Studying in Rome, the eternal city: an amazing experience!

Secretly I regretted that I haven’t been on exchange during my Bachelor. This is why I was really excited when I found out that I still had this chance during my Master! A study delay of half a year is totally worth it. After reading different kinds of information, I was sure: I wanted to go to Rome. A beautiful city with a different way of living, however still within Europe. I applied last-minute for my exchange and everything was arranged quickly.

When I was departing to Rome, I thought about certain ideas (and prejudices) of the Italian culture. Especially the ‘loose way’ of living, where being in time is not the priority, would be a challenge for me (as I am a punctual Dutchman). I must admit that I needed some time to adjust, but after a while I thought the Italian way of living was fine. Life is going somewhat slower, however there is nothing wrong with it when you are used to it.

Bureaucracy is a typical Italian phenomenon. You need to have a lot of patience when you want to arrange something. A great example is my application at the university. The office where you could register yourself was only opened three hours per week, only on Wednesday from 9 AM until 12 PM. With all the 200 exchange students who have to register themselves, it was not really practical and it was always really crowded. First, you had to bring eight copies of all your personal information and three passport photos. Then, you had to wait for three hours at the office. Once it is finally your turn, you receive a little piece of yellow paper. This piece of paper is to record your exam results. The whole administration system is still outdated, everything is registered on paper. In the office you will find large cabinets with ring binders filled with the information of all students.

“The eternal city keeps on amazing me.”

Above all else, Italians are really friendly and hospitable. Once, I have been to a football match in Frosinone on a Saturday, a little town near Rome. I could not find any tickets for the game, so fanatic supporters of Frosinone sneaked me into the stadium and treated me as their guest of honor the whole night. It was a great day, which really emphasized the hospitability and kindness.

Living in Rome is like living in a museum. It might sound cliché, but there are só many things to see and do in Rome. My first weeks in Rome, when it was relatively calm in the city, I decided to visit all the well-known spots in Rome. The Colosseum, the St. Peter, Forum Romanum and so on. Starting from April, the high season of tourism starts and the old center is chock full. Luckily Rome has plenty of wonderful spots which is unknown by most tourists. For instance, the park Villa Borghese is a great place to relax on a sunny day. The neighborhood Trastevere is the place to be for a drink or go to a bar at night. Furthermore, I would also recommend biking over de Via Appia Antiva, with statues on your left and right side. Besides the world-famous statues, there are also many less well-known hidden pearls. I am convinced that even now, after half a year, I still haven’t seen it all. The eternal city keeps on amazing me.

About the university. Universita Tor Vergata is located far from the city, in a sort of meadow. The university was built there in the 80s, with hope that it would attract the surroundings and more buildings would be build. However, that never happened. Near the university, there is nothing to do. Studying in Italy is way different than studying in the Netherlands. I am taking five master’s courses, however you cannot compare them to my Master Accountancy in Tilburg. The level is way lower, the education is not academic, and when the professor asks for discussion in the class room, it is not an open discussion. The students give their opinion on a subject, and the professor will tell you whether your answer is right or wrong. At the point that the professor has told something, you cannot contradict it. The style of education is authoritarian and doesn’t stimulate students to think critically. Furthermore, classes always start one half hour later than planned, if they are even taught that day.  It has happened to me quite often that I went to university, but there was no class planned.

One thing that really amazed me are exams. Most of the times, there is only one superintendent for more than 50 students. During the exams, students copy each other’s notes and discuss the exam questions together. However, nothing is done about it. The exam questions are mostly just duplicated what you have studied. Once your exam has been graded, your grade will be registered on your yellow piece of paper. This is done while you are making your next exam of that course. As of then, your grade is valid. There is an online system for your grades, however they don’t use it. Obviously there are several differences in culture comparing it to the Netherlands, but this is really extreme.

I have often wondered about all the states on the university, but I have learnt to not worry about the issues I normally would have worried about in the Netherlands. I really learnt to enjoy all the beauty of this city. If you are going on exchange for an academic experience, Rome is not the best recommendation, but life in Rome is really delightful. The city, the culture, the way of living, everything. I certainly don’t regret it, it was a great experience!


– This article is translated by an editor of Faces Online