Campus inside a Castle?

Bridget McNab, Bachelor of Architecture
Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy (Semester 1, 2016)

“Wow, what a great choice for your degree!” and, “the location!” and, “the food!” and, “you are essentially a genius!” (that one was a lie), was what a lot of people said to me when I told them that I’d be studying Architecture in Italy.

Confession: my decision to go to Italy had nothing to do with the assumed romantic ideals. My dream had been to go to France, as I have a meaningful appreciation for soft cheese, wine towns, and the accent. As much as my five years of high-school French may have scraped me through Architecture taught in French, I decided to go with the next best (and taught in English) thing – Italy. Plus, the city I chose, Turin, was in a great location, situated a little bit South of Switzerland, a little bit East of France, and in the very centre of wine towns. I specifically chose Turin because the idea of a smaller city, to me, meant potentially more authenticity. Therefore, the cost of living was less (than Milan anyway). The north of Italy is a little cheaper than Australia, which was good – cheaper (and 157% better) public transport, extremely cheap markets, relatively cheap rent, and cheap pizzas. This allowed for me to save for further travels afterwards, score!

I lived in the medieval square from the time of the Savoy family. Sounds epic?! It was! The location was exceptional. The actual accommodation was okay – it was student apartments where we had a very uncomfortable single bed in an admittedly large room; a tiny, shared kitchen and dining room; and a single bathroom between four (no living room).

As my student apartment was strangely restored from an older building with a much more exciting previous purpose, so was my campus. I studied at Politecnico di Torino, which catered for mostly thousands of strands of Engineering that I didn’t even know existed, and Architecture. When I told people I studied Architecture at Politecnico they gasped in wonder, as the Politecnico Architecture building is Actually. A. Castle. However, (and probably due to some cruel strike of fate), my classes ended up in the furthest campus, that no one really knew where it was, and it wasn’t Actually. A. Castle. It was, however, the original ex-Fiat factory where they’d test the cars on the roof like total rebels: a justifiable alternative, I guess.

Essentially, I studied two subjects (equal to about 3.5 QUT subjects) in the rebel campus – Restoration and Architecture and Urban Economics. These were Masters subjects as well, and as I’m still a Bachelor student, it proved very challenging at times. The logistics of the course were similarly challenging – mostly verbal briefs and no criteria. However, once my friends and I did some detective work and understood their expectations, the assignments ended up being rewarding.

My University experience taught me a lot about patience, flexibility and the importance of excellently minded friends. As well as that, generally living in another country, as far as I found, teaches you a lot about self-reliance, independence, confidence and open-mindedness. Even if you face homesickness, stress, unfamiliarity, and missing out on Actually. A. Castle, you grow. You grow into a person that is largely a result of your experiences. So, if you’re reading this, and wondering whether to do exchange, I say, risk it – travel completely by yourself, go to that party, ski with a stranger, eat gelato daily, … and grow!

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