My Erasmus in Rome

Edited by Mette Saaby Johansen

I am a 24 years old student from Copenhagen University. This spring I decided that I wanted to go on Erasmus exchange but I wasn’t sure where to go. I could choose from so many universities all over Europe, but in the end I chose LUISS in Rome. I am still not quite sure why I chose to go to Rome; maybe because of the Italian food, Rome’s amazing history or maybe because I really love Italian fashion.

Or maybe I chose LUISS because I have heard so many good things about it from my former roommate, who was on exchange at LUISS three years ago. Him and his experiences really inspired me to go on exchange in the first place. In general this opportunity is really a privilege we, as European students, should treasure and guard over! Because being on Erasmus exchange means being part of a union and community. And the idea behind is great; we can go study in different countries and thus get to know each other’s cultures, languages, educational system. This way we as students can make the European union stronger and more prosperous, which one could say is quite needed in the EU right now.

As Erasmus-students we experience so many things to take with us back to our home countries and also in general in our personal lives. In the meeting with other university students within this same union, you not only meet different ways to drink coffee, different ways of saying goodbye and hello and so on, but also different educational systems and indirectly through the exchange students, the effects these educational systems have on the students.

So these meetings with different educational systems say a lot about the little things that can really make a great difference in your way of thinking about studying.  At least I think it says a lot about the way you think about the nowadays society and what you have to do to become a good student.

And here I am experiencing LUISS, which might not exactly be representative for the whole of the Italian educational system but then at least for a higher paying crowd. And I have heard that LUISS really is the “crème-de-la crème” of universities in Italy. This in itself says something about the educational system in Italy; if you really want to have a good education, you should be able to pay for it. At Copenhagen University, where I come from, no one pays for it. Actually in Denmark private universities do not exist.

This affects how one thinks about education. I have a professor here at LUISS who just this Tuesday said that he thinks it is a good idea if students pay for their education, via e.g. giant student loans, because this motivates the students to study harder.

This is a view I have never heard in such extremes in Denmark, but then again I come from Scandinavia and the cradle-to-grave welfare systems. In Denmark it is considered a “right” to have free good education and this we really treasure. But at the same time I see now how spoiled I am as a Danish student. I not only study at LUISS for free – I actually get paid by my government to study here. And maybe this has an influence on how much and in which ways I study but not necessarily in a bad way. I think a lot of Danish students get motivated to study harder exactly because we get paid to do it. Denmark and all of the taxpayers pay for our educations and therefore we must work hard so that we, later on, can give something back to society. I see here at LUISS that students work hard but not harder than in Denmark thus so far I am not in favour of paying too high fees for education.

Also other differences between LUISS and Copenhagen University are remarkable; e.g. you would never call a professor by his name at LUISS, which is considered absolutely normal in Denmark. This is just a small sign of the cultural differences but maybe it has an influence on how much you can connect and discuss with your teacher. I think these are important elements in your education, because if the distance between the teacher and the students is too great, then the students might not feel “safe” and comfortable enough to challenge the teacher’s views on things. Thereby you, as a student, do not get to evolve critical skills or at least try your critical abilities in front of a professor, who knows something about the subject.

Another completely new experience for me will be the handwritten midterms next week. To begin with the midterms make the life, as a student, different because you have to be updated all the way through the semester. This I find is a really good thing. You cannot just study hard the last month. Another thing though is the handwritten and closed-book part of it. First of all it is really old fashioned and not that practical to write in hand; you cannot as easily delete or add something to parts of your answer. Second the closed-book part do not challenge the student to be critical and get in depth with the theories or literature but only forces the student to know the assumptions by heart. But as my friend from France pointed out; before you can be critical you really have to know what you are talking about so maybe the midterms prepare us to be critical later on. I am really trying to be as open-minded about it as possible because the point is actually that I don’t know the results of this kind of exam. Maybe I will find out that handwritten, closed-book midterms are really good for your education. For now I just know that it is fun experiencing all the changes in my daily student life. And I really need to get use to changes because things are changing all the time in Europe, as well as in little Denmark. 

In Denmark the government are changing the rules for the support of our educations and the way we should study. Danish students are not happy with that. I cannot help but wonder that maybe it should be compulsory to go on Erasmus exchange and see different educational systems. This way Danish students might figure out how spoiled we really are.

All in all my experience at LUISS tells me that I should feel grateful for the Danish way of doing things. But then at the same time I have learned how things could be different and still really good. Therefore the Erasmus exchange, so far, has taught me to appreciate differences and not being afraid of changes.

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