Exchange to University of Verona, Semester 2, 2017
I chose to study in Verona because I wanted to live in Italy. I didn’t care where, just as long as I was located in this bel paese. To my relief, Verona is more beautiful than I could’ve imagined. I knew nothing about this city before selecting it as my first preference, now living here for over 2 months, I feel very strongly towards this city. I’m quick to verbally defend it if necessary and I am hesitant to even write this blog. I want this city to be my own, I don’t like the idea of gloating about it or encouraging visitors because I don’t want to share it’s beauty with anyone else.
I feel so lucky that Verona has turned out to be as beautiful as it is. It is quintessentially Italian, as if created from my mind. Though there are many factors that should be considered when selecting your host country/city, including your goals, cost of living, culture & customs, weather and more. Here are some of these factors I’ve been reflecting on in relation to my time in Verona.
My advice for new exchange students when deciding on where they would like to study would be to think about what you want to get out of exchange. You should enter this experience open minded and with little expectations, but you should ultimately know what you want to have gained by the time you go home (whether that be travel, new friends, learning a new language etc. or something more specific). Having an overall goal makes it easier to select a city you think will best fulfil that. It’s also important to know what you want from exchange because you can set goals for yourself – know what you want and do it.
The cost of living isn’t something that even occurred to me before exchange, but fortunately the cost of living in Verona is relatively low. My rent is really cheap (granted I am staying in a university residence), but other expenses such as food, eating out etc. are low which means that I can make my money go further and spend it on travel and weekend trips. This isn’t true of all of Italy though, I know that the ACU exchange students studying in Milan would completely disagree with me.
Size of the host city was important to me, I already live in Melbourne – the thought of living in another busy city didn’t appeal to me. Verona is small, quiet and gorgeous. You can get everywhere you need to by foot. I love the small sense of community I feel as I am recognised by cafe waitresses and the mother and daughter working at the family run grocer two streets from mine. These Italian women are all so delighted at my pathetic attempts of conversing with them in Italian, which is so encouraging and welcoming. I appreciate them for making these mundane tasks transform into sweet experiences.
Verona’s size has downsides though. It is often much more expensive to get flights in and out of the city compared to bigger Italian cities. In the past I have found myself traveling by train to other cities to take flights to other countries, this adds hours onto my journey and is a pain. Being a small city also mean it doesn’t have much of a night life nor reliable transport late at night or early in the morning.
Italy isn’t for everyone. People can become so easily frustrated with Italians because of their lack of structure and systems. There are rules and regulations in place that seem to not apply in reality. Activating necessary bank cards, applying for permits of residence, paying rent and all things of this nature have been an absolute pain in the neck.
Everything takes so long, takes multiple people and sees unnecessarily convoluted. Its frustrating as hell, but things seems to work out and you just have to take a deep breathe, relax and go along with it. Even though procedures and policy may seem to be a mess in Italy, one thing they don’t joke around with is food and really, what else matters. My favourite restaurant in Verona is a cosy gem tucked away from the main piazza. I alternate orders between visits, struggling to chose between the red wine risotto and the black truffle & mushroom tagliatelle…it’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta do it.