Rome: Refugee Clinic, Research and Risotto

Seamus O., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
The Clinic of Immigration Law and Citizenship of the Faculty of Law at the Roma Tre University (January 2019)

During January of 2019 I was fortunate enough to participate in the Clinic of Immigration and Citizenship at the Rome Tre University located in Rome, Italy.

The streets of Italy

Whilst my time at the Clinic was short lived, the amount of technical, cultural and social knowledge I gained will last a life time. In a nut shell, the Clinic assists migrants and asylum seekers in knowing their rights and enhancing their protection by offering them qualified assistance whilst also being an advocate for refugees in Italy. My experience can be broken down to three main parts: Exploring Rome, researching and assisting refugees in the Clinic.

The Clinic

Once or twice a week the team of law students and lawyers would open the doors to the clinic (a class room). Here is where the students and lawyers meet with current refugees and assist them with the migration and legal process. It was incredibly interesting and at times quite confronting to see what these people had gone through back in their respective countries, and then what they were having to go through once they arrived in Italy. Given recent change to the refugee policy in Italy, I couldn’t help but empathise with the refugees and share the frustration of the students and lawyers working in the Clinic.

The Colosseum

My Research

As the Clinic only opened one or two days a week, I was given a research task to assist the Clinic in their Country of Origin Information (COI) program. The COI program involved a group of one professor/lawyer and 5 students working with the Court of Italy in preparing COI reports on various countries/areas. The Court recently requested a report on the persecution of Chinese Christians in China. Given the Report was to be written in Italian, I was given the task to gather as many reports/articles/accounts on the topic and summarise the findings for the team. Whilst at times it felt I was researching too much and not eating enough Pizza, it was incredible to work on a project which had a great impact on future refugees in Italy and the Italian justice system.

Of course, when in Rome do as the Romans do. It was incredible to live in a city full of ancient history, art, a rich culture and of course, delectable food. There are endless sights to see in Rome and a relic around every corner, a real treat for any research break or day off. I would like to thank all QUT and Rome Tre staff for assisting me with this experience all steps of the way.

And of course… Italian food!

Terrifying, amazing. Difficult, worth-while.

Jordy K., Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Bachelor of IT
Politencnico di Milano, Italy (Semester 1 2018)

Europe in general is so different to Australia, and then Milan in Italy is so different to the rest of Europe.

When I arrived I was shocked by the landscape, architecture, people, and weather. Milan is a flat city and, I know it sounds like a small detail, but it’s odd to see straight streets go on forever. The people feel less caring, and more cool. Things are open at seemingly odd hours and that’s just how it is. It’s weird but nonetheless, Milan is probably the best student city in Italy. It’s overall just a cool place once you get to know it, and I recommend it for an Italian exchange. Rent is expensive but living costs are cheap. Roughly 600 euros a month for rent and 60 euros a week for living quite comfortably.

Host University

The uni I studied at was Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi), because it’s largely a non-English speaking institution make sure you do the easiest subjects you can and prepare for the teaching style to essentially be lectures only with a big exam or project at the end. The campus itself is cool because it’s old. Overall I’d say PoliMi is ok, decent it if you want to study in Italy, which is more the worthwhile experience.

Things I Didn’t Expect

One thing I didn’t expect was that, 90% of the time you have no idea what people are saying or what the writing around you means! The first month living in a foreign language country (especially if you’re there by yourself) feels like living on an alien planet. It’s so weird. Eventually though you get used to it and I ended up enjoying it as like a simple ambient noise. You become entirely comfortable being clueless.

What’s more in Italy, expect things to happen slowwwwly. Especially with big institutions or government. This can be annoying and sometimes feels like everything is of lesser quality because of it. You eventually get used to these slightly chaotic long waits when dealing with these things though.

Highlights

I still highly recommend exchange for everyone! Why? Travelling to new countries and gaining new perspectives simply outweighs all the downsides. Experiencing the highs and lows that this world has to offer is a phenomenal personal growth experience for anyone. Studying in Europe is awesome too because it’s so cheap and easy to fly to so many different countries and cultures. It’s this sort of stuff that really changes your perspective on everything forever, I know it has for me, and that’s why I highly recommend doing it!

Exploring the Architecture of Italy

Audrey Wong, Bachelor of Design

Short-term program: AIM Overseas ‘Rome Architectural Sketchbook’

Italy (June/July 2018)

I found my program through QUT short term program website, and it was organized by AIM Overseas, called Rome Architectural Sketchbook. Our program duration was 3 weeks in Rome, but I’d say the highlight of the program was the after-school life in Italy! On the first weekend, we went to Capri Island and Sorrento, in Southern Italy, and Florence and Pisa on the second. Most of us from the program didn’t know each other beforehand, so the weekend trips were organized only after we met in Rome, and even the train tickets were bought right before the night we go! Apart from the short trips, we also had lots of fun! Our program was about sketching in Rome, so we literally set down on the street and started drawing every day. However, despite such opportunity, there’s just too much to be covered in Rome! For example, the Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon were not included in the school schedule. So, we had to squeeze our time to pay them a visit. Another after-school activity we all love is to go grocery shopping! Despite the unforgiving heat condition, we always wanted to go shop at the grocery because the food is cheap and very fresh with lots of varieties. And of course, gelato every day!

GELATO EVERYDAY – you’ll be shocked by the variety of flavour I guarantee.

1st weekend trip to Capri Island and Sorrento

Our Italian tutor (lady with red hair and sun glasses) is the most passionate and enthusiastic lovely lady we’ve ever met!

Touching the columns that was carved in one monolithic one in the Vatican City! Stunned by the architecture there (actually should be stunned by the architecture everywhere in Europe)!

To be honest, this would all sound overwhelming to me before I joined the program. I had quite low self-esteem and self-confidence especially towards socializing. So, I will have to admit that it was quite uneasy to meet new people and make friends at first, but once you’re there in that situation, you realize you actually only have two choices, go and learn to enjoy, or don’t go and regret. So, this was how I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. And I ended up am really proud of myself and really glad that I have met every one of them.

2 Florence and Pisa 2nd weekend trip

Had to go to the Trevi Fountain at 8am coz class starts at 9!

Last day! A group photo finally!

Link to the videos we made for the assignment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5RR-NLt-To

Link to the assignment I presented: https://spark.adobe.com/page/2IYI6rRiKydqA/

Viva L’Italia!

Giulia Marrama, Bachelor of Laws
Universita Luigi Bocconi, Italy (Semester 1, 2018)

In Semester 1 2018, I travelled to Milan for a six-month exchange at Universita Luigi Bocconi. Milan is an incredible, vibrant city filled with history, amazing food, people, and fashion. Milan has the benefit of being a modern, metropolitan city while maintaining the classical Italian-styled architecture. The transport both within Milan and around Italy is very efficient and you can travel almost anywhere with the tram and train. I would recommend taking a tour with the Erasmus Student Network Body (ESN) at the beginning of semester, as this will allow you to connect with other exchange students and create strong friendships from the start.

When it comes to accommodation I decided to stay in an apartment with other Italian students. I had been accepted into the university’s Arcobaleno dorm but had been advised by previous students to try and find alternative accommodation. I was able to get an apartment with other Italian students in the suburb of Porta Romana. If you are thinking of getting an apartment I would highly recommend looking for one around this area. It was a perfect location that was only a 20-minute walk to the university and a 20-minute to the city centre. It was full of restaurants, bars, metro station, markets and everything you would need within a short walking distance.

Some of the tips that I would give include:

  1. Get involved in the events that ESN/University offers
  2. Be prepared to adapt to the Italian culture and lifestyle
  3. Keep in mind that the University does not alter their examination or course structures for exchange students and pass/fail is 60%
  4. Have fun and enjoy the remarkable ride that you have embarked on!

Living in Italy

Alexandra Bell, Bachelor of Design
Politecnico Di Milano, Italy (Semester 2, 2017)

Polimi, Polimi, Polimi… where to begin. Good facilities (not the most flexible opening hours), and lovely and warm people, but the university was significantly less organised (which I chalked up to cultural differences). Be prepared for your lecturers and fellow students to always be late, and don’t rush into the classroom while your lecturer is speaking because they definitely won’t appreciate it.

The facilities opening hours are 9am to around 9pm, however, for practical course-takers, the workshop rooms are from 9am to 6pm. Don’t forget the hour lunch break too! Lunch breaks apply to the whole country, with many shops, cafes, and businesses shutting their doors to eat and take a break – this can last multiple hours, so be prepared.

HIGHLIGHTS
Gosh – everything? I made excellent friends with my roommates and peers and got to experience and learn about their cultures. I even met a guy who stood through two hurricanes! I travelled so much – the cheapest website is goeuro.com and also look out for the blablacar car app. I am so grateful for my whole experience and can confidently say that my point of view of the world has become significantly more open to different pathways and values in life. And how could I not mention; the wine is so cheap my friends. Make use of it!

THINGS I DIDN’T EXPECT
All the professors will most likely revert to speaking Italian! For you to learn a little is a huge advantage as this also applies to grocery shopping. Also, the language is pretty fun to learn and everything is pronounced exactly as it is spelt (for example, they wouldn’t say the girl’s name is Selene as in ‘Seh-leen’ but as in ‘Seh-leh-neh’, capisci?)

ADVICE
Go ham on the food! The pizza there is the best thing I’ve ever tasted, and the gelato makes me want to cry. Try to say yes to every social event and opportunity (while taking your studies seriously enough). Be friendly and you will most likely make lots of friends with other exchange students (and a few Italians). The best website for looking for housing is uniplaces.com, but there are a lot more too! Finally, be organised, think big, and get excited!

From big city Brisbane to small town Trento

The currency in Italy is the Euro which is generally about one third stronger than the Australian dollar. This was a bit of a blow as the money from the scholarship (9.5k) became lesser than anticipated and in this regards the concern of converting it all in one swoop or continuously was a dangerous risk as in some instances (what happened personally) the Australian dollar consistently dropped in strength meaning that when converting you were losing money comparatively if you had converted it all in the beginning.

Compared to Brisbane there prices are rather, odd. Expensive things in Australia would be really cheap in Italy and vice versa. This made a bit of an issue on then seeing the necessity of certain products.

This made having a budget key,

there were three major bills the pay and consider; accommodation rent, phone bill and public transport bill. These monthly would chew a large chunk of your budgeting expenses and didn’t leave much wiggle room, however, after consideration it is reasonably prices putting considerations into effect and made budgeting an easier very serious thing to do.

Personally I used a travel visa card which helped and lessened the need to withdraw money which would have a standard fee to do so and so the travel card was accepted in essentially all cases (besides a flea market).

Trento being a lovely place was easy to settle in and understand how it functioned, it being a small town made it feel safer comparatively to Brisbane big metropolitan city lifestyle. Although I had taken precautionary methods to ensure my safety I found myself being too critical of the locals and the people who were there and decided to present myself to strangers, saying hello, talking, interacting and to my surprise everyone was willing to stop and have a small dialogue.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

Thesis work in Italy’s Trento

Academically speaking for me I was granted permission to start and finish my final thesis for my Medical Engineering degree, in addition to this I had to take on two course work units. This meant that this semester would not be a leisurely one.

For my course units I would travel to the engineering faculty and take my classes, as for my thesis work it was to be completed in a laboratory south of the town in the BioTech facility.

The BioTech lab where I undertook thesis work

On the days that I had no class (also after or before I had class one the same day) I found myself there early as 8:30am and late as 5pm Monday through to Friday, with the occasional weekend visit to check up on my work. My thesis work, as expected, was something not to take lightly and so I was determined to work hard and placed a lot of my free time in research and conducting experiments as much as I was permitted.

Thankfully the course works I undertook were in English (normally in Italy, Bachelor classes are taken in Italian) however the classes I took were in English and this was due to these course works being Master level units. I wasn’t previously aware of this however I felt dedicated in spending my time working. Comparatively to QUT, in the academic intensity, I have never had a full schedule as this nor one that required an immense amount personal study.

In our accommodation there was a study common room in which I would spend my nights after dinner with floor mates studying till our heads ached from reading. This was a motivational way of studying as a group we each had our own work but pushed ourselves to study by jokingly scolding each other if we were on the phone too long or were zoning out.

A challenge I faced was the work load. Despite having no commitment besides studying, the call to adventure was very strong however in most cases I could not take the chance as I would need to decided weekends and nights to ensuring my work was consistent and satisfactory. Even so, the friends I made in the studying were worth the trip.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

The time of your life in Trento

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

The major strengths of the university is its exchange student associations that really do go out of their way to include new comers and let them see the fascinating places within and outside of Trento and better yet hold weekly events to ensure that everyone throughout the exchange form a group in a sense and make new connections globally. The university also offers student accommodation which is another huge way for students to connect foreign and domestic. In this regards I was able to meet wonderful people all around the world and from Italy and found new friends that throughout the exchanged helped me and made things bright and very fun for me.

The wonderful people living in student accommodation with me

The floor had a tradition of having a ‘Big Party’ at the beginning of the semester to welcome the new floor mates giving a great opportunity to formally introduce yourself and sensing the atmosphere that will be ever present in the floor. The photo above is everyone on the floor .The students each studied something different which I felt was a strong point as it would intrigue my curiosity in not only what they personally studied but how it worked in their own country and here in Trento.

The accommodation in depth functioned as a floor being a single unit. Each person had their own separate room with bathroom, bed, wardrobe, balcony, study desk and bedside lamp. The floor had a single kitchen and bathroom and balcony in which the cooking area was shared having lockers for each individuals cooking equipment and food and sharing fridges with a certain amount of people.

The view of the mountains from my accommodation

 

Continuing on for what the accommodation had to offer is that there were gyms, sports ground, music area and even a Unibar that was open breakfast to dinner all days. There was even a rock climbing centre around the corner which I personally enjoyed whenever I could go. The student accommodations are located 25minute walk from the city centre however was backed up right next to a train station which was super convenient.

What to expect in Trento, small-town Italy

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

 

My exchange program was placed and set in the northern part of Italy, Trento, a small city town that is located in the gulf between two mountains. Initially I had chosen this partner university by its impressive range of subjects that it offered in the field that interested me, biomedical engineering.

At this point I had no idea how things functioned overseas in a different culture and found myself in a new position of having to adjust myself. First arriving to meet my professors and colleagues I was nervous being relatively young and with the most minimal experience in comparison to those within the laboratory. This led me to the feeling as if I was inadequate to be there among everyone else as, I believed, the skill gap was too big for me.

However the hospitality, warmness and kindness of those within the laboratory aided me into being confident and strengthen myself immensely with how the exchange would progress.

 

The main square ‘duomo’ in which the statue of Poseidon with the trident stands on top of a well

Trento in itself, is a very small town located 100km above Verona (between Venice and Milan) and still holds dear the architecture, customs and style of a town well aged. The noticeable different between QUT and the University of Trento was the campus, unlike QUT where faculties have their respective buildings (P Block – Engineers, D Block – Design, etc) Trento had the faculties located around the town, with the major campus being in the city centre and the others in the surrounding suburbs. The University of Trento is a very beautiful and well-functioning university. The facilities that are offered are extremely well thought out and also aesthetically pleasing bringing a lighter to mood to things.

 

In addition to this, there were cafeterias. This was something totally foreign to me but as I visited it daily, I found myself enjoying it and soon enough become accustomed to it.

Discover the UK’s picturesque countryside

Jordan W
(BCI student Majoring in Drama, Minors in Scenography and Literature)
Leeds University, UK

 

The landscape is stunning in England, if you’re a painter or creative type it will make your mind wonder. I was fortunate enough in my weekend explorations of the England countryside to come across an exhibition holding some of Francis Bacon’s most famous work on tour.

You’ll meet so many friends while on exchange. I will give some advice, you will notice on your return home that you will have more international student friends than English students, as they tend to stick to their own crowd (usually). This is not necessarily bad, it was my own personal experience and made friends with plenty of non-student English friends.

So, you’re probably wondering about Europe. Do it. It’s one of the best things. In the middle of Semester 2 (which is our Semester 1 at QUT), there is a month break in the middle to study, I suggest do some study then take some time off to travel to Europe, it is at a very good time in March / April where the tourists have not yet arrived, but it is not blisteringly cold like Winter – it is just right.

Nothing is more rewarding than travelling

A highlight I would suggest is to do Italy – it is magnificent, you will not regret – climbing Mount Vesuvius was indeed my favourite as it snowed while I was at the top.

However, transport and travelling to other places is quite expensive due to the class system on trains which interlink England. I suggest using the National Express bus service that allows extremely cheap tickets around the U.K. – it takes longer to your destination point but it saves you money.

By the end, you will wish you could never leave – but that’s okay because at the end you would have made connections and can meet up with those friends again, traveling and searching the world together.