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My Italian Exchange

21 July 2022

5 mins

Ciao a tutti! 

Although it has been a year since I left Italy, Italy has not left me, for it will always be my second home now. Since my Study Exchange semester (I did the second semester at home virtually in England!), visiting a different part of Italy annually is now on my bucket list! I can only thank Loughborough for this life-changing opportunity and myself, for choosing to study abroad during a pandemic!

Why did I choose to study abroad?

I decided to study abroad because the thought of a traditional placement year did not excite me!  I remember spending a whole day researching the available Erasmus Universities to choose from with my Mum’s help. In fact, it was my Mum, who pushed me towards choosing Salerno! I remember her distinctly saying, “Shannon, go to a country that you haven’t been to before!” Therefore, jointly inspired by my mum and my desire to break out of my comfort zone, I chose Salerno and emailed my Study Exchange form immediately!

After countless hours of Duolingo and finally condensing my wardrobe in one suitcase (this was a challenge!), I was ready for my adventure. From hugging my parents tightly before my 6 am departure to the roaring of my plane’s engines on the runway, this was it; I knew my life was about to change for the better. And it did…after a rocky start!

Truthfully, the beginning of my Exchange was not easy, I suffered from homesickness, the uncertainties of the pandemic, and the stress of adjusting to remote learning. Also, what a time to have a birthday, I turned 21 in the same week! Luckily, I managed to celebrate it with my Study Exchange buddy at a Burger restaurant! She is also from Loughborough and is now one of my closest friends. Fun fact, we both study English but we never knew each other before Italy!

Selfie of two students smiling

Support from Loughborough

With Loughborough’s pastoral support and sharing my problems with my Study Exchange buddy, my transition to Salerno became easier as I overcame my troubles of living internationally. 

My pastoral support from Loughborough involved frequent video calls on Teams with my Study Exchange Coordinator. She checked to see if I was settling in well and adjusting to my new modules. The Study Exchange Team were also great because I was stressed about not being enrolled in any modules, and they intervened! Within a couple of days, I met my Italian Exchange tutor, and my modules were sorted because of Loughborough. At that point, I was honestly reminded of how great Loughborough’s care for their students is, which stopped me from returning home in the end! 

My semester abroad opened up my eyes to a brand-new country that I had never visited before, all of this within exceptional circumstances! Now, I am comfortable in facing any ambiguous situations, whether they are abroad or in England because conquering Italy has reminded me of my hidden resilience!

Coast and mountain in Italy

What was my course like?

Unfortunately, I did not see my University, nor did I meet any native Italian students because the teaching was virtual. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my modules. I chose a combination of Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules taught in Italian and English, which was very challenging at times! My favourite modules were Circus in Victorian Literature, Global Gender Studies, and Intermediate Italian. With virtual learning, I found that I had more freedom to do what I loved best and that was being a tourist!! During my study breaks, I used to walk along Salerno’s lungomare (Seafront), visit fashion boutiques, and eat Tiramisu-flavoured gelato! Despite my region’s covid restrictions, I managed to visit a few beautiful places close to Salerno which include Pompeii, Napoli, Amalfi, and Vietri Sul Mare (A little ceramic town on the Amalfi Coast!). 

Final thoughts

I can honestly say that my experience has transformed my confidence and my awareness of the Italian culture and its music, (currently, I am a crazy fan of the Eurovision 2021 winners Måneskin!).  Yes, my Study Exchange was not a “normal” one, however, I would not change it for the world! It is true, your experience abroad truly does enhance your life in all aspects. A few examples are, I am amazed at my personal growth, and I am open to interacting with people from all walks of life. Since Italy, I returned to Loughborough with a passion to complete my English degree and I even joined the Italian society! My mornings before lectures now involve learning Italian with a mug of coffee to remind me of Salerno.

My decision to study abroad was no doubt the best decision I have ever made. Not only did it inspire my current dissertation topic, but I learned how to appreciate the littlest things in life! On a final note, how many people can say that they studied abroad during a pandemic? I can and I have no regrets! 

L’Italia, on vedo l’ora di rivederti e anche grazie Loughborough!

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