Master of International Economics & Finance, 2nd year
Master of International Economics & Finance, 2nd year

Academic experiences

In Italy, to get the credits for a full time load I needed to study 5 courses.
These consisted of:

  • Advanced microeconomics
  • Advanced macroeconomics
  • Two courses on monetary policy
  • Development economics

I knew enough Italian to be able to study one course, advanced macroeconomics, in Italian.
This was rewarding for me because the Italian version of the course had a very local focus, and was very forthright about macroeconomic factors facing Italy such as corruption and waste.

The thing I enjoyed the most about the different academic system was the different perspective of studying in a different country.
There was also the additional bonus of studying in Europe, so the number of guest lectures from visiting academics and company CEOs was amazing.

The thing I liked the least was the imbalance towards theory.
None of the courses I took had any practical component.
The biggest challenge was that there is only one exam at the end of the year, and study is largely self-regulated.
This of course could only be overcome by recognising this beforehand and applying discipline throughout the semester so that there was not a need to cram.

Some of the courses I took were very difficult.
This was exasperated by the fact that local student can retake an exam for a course multiple times, and can withdraw from an exam they have already started and try again later.
This is okay if you live close by in Europe, but was not something I could do.
As a result of these factors, it seemed to me that some of the exams were much more difficult than they might have been in Australia, and I was hard-pressed for time to finish some of them.
I was only prepared for these exams because of my consistent self-directed study throughout the semester.

Gladiators in Rome

Personal experiences

The best thing I gained from my experience was a massive boost to my confidence.
Before I left for exchange I was often shy and evasive with other people, which was often interpreted as me being aloof or strange.
Living overseas in another country, meeting lots of lovely new people and being thrown into innumerable difficult situations has helped me immeasurably to have a bit of confidence in myself.

In Australia I have found that a lot of people follow a pre-determined progression for success in life.
If any of the steps are skipped, or one takes a bit longer on a step, others are almost aggressive in asking why your life is not on track.
Living in Europe has helped me to appreciate that the different paths people take through life are as different as each person is different.
By going on exchange I have become more comfortable with who I am, and I am a lot more confident as a result.

Accommodation

I lived in a university residence, but the residence was on the very outskirts of the city and 35 minute ride on the tram was needed to reach the university.
The thing I enjoyed most about living in the residence was the opportunity to meet lots of new people and how easy it was to organise outings.
The advice I would give is if you want to try to get accommodation in a university residence get in as soon as it's available to get a place in the best residence.

Budget

Expenses for the month were about:

  • 500 euros for rent
  • 200 euros for groceries
  • 20 euros for transport

So about 3600 a semester for the basics.
This comes to about 5400 dollars.

Travel around Europe is pretty cheap and a lot of entertainment is either free or available cheaply.
To allow for a reasonable amount of travel and entertainment and also to cover surprises like the 140 euros needed to get a permesso di soggiorno, I would suggest another 3500 dollars, so with 9000 dollars you should be able to live comfortably and travel around a bit.

Academic development and employability

The best skill I have gained for my academic and work development from going on exchange is the ability to look at things from a different perspective.
Europe, and particularly Italy has been hit hard by the crisis, and the effects of this can be seen everywhere.
This is no less true for what is taught in classes.
In a lot of my courses there was a strong focus on what needs to be changed to repair the economy and stop such a catastrophe from happening again.
I feel that in Australia we have been a bit too sheltered from the effects of the global economic crisis through the money brought in from the mining boom, but this has resulted in a bit of laziness on academic thought.
We have only gleaned lessons from the surface, but by actually living in Europe and learning from the perspective of Europeans I have noticed that I approach not only this problem, but many other things from many different perspectives.

Highlight

One highlight of my experience was seeing Carmen in the historic La Scala opera house in Milan.
The tickets available online sold out almost immediately, and I thought I was going to miss out.
But through a friend I learnt how to get tickets for only 14 euros on the day of the performance.
Admittedly, it took a long time queuing in different queues all day, but it was well worth the wait.
The experience of watching an opera in the spectacular surrounding of a lovely historic building was enchanting.
It is true for performances like an opera, the difference between watching a recording and watching it live amongst beautiful surroundings is amazing.

Top tips

The top advice I would give to other students considering going on exchange is try to participate in an activity you do at home.
It's nice to be in a different city and to travel around Europe, but you will still miss your family and friends back home, especially when times are tough.
Doing something you would normally do, whether it be sport or music or whatever, makes you feel a bit more at home.
It may be a bit difficult to fit it in amongst study and parties, but it's well worth it and the friends you make will be relatable and dependable.

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