Moving to Italy was one of the best experiences of my life. If you’re wanting to go on Erasmus, check out this post to know what’s it like living in Italy as an Erasmus+ student!
Hello & welcome back to my blog! For the next couple of weeks, I am going to be writing about my Erasmus experience. I remember my mom suggested I start a blog when I moved to Italy and write about my adventures but I was hesitant back then. Look at me now two years later!
For my first post, I decided to write about what it really is like living in a small town in Italy as an Erasmus student. Let’s begin!
Check out my Instagram to see where in the world I am today ✈️
Before we get started, I took these photos with my iPhone 6. The quality isn’t the best but adding pictures to a blog post makes it more fun and relatable and I had to add pictures.
WHAT IS ERASMUS+?
Erasmus+ is an EU funded exchange program where students get the opportunity to study in another European University for free. The Erasmus+ program began in 1987 and has been going ever since. The process of going on Erasmus+ begins with students filling out a form and choosing three Universities they wish to go to. Then, their home University assesses the students’ academical record and if the student scored good marks, they’re chosen to go study abroad! The European Union also gives funds depending on the country of origin to help subsidize the cost of the stay abroad.
The aim behind this program is to promote inclusivity and students can learn a lot from living in another country. Around 4 million students go on Erasmus every year.
How long does the program last?
It all depends on your University and where you apply for. For example, mine lasted six months but there are some programs that last a year and you can go study outside of Europe! Check out Lilia’s blog on her experience studying in Washington DC with Erasmus plus.
Who is eligible to apply for Erasmus+?
Pretty much anyone who is registered at an institution for higher education. In order to be to apply, you have to be an EU Citizen, a citizen of an EU candidate country (meaning a country that is set to join the Union) or a citizen of EFTA/EEA.
However, there is another program called Erasmus Mundus that is open to non-EU citizens. The European Union works with institutions all over the world enabling students from all over the world to study in Europe.
For more information about Erasmus+ and Erasmus Mundus, click here.
Originally, I didn’t pick Italy as my top three choices when filling out the form. I picked Ireland, Netherlands and Greece. However, one day I got a call saying that I was chosen for the program but the only available spot they had was Bologna. I was elated when I received the news that I made the cut and of course, I couldn’t say no!
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Where did you move to Italy?
I moved to a small town called Forli which is an hour away from the big city of Bologna. The University I studied with was with the University of Bologna. Apart from the main campus in the city, they had other campuses in Forli, Cesena and Ravenna. Forli was mainly for international students like myself and that is why I moved to there.
When did you move to Italy?
8th February 2017. I still remember the exact day like it was yesterday. I had found an apartment beforehand and settled in my apartment. I had about two weeks to explore and get used to living by myself before lectures started.
Life in Italy as an Erasmus student:
Moving to a small town in Italy is different than vacationing there. I’ve been going to Italy every year since 2005 and yet living there was a completely different experience. You will not get this experience just by visiting a big city.
Here are some things I had to get used to when moving to Italy:
☆ The whole town shuts down for lunch:
Yup, you read it. Although this is still a common occurrence in Malta, Italians take it to the next level where pretty much everything is closed even the local pizzeria. Shops usually open from 9 am, close between 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm and then close again at 7 pm. Whenever I had a lecture in the afternoon, walking home was very quiet because there was hardly anyone around! Furthermore, just like in Germany, everything is closed on a Sunday.
☆ Living alone is not that bad:
I loved living alone, and still do! No one is bossing me around to clean (sorry, mom!), I can listen to music as loud as I want, eat whatever I want and not make my bed if I don’t want to. I loved being independent and making my own rules. One thing I loved to do was climb on my roof from my bedroom in the attic and admire the view. It’s weird I know but I loved it!
I also loved the way my apartment looked and how it was divided. It had two stories. Upstairs in the attic, there was my bedroom and bathroom and downstairs you could find the kitchen, living space and dining area. The dining area was my favourite because from there, you could get some amazing views.
☆ Italians are very strict on their mealtimes:
I remember leaving a 5 pm lecture and telling my Italian friend that I’m going home to cook dinner because I was starving. Her reaction was priceless! She was shocked that I ate dinner that early and proceeded to let me know that Italians usually eat their dinners at 8 pm! Also, someone told me not to order Cappucino after 11 am because it looks bad. I don’t know if that statement is true or false but I thought I’d let you know.
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☆ The famous Tabbacherias:
These small shops are identifiable by black and white, or blue and white T signs. You can do pretty much everything here! From buying newspapers and postcards, buy bus tickets, pay your phone bills and get your immigration status in Italy. Yup, you heard it! From the Tabbacherias, you can buy the stamp needed to complete your Permesso di Soggiorno. Tabbacherias are literally the workhorses of Italy
☆ Don’t expect a variety of food:
Forli had a sushi bar, a Chinese restaurant and a McDonalds at the edge of town. The rest of the restaurants were Italian which 1) is to be expected and 2) I was very grateful for! It gave me the opportunity to experience proper authentic food in a proper authentic Italian environment.
If you are moving to a small town like Forli, don’t expect to find a burger joint around every corner. Instead, when you’re hungry, grab yourself a piadina and a cannolo! This might not be your cup of tea at first but you’ll fall in love with the freshness of the ingredients.
And as expected, the pizza is delicious!
☆ Barely anyone speaks English:
Fortunately, I am fluent in Italian and the language wasn’t an issue for me. However, if you don’t know Italian and you’re living in a small town can be a bit of a struggle. That is why I recommend learning a bit of Italian or carry a phrasebook around with you because you’ll need it!
☆ Take a lot of pictures:
One regret of mine is that I didn’t take a lot of pictures, especially of myself. When me and Ivana were travelling, I had no problem posing in front of the camera, but I wish I had taken more pictures with my other friends, me in Forli and just more pictures for memories sake in general. Even if it’Don’t be afraid to whip out your phone and camera and snap a selfie or ask someone to take a picture of you. You will thank yourself trust me.
☆ Pre-Erasmus paperwork is not fun:
When you get that call that you were chosen for Erasmus, prepare yourself for months and months of paperwork. One of the most tedious ones was choosing the study units you want to take abroad and get them approved from your home University! Other paperwork includes health care and financial paperwork. If that’s not enough, before your lectures start, you need to go to the University to enrol there and register with the authorities that you’re going to be living there as a student. I also had to get an Italian tax number which was not fun. Paperwork was my least favourite part next to apartment hunting!
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☆ Aperitivo hour is the best hour:
Aperitivo is often described as a happy hour but in reality, it is a little more than that. You pay for drinks and you also get snacks such as bread, mini pizzas & olives! I remember we used to hang out in the main square, pay €7 and spend hours chatting and laughing! Aperitivo is meant to open the palette for dinner but sometimes dinner is overlooked altogether.
The most well known aperitivo drink is Aperol Spritz! I drank so much of it in Italy that I don’t like it anymore haha! You have the option to chose non-alcoholic drinks too.
A good rule of thumb for evening aperitivo is from 6 pm – 8 pm. Lunch and mid-afternoon aperitivo is also offered depending on which part of Italy you’re in! Our favourite thing to do was either have aperitivo after class or meet in the square at 6 pm and eat and drink for hours. It was a lot of fun!
☆ You’ll meet people from all over the world:
I was blessed to make such amazing friends from all over the world: Croatia, Portugal, France, Russia, Georgia, America and so on! Meeting new people helped me expand my horizons, learn new languages and make me want to visit their countries haha! The people you meet on Erasmus will be your lifelong friends. We still talk and I even met up with my Erasmus bestie in Croatia a couple of months ago!
The memories I made while in Italy are priceless and I will cherish them for the rest of my life. One of my favourite memories was when my bestie Ivana came over to my house and we had a taco and wine night! After that, we played the Bean Boozled challenge and it was gross! My apartment smelled like rotten eggs and chocolate pudding 😂
The next morning, we woke up and cooked crepes for breakfast and booked our flights to Brussels for the next week!
☆ Pizza all day every day:
My apartment was located 5 minutes away from LIDL and I used to go there 4 times a week to get these heart-shaped pizzas! I got addicted with the first bite. My guilty pleasure was stopping by LIDL after a day at University and buy me a pizza (or two) and eat it while watching The Office. Ah, the good old days!
☆ Bread, bread & more bread:
Apart from surviving on LIDL’s heart-shaped pizza, I ate a LOT of bread! We used to stop at our favourite cafeteria Ca’Leoni and devour their square-shaped roast potato bread with a cold bottle of coke or coffee. Ca’Leoni was our hangout place! We planned trips there, we “studied” there and made friends there!
☆ FlixBus will become your best friend:
When we were planning our trip to Rome, we obviously checked the Trenitalia website for train tickets. The price was a whopping €90 one way! After a quick Google search, we discovered FlixBus. The ticket from Cesena (a town 20 minutes away from Forli) to Rome was only €10. The trip was long but as students on a tight budget, we preferred this option. So if you’re moving to Italy and you’re on a student budget, consider checking out FlixBus!
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☆ You’ll travel. A lot:
I spent 98% of my time in Italy travelling around the country and Europe. My favourite trips were my Tuscany road trip, Brussels and Brisighella! When someone is going on Erasmus and asks me how was it and if I have any tips, I always tell them to travel! You’re usually in countries where there’s major European airports and flights are crazy cheap! Our flights to Brussels were €20 both ways. How amazing is that for a student on a budget?!
☆ You’ll walk everywhere:
I’m not lying when I tell you that in my six months of living in Forli, I caught the bus one time. The rest of the time, I walked everywhere! My University was 10 minutes away from my apartment and the train station was only 20 minutes. Whenever I was craving a piece of fresh Tiramisu, all I had to do was put on my shoes, walk out of my apartment and cross the street and bam I’m in the supermarket buying my fresh, Italian Tiramisu.
☆ Erasmus will change you:
Believe it or not but I became a better person after coming back from Erasmus. I became more independent and more financially responsible. Erasmus motivated me to change and become a better individual! Furthermore, my confidence soared and this experience made my move to Germany a little bit easier. I already knew what it’s like living in a foreign country so leaving Malta once again was a little bit easier and I was a little more prepared to live away from my parents.
Before Erasmus, I procrastinated on my goals. After Erasmus, I dived headfirst into reaching my goals and guess what? I did!
☆ Leaving is hard:
As much as I was excited to be at home with my family and going back to work, leaving Italy was hard. Even though me & my family visit Italy every year, it was still very difficult. I remember boarding the train from Forli to Bologna Airport with four pieces of luggage at 5 am and crying on the train.
Erasmus was one of the best experiences in my life. I am so happy that I said yes even though I’ve never lived alone and moreover, never lived alone in a foreign country! To anyone who’s reading this and is thinking about going on Erasmus, I have one piece of advice:
It may be daunting and scary especially if you’re the only one from your class going to that particular University, do it. You will make friends in no time! Make the most of your time there, travel, go out don’t say no to new experiences! Go on that trip, go to that nightclub with your new Erasmus friends, buy that shirt, start a blog to document your experiences, go to after school activities. Just do it! Six months isn’t long at all and they’ll pass in a blink of an eye so be sure to make the most of them!
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And that brings an end to my blog post. This one holds a special place in my heart and I hope I made any prospective Erasmus students realise that Erasmus is one of the best experiences out there! Getting chosen is not easy as millions of students apply each year and you need to have really good grades. So if you’re given the opportunity, take it!
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Until the next one.
Yours Truly, Rebecca.