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Isabella Palitti

SFU Student Undergraduate
Education › Curriculum + Instruction | Education › Learning + Development Disabilities | Arts + Social Sciences › World Languages + Literatures
Study Abroad › Exchange

Experience Faculty
My main takeaway from studying abroad and living alone is independence. I've learned to do things on my own that I never knew needed to be done.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Location Research

When preparing to study in Rome, my main concern was figuring out the situation with residency. Luckily, the university will provide all of that information to you after acceptance. I will admit, the bureaucracy in Italy is not the best...

Financial Preparation

The cost of living in Rome compared to Vancouver is both similar and different. For example, the cost of accommodation is probably a little bit cheaper, but it really depends on the neighbourhood you live in. Closer to the university is probably cheaper, and apartments near the city center are definitely more expensive. In regards to everyday living, food is much cheaper compared to Vancouver. Groceries are very inexpensive, and eating at a restaurant doesn't have to break the bank. Italy uses the Euro currency, and the most common way of paying for everyday items is by cash. Places will accept credit cards, but it is much easier to pay with cash.


When packing for a trip to Italy (or anywhere in Europe), I would definitely NOT overpack clothes! I found myself wanting to buy clothes in Rome, since the style is a little bit different than what university students wear in Canada... I noticed that students get dressed up for attending classes, while Canadians prefer wearing clothes that are more comfortable, like hoodies. Nice jeans, shirts/blouses, and light jackets are a perfect option. Italy has great stores for buying good quality clothes for a low price, like Zara, Bershka, and Mango.

For other packing essentials, I would not bring any school supplies on the plane, as there are many shops that sell books and pens for cheap. If you have any favourite (packaged) foods from Canada that won't be available in Italy, it might be best to take some with you, as it helped me from feeling homesick. Overall, if there is something that you can find in Rome that can also be found in Vancouver, don't overpack it (clothes, toiletries, makeup, shoes, books, cables, home goods, etc).

Travel and Transportation

Yes, taking a plane from Vancouver to Rome will be on the more expensive side, ranging from $600-1000 for a round trip. However, once you arrive in Italy, the public transportation is very cheap! While there is no equivalent to a U-Pass, the cost is still low. I paid 35 euros per month to use the ATAC metro (subway), bus, and tram system. If you want to buy a single ticket, it costs 1.50 euros. Better yet, Romans like to walk everywhere, so that was also a great (and free) option! For longer journeys, there is the train system (Trenitalia), which provides fast and cheap train service all around Italy! Also, be very aware when crossing the street, Roman drivers are a little bit... aggressive.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

I would suggest to research and prepare for the visa process well in advance. Apart from that, the whole country and preparation process is very easy-going! Just follow all the instructions provided from the university.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

At La Sapienza, the orientation is called "Welcome Week". It is a week where you have the opportunity to meet other international students, tour the campus and your faculty building, and learn more about Rome. All the services for international students are in English, but you will get the opportunity to learn some valuable Italian terms. The welcome week is where I met most of my friends, and all it took was a little bit of confidence to speak! While it is not a mandatory event, it would be a shame not to attend.

Accommodation and Living

Since La Sapienza does not have dorms or student housing, it is up to the students to find their own apartment. Finding accommodation for myself was not too difficult, as I found a place well ahead of time through AirB&B. However, most of my friends did not search for somewhere to live until they arrived in Rome. Due to this, it sometimes took weeks (or even months) to secure a place to live. The university will provide partner associations that rent out apartments, like Sturent, DoveVivo, and Immobiliare. Overall, I would find an apartment ASAP to avoid the costly issue of living in a hotel for 6 months.

Day to Day

Going from a Canadian university to an Italian university will be quite the shock at first. La Sapienza is a public university, meaning that registering for classes is not needed. The only thing you need to register for is the end-of-term exam through a portal called InfoStud (equivalent to GoSFU). The main difference is that your whole final grade is based on the final exams (in 95% of cases). However, it does not mean you can't show up to class, as it is not normal for professors to record lectures or upload materials. If you don't go to class, you'll miss out on vital information for exams. Of course, some professors may assign an essay or two, but usually, the only graded assignment is the exam.

Another important thing to note is the class times. If your class beings at 10am, it will probably start at 10:15am. Rome is a very easy-going city, and there is not much pressure to be prompt. Professors will end their class on the hour, but take their time arriving to their next class for a short break.

Learning and Adaptation

Italy's grading system is not the same as in Canada. Basically, every exam is out of 30 points. 30 is 100%, and 18 is the passing mark, or 50%. The professor will decide the grade on the spot, and will tell you right away. If you did not pass on the first go, you will get three chances to take the exam!

Exams in the Italian university system are mainly oral. Meaning, you will sit down with your professor and discuss the material that was learned during the semester. Some professors may choose a written exam if there are too many students in the course, but the main method of examination is through an interview-type scenario. It will also depend on what subject you study, as math/science exams are most likely going to be written. I was in the Humanities department, and the professors valued the importance of discussion and opinion. The exam will last around 10-15 minutes, depending on how well you know the material. If the professor thinks you understand well, they won't keep you in there for long. Don't worry, the professor will tell the class ahead of time what specific topics they want you to study.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Important things to know…

  • People dress themselves well all the time, even for a trip for groceries!
  • Tipping service workers (waiters, baristas, etc.) is not a thing in Italy
  • Lineups do not exist: if you want to get on the bus, be brave!
  • The bureaucracy might be stressful: make sure to leave plenty of extra time when going to the post office or immigration office.
  • Water is not free, you will have to pay for it at a restaurant!
Social and Extracurricular Activities

Rome is a place where you will never be bored. There is tons of places to go! The municipal city of Rome itself is massive, but most of the tourist attractions are in the centre of the city. Some popular places to see are the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Venezia, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, and Villa Borghese. The best part is, they are all in walking distance from each other! There is also the Vatican City, which is architecturally magnificent. Other places just outside of Rome to visit are Villa D'Este (in Tivoli), Castelgandolfo, and Frascati. More pictures at the end of the presentation!

Italy is country that can fit into British Columbia three times, and travelling by train around Italy is very fast and inexpensive! The main train line is Trenitalia, and there is also Italo. During my time in Italy, I went to Florence, Milan, Turin, Venice, Positano, Naples, Pompeii, and Verona (just to name a few). There are also smaller towns, like Orvieto, San Gimignano, Supino, and Treviso which are quite beautiful. I absolutely suggest to make time for travelling around Italy, as you will have plenty of time for it!

Wrap Up

There are many great opportunities to meet other students, both Italian and international. There are two main associations, ESN (Erasmus Student Network) and ERA (Erasmus Roma Association). In these groups, you will be able to attend parties, dinners, tours, play sports, and attend other social events! I met many friends from these groups.

Note: "Erasmus" is a program where European university students can study in another EU country for very low cost, and most international students in Italy are either from Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, or other EU countries.

Reflection & Tips

I've learned how to manage my money better, and how to budget effectively for living in another country. As well, I have become more extroverted and confident, and I am able to vouch for myself in situations where I would usually be scared or afraid. I have also learned so much about other cultures, not just Italian culture. It is so incredible learning how other people around the world do everyday things, and it has challenged me to change my life in so many different ways.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Living abroad definitely has its fair share of challenges, and I think the main one is language and culture. I did know some Italian before going to Rome, but Romans speak differently to what I learned. Italy has many different dialects, so the different regions have different accents/ words. Also, Italy is a very laid-back country, and I found myself being too worried about timelines and deadlines often. One piece of advice when living in Italy: take it easy!

Advice for Future Students

Some advice…

  • Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself!
  • Be open minded and accept change. It will be hard to learn from this experience if you don't.
  • Take time to travel and explore new places
  • The best places to eat food are where the menus are not in English, otherwise you will be paying for a tourist trap
  • Bring a water bottle everywhere with you, Rome has clean, free water fountains all over the place!


Isabella Palitti

SFU Student Undergraduate
Education › Curriculum + Instruction | Education › Learning + Development Disabilities | Arts + Social Sciences › World Languages + Literatures
Study Abroad › Exchange
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Jul 20, 2023