I’m going to be honest, narrowing this list down to encapsulate only ten surprising things about being a student was pretty difficult! (But hey, great excuse for a future follow-up post, right!)
Here is my current top ten. So sit back, relax, and take a leap into the daily life of an Italian student …
Number 1: The daily “commute”
By this, ladies and gentlemen, I am referring to the glorious, the blessed, the much-loved 9-minute walk from my college room to the linguistics classroom. Add to this brief stroll the aroma of hot, sugary pastries and freshly brewed coffee wafting through the air, as if greeting me good morning.
Then compare to my usual 2-hour commute to and from uni. That’s two hours, each way. And I LIVE in Sydney.
Need I say more?
Number 2: There is beer and wine in the canteen
They come in cute little bottles, just like on planes, except they cost only a couple Euros.
Number 3: There is also 3.50 Euro pizza in the canteen
As in, a whole pizza. A big one. For only 3.50 Euro (about $5.50) – and the €3.50 one is the deluxe pizza with the more expensive toppings! The cheaper ones are only €3.20 (~$5) Euro, and all pizzas are made fresh in front of your eyes.
This country is truly amazing!
Number 4: The struggle to find the professor’s office
I understand that, as a foreign student, it isn’t always easy to find your way around campus. But when finding your professor’s office can be paralleled only to gaining entry into the Chamber of Secrets, you know something’s up.
Let me now make it clear that I literally had to stalk my professor to find out which section of the main building his office was in. But then I lost him up a dark staircase. Not kidding.
So I had to go to the library and ask, and when I couldn’t understand their directions, I was led through the back rooms, down a corridor lined with books, up a rickety metal staircase, into another room full of books, then up another staircase and into an open library/study hall/office space. And, there in the far corner, at an old wooden desk stacked with dusty volumes, sat my professor.
Number 5: Marks are recorded on paper
Repeat: MARKS ARE RECORDED ON PAPER. ON PAPER. WITH A PEN.
Each professor had to record my marks in a little yellow booklet which I kept and then had to submit at the end of the semester. As well as this, they had to record my mark in a massive tome and tear out a strip of paper and personally deliver it to the faculty office, to ensure that I didn’t alter the mark. So I had to wait for four strips of paper – which can easily be misplaced – to be signed handed in to the office before my transcript could be manually processed and signed and sent to me.
The whole process took two months.
Number 6: Libraries have no computers
I don’t even know what else I can say about this one, really …
Number 7: Internet
This one has a pretty broad title, pretty much due to the copious amount of issues which actually surround the informative gem and student staple which we call the Internet.
Apart from the horrifyingly low strength of the WiFi connection and the fact that I had to sign in every hour AND when it cut, apparently as an Aussie, I was subjected to rules which were vastly different from those which applied to my European peers. This meant that unlike them, I had no online record, couldn’t access the online materials or the online portal, was unable to enrol in exams online, and virtually didn’t exist as a student.
Number 8: You can’t touch books in the library
This was so bizarre. As both an undergrad student and an Honours student, I have spent hours pouring over books in the University of Sydney’s glorious Fisher Library. It is almost a right of passage for any Arts student to wander through the stack and gaze at all the wonderful knowledge and learning surrounding them.
But alas, in Italian universities, the books are kept separate from the study areas
Number 9: People are actually silent in libraries
That’s right, no “group study” areas or “activity zones”. Nope! Silence in the library is more carefully guarded than the Mafia’s money.
Sneezing or coughing? Keep it quiet.
Have to move your chair? Do it slowly and gently.
Opening the door? Don’t let it slam shut!
When it comes to libraries, Italians are dead silent and God help your soul if you dare to be that one person making noise.
Number 10: Lode
I don’t know what name to give this other than the Italian name, lode. Basically, in the magical Italian educational system, in which all oral assessments are scored out of 30, it is possible to get a mark of 30 and lode. This translates to “30 plus some” i.e. higher than the highest mark possible. Yes, my friends, you can get a score which is higher than full marks!
Why? you may ask. What purpose does this serve?
I answer you: fantastic question!
After much struggle, I actually managed to pass the semester without (additional) trouble! Wooh!