A 3rd year student at Carleton, Nikki left Ottawa in February to start her exchange in one of the world’s oldest cities, Rome. Born in Catania and having an Italian citizenship but growing up Canadian, she was prepared for and felt comfortable with Italian culture but as I caught up with her between all her whirlwind adventures she explained how different living in Italy is than just visiting. Here’s her experience (so far!)…
The application process to go on exchange was long. From the time she began the process to her leaving day, over 12 months had passed. Pre-departure included orientation sessions, discussion about what to expect on exchange, and the emotions that would be involved in such a drastic change to daily life.
Nikki chose Rome as her exchange destination (with Melbourne and Edinburgh rounding out the top 3) as she felt comfortable with Italian culture and had visited Rome for 5 days previously, but wanted to spend more time in the city. Nikki also has a passion for classical civilizations and living in a city with such historical significance as Rome could only be described as unbelievable. (The warmer weather in winter months may have just been an added bonus)
Nikki is studying at LUISS Guido Carli, a private university that is one of the top 2 post-secondary schools in all of Italy. With less than 8000 students and one building of five floors that everyone takes their classes in, Nikki described the school as feeling a lot more like a high school and having a very different atmosphere than Carleton. She placed emphasis upon even just how the students dress themselves.
“People are wearing Gucci and Versace, no one is attending class in sweatpants and a hoodie. I would NOT wear leggings and a Carleton hoodie unless I wanted everyone staring at me”.
This classy attire extends to even the bus drivers who shuttle students between the schools 3 campuses in Rome, dressed to the nines in their suits and ties.
Other differences Nikki noted included everyday things such as getting groceries. While in Italy she is not one-stopping at the nearby Loblaws, buying imported goods but instead is picking out fresh vegetables from the storefront, freshly baked bread at the bakery and her days are far more traditional and peaceful, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Ottawa.
“The restaurants here are the best experience every time”.
Even the academics vary greatly from Canada. The slower, less rushed lifestyle blends directly into exam season where student book their own final exams and have between the end of class in May and July to perform them. As well, all finals are not written exams but instead are oral, with the professor asking you questions as you try to remember what that one reading said back in February.
A third adjustment Nikki had to make was a new living arrangement. Used to living with her best friends in Ottawa (shoutout Hailee, Krista and Lilly), she now rooms with a 30 year old Chilean getting her phD in Law. Communication is in Italian, of which Nikki is fluent in, and life at home is far more isolated with a lack of communal meals and more time spent in your own bedroom than in the common spaces.
For Nikki, everyday bring forward something new. “I could plan out my entire day and be going to get food, stop at the bank and attend class before studying but end up at a pizzeria with a friend instead” she mentioned, laughing about the lack of predictability in her daily life.
“It’s a never-ending cycle of I wonder what is going to happen today”.
Grazie Nikki for sharing your experience with us! Looking forward to hearing about everything else that happens before you’re home!!!
Follow Nikki on insta here for more looks as Italy!