La Dolce Vita: A year abroad in Italy, a new home from home.
First of all let me introduce myself. My name is Matt, my home city is Nottingham and I’m 20 years old.
“La dolce vita” are the first words which come to mind when thinking about my year abroad. It means “the sweet life” in Italian and the last 6 months of my life have certainly been that! I can certainly say that this been one whirlwind adventure.
I’ve had this year in Italy in the back of my mind since I first set foot in the Business School. One reason I chose this course was for that exact opportunity and 6 months on I can say that it has been the best decision I’ve made of my life!
August 29th was the start date of this adventure. I was bound for Turin! Keen eyed and raring to go I was ready to see what this north western city had in store for me. I left not knowing much about the city, only that it was the host city for the 2006 Winter Olympics, it was where the 1969 Italian Job was filmed (one of my all-time favourite films) and that it is the home of Fiat and Juventus. Furthermore, I was starting a new life in a country where I spoke very little of the language; ordering a cappuccino was just about as much as I could cope.
However, I wasn’t alone. Two of my classmates, Arthur and Scarlett, were also bound for Turin. So we had strength in numbers!
After arriving we had about a week to explore the city before we started university, at La Scuola di Amministrazione Aziendale. Being a private section of UNITO (Universitá degli Studi di Torino) it’s not as big as the Business School at the University of Brighton, but still good all the same. We got to meet all the other Erasmus students as well; about 40 of us in total. I was really excited to meet everyone and there was an amazing group of people spreading the globe: from Columbia, Chile and Canada to Germany, France, Spain and Poland! I knew it was going to be an interesting few months, with all these cultures coming together to socialise and party (and obviously do some learning along the way). Along with the Erasmus student there were also 70 American students taking part in their equivalent of the Erasmus programme, USAC. So in the end there was a great bunch of international students, and many of them have become very good friends! Later that day we started our intensive Italian course. This involved a 3 hour Italian lesson every day for the first couple of weeks. It most certainly was intense, but it was incredibly helpful and set me on my way to passing the beginners’ level.
My first trip was the weekend after the first few days of uni. A few of the Italian students organised a trip to a local wine festival in a city called Asti, about 40 minutes outside of Turin. It was my first proper cultural experience in Italy and it was like something I’ve never experienced before. All the local wine producers come together each year and sell their wine with some of their homemade food for around €4. But first thing you must do upon arrival is buy a cup for €0.50 which comes in a lanyard. So from there you walk around with a cup, hanging from your neck, trying as much wine and food as possible. It was a great experience. I had high hopes for the rest of my year abroad if it was this good in the first weekend!
The next experience out of Torino was to visit a place called Alba, as my parents had come to visit and I thought it would be good to show them some of the local country. Turns out there was the annual truffle fair and the town had a medieval festival for the weekend. We played medieval fair games, where a prize is a bottle of wine, tried truffle and just had an all-round wonderful day.
I have been on various other trips to places a few hours or so from Turin: to Aosta, a historic Roman town in the valley of Mont Blanc; a historic monastery in the Alps outside Turin called the ‘Sacra di San Michele’; and a pre-Christmas shopping trip to Milan. Also I have been farther afield to Rome. Given that there are so many Americans at university, all international students got a break for Thanksgiving. So Arthur, Scarlett and I headed to Rome for 5 days. Rome is such a beautiful city. All the history there is just amazing. Its one place I would recommend to everyone.
The first 4 months of my Erasmus experience absolutely flew bye, thanks to all the wonderful people I met and just the general experience of being in a foreign country with such a different culture. It took a while to get used to; like shops shutting for a couple of hours every day for lunch, transport strikes most weeks and the general Italian laid back attitude: but I have just embraced it and love every single bit.
I am ever so glad to be back in this wonderful city. However it wasn’t quite the same, as most people were only here for the first semester. Some of these people I may never see again and I already miss them dearly. But the new students are also lovely and I’m sure we’ll become excellent friends.
If the next 6 months are anything like the ones leading up to Christmas, this is quite simply going to be the greatest experience and best year of my life. I just never want this incredible journey to end. I love this city. I love this country. I love its people. It will always have a place in my heart.
Matt Boucher is studying International Business BSc(Hons) at Brighton Business School. During Year 3, International Business students can gain experience of living abroad by continuing their studies at a university in France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, Canada, Australia or the USA. For more information go to: http://www.brighton.ac.uk/courses/study/international-business-bsc-hons