Eloise – Libera Università Internazionale Degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli (Luiss) – Italy
Semester 1, 2023
Bachelor of Laws
I am 20 years old and have been working part-time and studying full-time at QUT for 3 years. I have always loved to travel, which led me to apply for a semester abroad in 2022. I found myself at LUISS University in Rome to complete 2023 Semester One abroad. I approached my exchange journey with no doubts – I was so excited to experience the world and explore my passion for travel. I can’t say that I thought too much into the reality of moving abroad completely alone. For students considering an exchange I believe it is important to note the difficulties I faced in my experience; but I’ll start with the highlights.
Warm Welcome on Campus
The ESN team (a volunteer organisation run by students of the uni) at LUISS was fantastic – I couldn’t rave about them enough. They were so welcoming and did anything they could to help all incoming Erasmus students settle in. They devoted countless hours and hard work to plan trips and daily events throughout the semester. A day did not go by where there wasn’t an event or opportunity to meet new people. My experience would have been completely different without the ESN staff who became close friends by the end of the semester! There are ESN groups across Europe which are very cheap to join. ESN LUISS connected me with all my friends, allowed me to go on cheap trips, get discounts at restaurants, bars, Ryanair and so much more. Joining the ESN group was the best decision I made, and I cannot recommend it enough!
Travelling Around Europe
Depending on what you’re looking to gain from the experience, LUISS classes are also a big benefit. I had limited choice of what I could study due to credit point requirements, however the classes that I chose did not require a large time commitment, allowing me to travel more.
My exchange generally consisted of weekly 3am wakeups on a Thursday to head to the airport for a weekend trip with new friends to a different country. We spent our time exploring different cities, doing our best to navigate Rome, so many laughs, daily meals, and sleepovers with friends who became family… and not so much study.
Rome itself is also quite cheap – it is not uncommon to find a cappuccino for less than one euro, an Aperol spritz for 2 euro, or pasta at a nice restaurant for 8-10 euros. The whole city is historic; every road you walk down makes you feel like you’re in a museum. It was a surreal experience to live in such a beautiful city.
Overall, I made some amazing life-long friends, learnt so much about myself, made some mistakes but also had the greatest times of my life. I can now say that my exchange is one of the best things I have ever done. However, it would have been nice to hear some of the difficulties before I departed. I had only ever heard extremely positive stories about how exchange was the happiest time of people’s lives, so I felt quite isolated and confused when I first arrived.
The planning stages of my exchange weren’t exactly smooth sailing. Due to the timing of our semesters in Australia, finding accommodation was a last-minute task. My friends that live in the Northern Hemisphere got accepted for their exchange in March 2022, whilst I didn’t get confirmation until November. Due to this, there was no student accommodation available and even real-estate companies had no vacancies for January.
I ended up living in a hotel for the first 3 weeks, and an Airbnb for the remaining 10 weeks – a less than ideal situation which cost me a fortune. This was a nightmare and honestly contributed to much of the stress and negativity surrounding my experience. For students considering an exchange in Rome, I would strongly recommend booking through ‘Spotahome’, even if the options aren’t what you are expecting. Everyone I met who booked through this website had a decent experience, felt safe, and were housed with other young students.
Some Challenges in First Days
My arrival in Italy was a shock to the system. I was blown away by the courage that it takes for so many people to do this each semester. ESN LUISS had a fantastic Welcome Week for incoming Erasmus students. However, my days spent in Rome before this started were (without sounding too dramatic) some of the hardest I’ve experienced.
I have never felt as lonely or isolated as I did in those first days. I quickly discovered the reason that I create such a busy life for myself at home is because I do not know how to be alone. This would come to be the most valuable lesson I learnt on exchange – how to be comfortable on my own and enjoy experiences alone.
To be clear, I met amazing people, was able to travel the world, grew a trust in myself that didn’t exist before, and learnt to enjoy my own company. But here are some of the harsh realities which contributed to a major culture shock:
- Rome is extremely dirty. This wouldn’t faze some people, but personally I struggled living amongst such conditions.
- Until peak season hit in May, 90% of locals refused to speak English and raised their voice when trying to communicate.
- Lack of nature! This one shocked me. You don’t realise how much we are surrounded by nature in Australia. There are beautiful parks in Rome, but it doesn’t even compare.
- At LUISS, the local Italian students (excluding ESN) ignored Erasmus students – making class and being on campus quite isolating.
- For someone with multiple food allergies, I found Rome the least accommodating location for finding gluten free AND dairy free options. Many gluten free OR dairy free restaurants; hardly any options for both.
Overall, living and studying in Rome was an unforgettable experience. It seemed like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, but it made the experience my own. I made friendships that I will never forget and had my first solo travel experience. To anyone considering a semester exchange, you will not regret it. The memories I have made are unforgettable and the opportunities are amazing. I learnt so much about myself and met people who I adore and can’t wait to see in the future. It was the best experience of my life and I wish I could have stayed longer!
Find out how you can apply for exchange via the QUT Student Exchange website.