One of the largest differences I have noticed between young Americans and young Italians is the different attitude towards school. This became especially clear and profound during a field study to La Sapienza, the largest Italian university.
My Italian class went to the Villa Mirafiori Campus near Piazza Bologna that houses the philosophy and some of the language departments. It was very strange for me to have such separate campuses – in any given day at UNC I pass students from every major. This is partially due to another big difference – lack of general education requirements. The Italian students we spoke with told us they stayed entirely within their field – no introductory writing classes or basic science requirements.
The Italian university schedule will always be a mystery to me – students have a lot of time to study independently for exams and can choose to sit exams without attending lessons. The assignments are consolidated into final exams, often oral presentations or interviews. Students do not seem locked into the four-year graduation cycle – studies are more fluid and students must enroll in a new department if they choose to switch their specialty.
Another big difference is the competitive nature of the students. Nearly all grades are posted publically outside the classrooms and online. In my experience in the US, grades are extremely private- successes can be celebrated if you want and less than stellar performances can be discreetly swept under the rug. I even got a little stressed just looking at the publically posted assessments of complete strangers.
One of the Italian students, Beatrice, asked me why I chose to go to school so far away from home. When I told her I chose a school in the South to experience a different environment and political climate she laughed out loud. She explained that many Italian students choose to attend university in the hometown so that they can live with their families and remain with their friends from high school. For Beatrice this was the biggest difference between the two academic cultures.
For all the differences, some things will always stay the same. On bright, sunny spring days, students will be on the grassy quad, studying and chatting with friends about classes or this weekend’s exploits.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Amanda is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Economics and Contemporary European Studies with a Philosophy, Politics and Economics minor. After graduation, she wishes to travel frequently while working with international trade and diplomacy. Her idea of a perfect day is enjoying an Orioles victory at Camden Yards followed by fresh crab cakes in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. She is excited to achieve Italian fluency,visit every Roman museum, find the perfect scoop of gelato and argue about soccer with locals at the neighborhood café.</p>