OUTLINE: Luís is a 23 years old Portuguese student from IST (Instituto Superior Técnico) who decided to take a semester abroad during his bachelor degree and do his Erasmus in Pisa. Throughout this casual interview he will talk about his personal experience, what impacted him the most and his academic life in Italy.
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GOING ABROAD: WHY AND WHERE
Hello Luís! First of all, thank you for taking a break from writing your master’s thesis to answer a few questions about your Erasmus experience. I would like to start with you telling us a little bit about yourself and why did you decide to go study abroad.
Hi. My name is Luís and I study at Técnico Lisboa. I decided to study abroad because I thought it would be a once in a lifetime experience, just being able to go to another place and enjoy it without many concerns. At first I really wanted to go to Germany, a country that I like and that I find really interesting for my degree in terms of Erasmus options it offers. I’m still thinking about moving there someday. But because I wasn’t accepted there, I chose my second option, Italy. Overall, I am really glad I went there; it was such an amazing country!
Germany and Italy are very different countries but they both have amazing places to see and cultures to get in touch with! When did you exactly go to Italy and how long were you there?
I went to Pisa, Italy in 2015 and I stayed there for 5 months, from February to July.
ARRIVING TO PISA, ITALY: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Five months really allow you to get familiar with a new country! Can you tell us what your first impression about Pisa, Italy was? Can you remember any important moment or first impact when you arrived?
Actually my first impression about Pisa was not the best. I didn’t do a lot of research about the place where I was going (Pisa) and I found myself in a small town without much to offer, at least according to my preferences and where I am coming from. My first impact was to arrive to in every small town, extremely calm and quiet, which can be good but it also gets boring. The city itself has some pretty places to visit but you can get to know it in a day or two.
That does not sound like a great first experience! After being there for a while, have your first impressions changed? How?
Yes, no doubt. My first disappointing experience really started to change especially when I started traveling around Italy and discovering some of the amazing places that the country has to offer. Not only that, I also met some really good friends that helped me through the bad phases.
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I am really glad that you ended up having a richer experience! Can you tell us what the most positive things you have experienced there are?
It is hard to pin point a few things, but overall all the amazing people that I met, just travelling around discovering the country and the culture and learn new things about myself that where hidden somewhere. Going abroad really changes you for the better and allows you to get better in touch with who you really are.
Those are some awesome positive experiences! Can you think the most negative ones?
I think it was mostly the fact that I was missing people and missing places, probably. But overall there weren’t really negative things about Italy.
I can totally relate with that! Now regarding your academic experience in Italy how was it? What surprised you the most?
STUDYING IN ITALY: ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL LIFE
The academic life in Italy is really different from the Portuguese one, especially because in Italy almost every course is approved by oral exam, instead of written exam. This really surprised me and made me nervous at the time. What also surprised was the knowledge that Italian students have in general, they are very cult people.
Exploring on that, what about Italian people? Have you got along with them easily? Many cultural barriers?
I think that in fact Italians are quite similar to Portuguese people, so fortunately I didn’t feel many cultural barriers. The language was hard for me to understand sometimes, but it is something easier for Portuguese students than for students from other countries. Taking an Italian course before going to Italy also helped me a little.
I spent my time traveling, basically. I only travelled around Italy, but I saw some beautiful places from Capri to Venice to Milan, it was the best part of it. There are also a lot of people traveling to other countries, because low cost companies in Pisa fly all over Europe, so I guess that is a plus of studying there. I also went to a lot of cool shows that were in cities relatively close to Pisa, which allowed me to see bands that just don’t tour to Portugal.
Travelling is one of the best things in life definitely! Would you like to come back? What do you miss the most?
I would love to come back for sure, it’s an amazing country. I miss being there and feeling that everywhere I go there’s something new to discover. Ah, and I miss listening to people speaking Italian.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about going to study to Italy?
I would advise people to choose wisely where they are going and to travel inside Italy. There are so many things to discover and explore. I’ve been in a lot of cities but I still feel that there are a lot of other places to see. I think that to really know the country you should plan to visit most cities and villages from north to south to be sure you do not miss a thing.
Thank you so much Luís! I hope you get to visit Italy again very soon!
INTERVIEWER: Margarida Morais