||Study Period 2 2013
||Bachelor of Public Relations
||University of Bergamo
Why did you choose your host university?
Bergamo was not my first, second or third choice, but due to a mix up I was given a new list of Universities available to me. Bergamo was one of the cities that still had positions available after all other students had received their acceptances. I literally chose it because I didn't know anything about it. It stood out over the others because Italy had always interested me. I had been there as a 6 year old and remember loving the food, people and atmosphere and realised I wanted to learn more about it. I had already set my heart on Europe, so that cut down my choice to only three countries- Austria, Germany and obviously Italy. I researched and found it was a 45 minute train ride from Milan, which confirmed my choice. I had 3 free electives within my degree, therefore could freely chose any university I would like, as long as there were subjects that interested me and they were in English. I found subjects that were relevant so it was an easy decision in the end.
What was the university like?
The university is divided by faculties in different locations. I attended the Economics Faculty, which was located in the lower town, and the Language Faculty which was located in the upper town (also known as Citta Alta). I particularly had to try and embrace the University life because it was very different to UniSA. There is no deciphering between tutorials and lectures therefore classes will usually go for three hours and often I had to go from one three hour class to another (swapping from campuses on a half an hour bus trip). I had classes every day of the week (sometimes starting at 9am and up until 8pm) as there is no choice of class times like UniSA and of course my choice was limited to English speaking courses only. So often my classes clashed and the University explained to me that there was nothing they could do and that this was normal. Only two of my teachers could speak English fluently, so at times I found it difficult to understand. Of the subjects I had chosen to complete before arriving, only two of them were still available for me to take. Two of the four courses I took had compulsory attendance but for most subjects it seemed students came and left as they pleased. This would never have been an option for me because assessments were purely based on exams at the end and on the work in class, often not having a textbook to refer to. I was also not usually given slides shown in the classes, so paying attention was definitely necessary. As students we were given printing credit, although there were no computer rooms in which you could print unless your class was booked into that room, and due to the lack on computer rooms, (and never being booked into l one) I didn't once use this credit. Instead I paid around 10 cents per page at the Centro Stampa (located at the Economics Faculty) as they would happily print for.
What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?
Bergamo is such a beautiful old city, filled with amazing food, art and history. It was easy to enjoy every minute of it, but it also gave me time to appreciate friends, family and home. I believe I've become more opened minded. I learnt to actively seek out and take new opportunities in front of me, unconsciously strengthening my character. I now want to travel more and gain more experience that will help me in life and my future career. I learnt a lot about meeting new people which will help my degree in Public Relations. I constantly had to put myself in new situations and push myself to feel comfortable in unknown circumstances. Although I've travelled to Europe in the past with my family, I found this time, being independent, I learnt a great deal more as I was forced to open up my mind to different people and cultures more than ever before. I feel that now I am able to deal with new or challenging situations with more confidence.
What accommodation options were available to you? How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?
The unibg website was very helpful in finding accommodation. I chose a flat from the accommodation section that cost 350 euros per month for a single room that shared with 2 other girls (flats are divided into either male or female only). It was located across the road from the economics faculty and about a 15 minute walk to the bus stop with a 20 minute bus ride to the communication and languages faculty. I would definitely recommend using this option as the staff at Centro Stampa (who deal with contracts and monthly payments and are closely located in the economics faculty) were extremely helpful all semester.
Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries?
Locally, I travelled to Milan, Venice, Ancona, Verona, Cinqe Terre, Lake Como and Lake Lecco. Thankfully the exchange program was filled with many events and trips to make our experience more enjoyable, so they were responsible for a few of those trips and I am very grateful for all the work they did. Fortunately I also had the chance to explore other parts of Europe as everything was so close and cheap (thanks to Ryanair). Flights started from 15 euros one way from Bergamo and I managed to visit France, Austria, England, The Netherlands, Spain, Hungary and Croatia when it was possible during holidays, on weekends and before returning home.
Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.
After a month I was feeling completely settled. ESN and Aegee are 2 organisations comprised of volunteer students devoted to making exchange students' time in Bergamo exciting. They organise events right from the first week through to the last inviting the whole community making it extremely easy to meet people. I also met many other people in the same situation as me in my very first class, and thankfully because it was an English class it was filled with other exchange students. Because Bergamo is quite a small town, all together there were around 60 exchange students, 30 of which became a very close community of great friends that I still keep in touch with. In terms of adjusting to life in a different country I found that I really had to adapt to the Italian way of life. As nearly no one speaks English (other than other exchange students) I had to learn some Italian, which turned out to be really helpful (mainly in shopping and dining situations). It seems that nobody is ever on time, nothing ever seems to work (technology wise) and everybody drives like a crazy person!
Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?
Definitely, as this experience has strengthened my determination. I became used to throwing myself in the deep end, and figuring my way out. I now am able to communicate with a whole variety of people, as I have worked on my social skills and become more independent. I also learnt to adapt in difficult situations, helping me to prepare for the future. Overall I can say it has been extremely eventful, exciting and a massive learning experience. I am so grateful for this opportunity that I was given by UniSA and all of the support I was given.
What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?
Do it! This really is a once in a lifetime experience. I believe you could easily do a few weeks in Europe during holidays, but to live in another culture teaches you so much more (about a country and its people) as well as gives you the chance to plan trips with new friends. A few times I was able to visit their homes (as many exchange students were European), so I had free accommodation, and was able to explore the city with someone who has first hand knowledge about it. I think spending time with others like minded is amazing. I missed my friends and family but in reality I knew it really was only 5 and a half months, and it flew by. Adelaide will always be here!
Stay positive and enjoy every minute of it! Look after your belongings (I was robbed once at a bus stop in Bergamo, and also in Barcelona, Spain).