Guide for International Students in Italy

When contemplating their studies, to be sure, addressing a foreign nation can appear to be a scary prospect. But it is a bittersweet moment, filled with expectations of whatever is to move during this new chapter, and likewise the unease that’s continuously going along with the unknown.

According to my expertise, this really rings true once you’re an American learning abroad in Italy. From interacting with faculty assignments to even taking public transport kind place to place, beginner’s anxiety is amplified once you’re not entirely certain how to interact with one issue, or what to expect within the things you are doing already grasp.

Though it can be intimidating, learning out of the country is the proper likelihood to integrate yourself with a world altogether different from what you’re accustomed, but while serving to unearth the intimate details of your personal identity. Italy is one among the world’s hottest study abroad destinations for an entire host of reasons, not least its cultural and historical heritage.

The country has endlessly spoken to the creatives and humanists, given its long history as a seminal geographical region civilization, and later on the formation of the Christian faith as we all grasp it nowadays. The proximity of rival states with an imperial and ecclesiastical history has consummated town planning and artwork, which implies that even the smallest discerning of scholars may find a treasure hoarded wealth of investigation and learning throughout their time studying abroad in Italy.

1. Preparing for Student Life Abroad

With many countries to choose from, one of your most important decisions in preparing to study in Italy will be selecting which city to live in. This will not be an easy decision to make; there are a number of beautiful and fascinating cities. Property to let – announced with the words ‘affitasi’ or ‘locasi’, meaning ‘to let’ or ‘for hire’, respectively – is readily available and it is perfectly possible to find somewhere before you go.

However, it is not advisable to commit yourself to renting an apartment straight away. You should aim to secure temporary accommodation for when you first arrive, investigating more permanent living arrangements in the following few weeks. If you are planning on working in Italy during your studies, you should investigate the job market.

However, it is advisable to speak semi-fluent Italian before entering into a job contract. Thanks to the Schengen Agreement, any person from a member state is entitled to enter Italy with a valid passport, and stay for a period of up to 90 days without a visa. Once in Italy, you can apply for a ‘Permesso di Sogiorno’ (permit to stay).

This is a complicated process and it must be remembered that UK citizens should no longer be applying for the older, green residence permit. Instead, you should follow the same application process as other EU member state nationals.

2. Navigating Italian Culture and Customs

For all the breathtaking architecture and picturesque countryside vistas in Italy, it’s the people that you’ll remember most. And it’s the warmth and friendliness of the Italians that has been most commented on by students who have studied here in recent years. You will certainly find the Italians incredibly welcoming and if you embrace their way of life then you are likely to enjoy your stay here all the more. Embracing the culture abroad can help you develop an appreciation for what the world can offer.

This is especially true in a country such as Italy, filled with its own rich history and cultures which might be unfamiliar to you. For example, the religious customs in Italy are no secret. As the center of Catholicism, religious holidays are widely revered and many traditions still thrive today. You may have already heard about Carnevale before, and this widespread festival right before the start of Lent is an example of Italian tradition and pride.

Furthermore, Italy is a very family oriented place, which reflects some of the strong bonds between people here. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers hold esteemed places in society, mainly due to their recognized roles within the family itself. This might mean that you see multi-generational families out at restaurants or even living in the same household. Embracing such customs and cultures, whether you agree with them or not as an independent student, can do wonders for your mood and learning experience. It gives you an understanding of the world much deeper than just the course material itself.

3. Overcoming Language Barriers

One particular aspect of Italy that might worry those thinking of living here is the language. It’s true – in Italy, most people speak Italian and often don’t speak English very well. Difficulties due to the language barrier might show up from the very first steps. Arriving at the airport and trying to express to a taxi driver where you live, opening a bank account, or enrolling at the City Hall: in many situations, English won’t be of much help.

Figures from the Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research confirm that in universities, the number of enrolled foreign students has increased in recent years. In the academic year 2016/2017, Italy was the destination for more than 67,000 foreign students – about 29% more if compared to 2010/2011. Also, let’s remember that although Italian is a quite spoken language in the world, most of the scientific researches, doctoral courses, and master programs in Italy are held in English, as an additional outcome for the process of internationalization of the Italian higher education system.

Not speaking Italian, then, won’t turn into a problem in terms of picking a study course – nevertheless, in everyday life, the language might create some issues. Gradually learning the language and starting to throw some Italian words into daily conversations will never be seen as a negative thing in Italy: on the other hand, locals generally appreciate it and will be more willing to give you a help. Initiative and willingness to learn should be positively taken: so, after some time spent in Italy, not being able to express yourself anymore with the neighbour of the fifth floor using the hands won’t be the only peaceful conquest, but one of the more motivating and funny personal achievements.

4. Managing Finances and Budgeting

Once you’ve got the essential items on lock, it’s time to consider how you’ll spend your living costs. If you’re planning to hold a part-time job (which we would encourage when the time is right) you can budget on the minimum wage, which is generally helpful when planning potential work periods over your study calendar. Details about the average local and regional wages or minimum wage will be available for you to research when in Italy. Managing tax and insurance also becomes part of your financial planning when considering a job in Italy as a student.

The current fiscal policies help us to understand that any positions you take up as a student will be taxed – however, that’s not to say that the tax is focused on higher income earners compared to the UK; policies in Italy encourage work across the nation and therefore offer a number which is easy to understand and calculate as a beginner in working life. If you opt to take up work on a full-time scale after your studies, the plan is to get you integrated into the tax system and developed into an insured worker, and there are schemes in place to help students and those new to Italy when this goal comes around.

The more popular scholarships available, such as the ERASMUS award, offer a substantial upfront sum which can cover living costs before the academic year begins, and this can act as a substantial offshore nest for unexpected emergencies. Scholarships are beneficial as they tend to be generous, but smaller funds such as academic or subject specific bursaries can also contribute significantly to saving potential in the long term.

Offered by many institutions and on various scales, these bursaries are a great opportunity to help you fill your account in anticipation of study expenses, and in some cases they can offer a partial fee waiver based on your grades and performances next to academic costs involved with your course. Well, the long and short of it is that your everyday spending is more managed in Italy – less choice and more closest home. But the basics: groceries and transport and appliances; can often vary up to hundreds of euros a month, so it is crucial to plan and monitor how your finances match up to and change with your lifestyle and habits.

5. Making the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

Being an international student abroad is an incredibly exciting experience. It is also a time where you will have the opportunity to learn and grow more than maybe at any other point in your life. The friends you make, the classes you take, and the independent living all create the perfect environment for forming strong memories and learning about yourself. It can be easy to fall into a routine of going to class and then not really doing much else.

There is nothing wrong with taking it easy or even having some down time, but remember that the fun and excitement really starts to happen when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone! So go out and explore the city, schedule weekend trips, or join in on clubs and classes that interest you. Not only will these experiences be exciting but they can help you to further understand other cultures, try new things and meet new people. However, don’t forget to emotionally invest yourself in this once in a lifetime experience as well.

I have found myself holding back from truly enjoying an experience or a moment just because I’ve been so focused on taking a mental picture or social media snap of it. It is important to have those memories but ensure that you also allow yourself to be fully in the moment. Try helping other new students adapt to city life or take part in some cultural learning opportunities while you are abroad. Every opportunity to do all these things is an opportunity to truly make the most of your time abroad.

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