The way to Rome: My check­list for a se­mes­ter abroad

From filing forms for Auslands-BAföG funding and the Erasmus scholarship to the online flat hunt and an enquiry to the Italian embassy: There are, indeed, many roads that lead to Rome - but ultimately it’s really easy.

Jemina walking around Rome.
Going to Rome with Erasmus+ and BAföG funding? Check! Photo: private

After my A-levels, I went to Rome for a language study trip. It quickly became clear that I wanted to come back here to study! Six years later, the time had come. With the acceptance letter for my Erasmus exchange place in hand, I could start making plans.

Submit a 60-page funding application to the BAföG office? Check!

In order to get to Rome, the first big hurdle was the question of finances. As soon as I received the final acceptance letter from Sapienza University in December, I submitted the first documents to start an application for BAföG abroad. It is quite normal, apparently, that one doesn’t have all the necessary paperwork handy all at once. The person in charge at the agency will kindly get in touch at some point with a (very!) detailed list of the 20-25 documents that are still missing. So, really, nothing can go wrong.

Unlike the domestic BAföG, there is no online portal for the application. All pages of the application must therefore be printed out and sent by post to the office in Berlin. From this point on, patience is required. Three months and about 60 pages of submitted documents later, I could breathe a sigh of relief: my application was approved and I had the certainty that a large part of my expenses in Italy would be covered by BAföG. I encourage every person to apply, despite the application process I described. The requirements for funding are significantly lower than for domestic BAföG. The Erasmus grant, to which all students are entitled, additionally supplements my funding for the semester abroad.

Finding a flat share in Rome without falling for scammers? Check!

Finding a flat in Rome turned out to be easier than I expected - I have to admit that I probably had luck on my side. I wanted to move into a private flat-share, but had heard many reports about stolen deposits and non-existent rooms. My first searches online indeed brought up many blurred pictures of overpriced rooms - with the request to transfer the deposit of 1,200 euros from abroad immediately and without an inspection. A healthy dose of scepticism certainly didn’t go amiss. In order to avoid sleepless nights before departure, I would still recommend looking for a room on the internet before arriving, rather than starting on the spot.

Sapienza is located in San Lorenzo, where a large part of student life takes place and many students live. Neighbouring districts from which the university is easily accessible include Esquilino, San Giovanni and Pigneto. is a popular website for finding rooms from non-corporate people; my lucky find was on a very nice landlady answered my request for a small, bright room in a newly renovated flat and immediately seemed trustworthy. I was able to contact my future flatmates and did not have to transfer any money until my arrival. At 550 euros plus utilities, the room is a bit more expensive than the one at home in Schöneberg - but it is in a great location, near the main station in Esquilino.

Quickly get an Italian tax number from an authority in Berlin? Check!

When I received my landlady's approval in mid-January, there was only one magic document left to obtain: the Codice Fiscale, a personal tax number that, in Italy, is needed for many applications and registrations - but especially for signing rental contracts. I was able to apply for my tax number by e-mail to the Italian Embassy in Berlin. The catch: "Processing will take about five to six weeks.“ With little hope of getting my tax number before arriving in Italy, I sent off the application. Then, fortunately for me, came the big surprise: five hours after I clicked on "send", I suddenly received my very own Italian tax number! There are pleasant surprises sometimes, even in Berlin, where administrative processes are famously slow.

Now, nothing stood in the way of my departure. I slowly started to pack my bags and say goodbye to friends, as I only had two and a half weeks left before leaving. Although everything was finally organised, I remained a little sceptical - it all felt so easy! I didn't even need a visa to move to another country for six months. This experience reminded me once again of the benefits of living and studying in the EU. During the Welcome Week, organised by the Erasmus Network, we got a guided tour around the city. As we were watching the sun set, it hit me fort he first time: I actually live in Rome.

Sunset in Rome
Watch the sunset at an exchange student in Rome? Check! Photo: private

(Published 2 May 2023)