Six months in Rome: My se­mes­ter at Sapien­za Uni­ver­sità di Ro­ma

My semester abroad in Rome is about to come to an end. Time for a look back - both at my experience as an exchange student and at all the things I got to see and appreciate during my time in Italy.

The main building of Sapienza Università di Roma.
The main building of Sapienza Università di Roma. Photo: private

I've been living in Rome for five months now and already the time has come: the last month has arrived! The first good-byes are done, and at the beginning of July I finally took my last exams and finished my essays. The beginning of the summer holidays is noticeable by an incredible number of tourists, and I try to avoid the city centre as much as possible during the day. At the same time, I want to cross off a few more things from my to-do list and take advantage of Rome's inexhaustible cultural offerings before my stay here comes to an end. In my final blog entry, I would like to review my Erasmus exchange and report on what I experienced during my studies and beyond.

Studying English in Italy, oral exams and seminars with 80 participants

When I became an HU ambassador, I'm sure a few people wondered: English literature in Italy - why? But it's not actually so strange, because Sapienza has a large department for English and American Studies - and some courses that interested me very much. Besides my Italian language class, I took three literature courses, including “English and Italian Renaissance Culture”, where we read the Renaissance novel “The Book of the Courtier”, but also talked a lot about the Renaissance in Italy. So, I was also able to learn a lot about the history of Italy: about the time before unification, the history of the language, and of course about the most famous literary figures (Petrarch, Macchiavelli, Boccaccio). In Italy it is common to take oral exams, which I was a bit scared of, because I am used to writing essays and term papers exclusively. But in the end, I was very satisfied with my results.

I do have to say, however, that I prefer the teaching style at German universities. In Italy, it is common in the seminars to listen to the lecturers a lot and take notes, just like in a lecture. There is space for questions and students are always allowed to give their opinions, but overall there is not the kind of atmosphere in which the literature can be discussed in detail. This is probably also due to the fact that the courses take place in lecture halls, where often up to 80 people take part in the same seminar. Courses at Sapienza are never limited in terms of seats - this is an advantage because everyone can take their desired courses. Still, I often missed the seminar atmosphere in smaller groups where I can express myself more freely and really discuss things.

Page of a book.
Sapienza has a large department for English and American Studies, so it made sense for me to come here. Photo: private

Etna, Pompeii, Cappuccino: Italian Explorations

In addition to everyday university life, there was of course a lot to discover in Rome. The city has an almost endless supply of cultural events – which since the beginning of summer also take place outdoors. A few weeks ago, I went to a jazz concert by the university's own band, visited numerous museums, and in March I was able to attend a concert of my favourite band from Rome, Maneskin. A very special experience for me was a tour through the necropoleis under the Vatican, which is only possible with a private tour, and of which only a few visitors to Rome are aware. Whenever possible, I used my days off to explore Italy. From a hike on Mount Vesuvius or Mount Etna, to visits to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence or the excavations of Pompeii - I was able to experience an incredible amount of Italy's history, art and nature.

These last few months have certainly made me appreciate Italian culture even more. As I wrote in my last blog entry, I was incredibly impressed by the helpfulness of the people and their willingness to make detours just to get me to my destination. What will I miss the most? Probably the little things: living within walking distance of the university, the unbelievably good cappuccino for 1.20 euros, the warm summer evenings and walks through this historic city. And, of course, I will miss my friends. Granted, it wasn't always easy to meet locals in the 'Erasmus bubble', but he result is that I can now call people from numerous nations my friends.

Portrait of Jemina with a sunset over Rome in the background.
I will miss these summer evenings in Rome! Photo: private

Farewell to the "open air museum”

Now it's time to organise the last things: picking up documents for the Erasmus office, putting the flat in order and slowly starting to pack – somehow it doesn’t feel ‘real’ yet. I know that saying goodbye to Rome and the here people will be very hard for me, but I also know that it is not goodbye forever. It’s not for nothing that Rome is known as an "endless open-air museum": there is so much history to be found around every corner and there will always be more things to discover when I return.

Right now, I have to admit that I'm really looking forward to seeing my friends and family in Berlin - and to finally going out for Vietnamese food and drinking a cool Club Mate again. Even if I can't fully grasp it yet, the last few months with Erasmus have definitely been some of the best of my life.

(Published 24 July 2023)