LUISS (Rome) – Anthony Lambrou – 2007-2008

Arriving in Rome for a year can seem daunting: the language; the heat; the mopeds… But it really doesn’t take long to get into the slow paced way of life (domani, domani, sempre domani!) and understand that there really is no point in going out until 11pm!

The University

I started my time at LUISS with the language crash course. For those that have a good grasp of Italian this course may seem a little slow and for those without much, it may seem a little fast, but it is a simple way of gaining 4 credits before your academic year has even begun. The course is also a great way to meet your fellow Erasmus students that you’ll be with for the rest of the year. Before the start of the year, LUISS throws a lavish welcome party. If you have never before had anyone wait on you with a silver tray and would like to, then this is for you.

When it comes to choosing your modules for the coming semester, the people at LUISS are very helpful in guiding you towards the more friendly lecturers. In general, all the teaching staff are friendly to the Erasmus students, but I’ve heard rumours that there are one or two that are not impressed if you are not making enough of an effort, but the people who help you choose will steer you away from them. In the beginning it may be a good idea to weight your modules so that if you’re not very confident with your Italian you take fewer modules or more English taught modules in the first semester. That said, you may prefer to have more free time in the summer and so weight the year with more to do in winter.

It is also a good idea to take modules that are taught with a textbook as these can be easier to follow when studying at home. LUISS has it’s own book store but it is cheaper either to buy a book between friends and photocopy the pages, or even go to one of Rome’s book shops and they will photocopy a book for you and deliver it to your house (this is a breach of copyright law and so they may drop it off under the cover of darkness!)

The lectures at LUISS can seem very long especially when trying to concentrate in another language, but it doesn’t take long for the students to cry out for a “pausa” and everyone goes out for a caffeine fix before the lecture resumes again.

Exams

The exams are like nothing you will have experienced in England. LUISS has a mixture of oral and written exams. For written exams most lecturers will turn a blind eye to some fairly blatant cheating, at least for the Italian students, I don’t know any Erasmus students that have strayed into the Italian exam technique! However there is nothing really to worry about as you’re seldom asked to explain things, merely describe them and this as you will discover, is purely a test of your memory. For the oral exams it is worth taking some food with you as you are generally called out separately from the Italian students, some lecturers preferring to call the Erasmus students first and others at the end of the day. Even if your module has been taught in Italian, some lecturers will let you take the exam in English (provided they speak it!) if it makes the whole process easier for you.

As with all exams, you can have 3 attempts per exam period. So if you were to take all your modules in the first semester, then this can equate to 6 attempts by the end of the year, and remember, if you’ve passed and you don’t want to take it again, you must sign for it at the date they give you. They will not open the exam books on any other day.

Life in Rome

The main universities in Rome have groups for their Erasmus students which regularly have events open to all Erasmus students. At LUISS this group is called Consules. Once a week they hold a party somewhere and the same goes for the other groups. On Monday night they all get together for a party at Loft. This is a club with a 10 Euro entry and an open bar, which will be pretty quiet until around midnight, when the Spanish have just finished their dinner and head out to town!

Throughout the year, Consules will offer trips to different parts of Italy, which is a great way to go to the lesser known parts of the best known tourist cities.

There is also a 5-a-side football tournament set up for the Erasmus students from all the universities of Rome, with a well coveted first team prize.

Being the capital city, it is very easy to use as a base for travelling, whether that be within Italy or internationally. The main station, Termini, has rail links to all major cities and regions of Italy, and even night trains to parts of France. There are different types of trains and the general rule is that the slower the train, the cheaper the ticket. So the regionale trains are the slowest (and cheapest) with Eurostar being the quickest and most expensive. Rome has 2 airports, both of which have cheap flights to the UK and the rest of Europe. Both are fairly easy to get to from the centre, if slightly costly.

The shopping experience in Rome is quite different to a typical British city. In the centre, it’s hard to find shops that aren’t trying to flog plastic colosseums or statues of the pope. However, a 45 minute bus journey (free – included in the 18 Euro monthly travel ticket), will take you to Porta di Roma shopping centre, a bizarrely situated, yet enormous centre in which you can find some more familiar clothes shops such as H&M or Zara, as well as more European clothes and entertainment shops.

Of course, one of the major perks of living in Italy for a year is the food. If you like pizza and pasta you’ll be just fine! On almost every street you will come across little outlets that sell pizza, you choose the size and the topping, and then they’re weighed to establish the price. Eating out in restaurants is surprisingly cheap, as long as you stay clear of the tourist hives. Supermarkets are slowly becoming more modern, but are not as efficient as British ones. The opening hours are generally about 8am – 7pm and many are closed on a Sunday. Smaller shops close for several hours in the middle of the day.

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