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«ABBA lifestyle»: how to enjoy study in Italy

Pavel Demin, 2nd year student of Master’s program “Applied Methods of Social Analysis of Markets”, tells about his participation in the exchange program with the University of LUISS: from collecting and submitting documents to passing examinations at a foreign university and a big tour across Europe.

The first half of the second year of the Master's program is one of the most successful moments for participating in the exchange program: the thesis is not yet close; the study is not so difficult. That is why in the middle of the first year of my Master degree I decided to use the HSE opportunities and at the beginning of the next year I went abroad for a semester to the university of LUISS, Italy. During this time, I managed not only to learn, but also to visit many amazing places.                     

Collection and submission of documents for the competition (February-March 2017)

For study abroad, first of all, it is necessary to submit a set of documents to a university-wide competition, a complete list of which is available on the website of the Department for International Student Mobility of the Higher School of Economics in the "How to participate" section. In general, the site of the department helped me to understand all the necessary actions at the initial stage. In addition to a personal application, a letter of recommendation and a motivation letter, it was necessary to provide a language certificate (international or signed by an English teacher from the HSE), as well as a list of planned subjects for study at a foreign university, having compiled an individual curriculum together with the student office. The longest and most difficult part was to choose courses for study and draw up a curriculum, as it is necessary to observe the required number of credits, and to approve the list of courses with the academic head of the program. I advise you to communicate with him/her more often and keep him/her informed of your actions, then everything will be OK.

After applying in February, I began to expect results that were known by early April. Initially, the application was approved first in HSE, then in a foreign university. I was very lucky: in 2017, there was a competition 13:1 people in my university (LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, Italy), although there was no competition in 2016 at all. But do not be afraid to apply to universities and countries even in case of a big competition. This is definitely worth it!

Visa application and departure planning (April-May 2017)

After approval of the application and registration in the partner university, you can book the date and time at the visa center. Do it better in advance, at least 2-3 weeks before. For this time, it is possible to prepare all necessary documents for the visa, presented on the embassy's website and including:

·        acceptance letter from partner university,

·        student agreement between universities on the exchange program (sent on request by the Department for International Student Mobility of the Higher School of Economics),

·        studying certificates and transcript of records for the last year (at the student office),
·        medical insurance and finance guarantee,
·        booked flights and accommodation.

It is necessary to take into account the fact that all these documents will also be needed after entry into the country, therefore, must be provided in English. After receiving the invitation letter from the university (acceptance letter), you can go to the visa center with all the documents.

For those leaving to study abroad for a period of more than 3 months, a special student visa is required, so it has its own nuances. Among the advantages, it often works as a "student ID" and thus gives discounts in many museums and attractions. One of the main shortcomings: it requires obtaining a temporary residence permit in the foreign country. In other words, upon arrival in the country it is necessary to visit the police for obtaining a temporary residence permit and to undergo several bureaucratic procedures. But this should not be embarrassing or frustrating, especially when it comes to Italy - there is nothing complicated or problematic here.

I was lucky: the visa was made in just three days (with all the documents was correct), so from May until the end of the summer I was completely free from all obligations.

On September 4, I flew to Rome, where my adventures began.

Search for accommodation before departure and check-in

One of the most important preparatory parts of the trip is the search for accommodation. To do this, I used several web-aggregators of housing in Italy, including Spotahome, Flat in Rome, Rome Apartments, Booking, Airbnb. The average cost of housing in Rome is 350-400 euros per person, and this cost applies to both bunks in the common rooms or the whole room.

Since I chose accommodation for the whole HSE company (we were all nominated for the program of 4 people), it was necessary to choose flat with 3-4 rooms and all necessary equipment, including cutlery, washing machine, necessary furniture, etc. For us, the ideal option was an apartment on the site Spotahome, which is an intermediary agency between the landlord and the visitor and takes a small fee for booking a house, checking the apartments and guaranteeing assistance for any problems. After choosing an apartment we paid an initial fee for the first month of residence and contacted the owner of the apartment, with whom we quickly agreed on the time of the meeting and other points.

Important point: when applying for a visa, you need to submit both a form of booked accommodation (issued by Spotahome on request), and the passport data of the landlord (which you need to request from the owner of the apartment in person). An invitation letter must be registered in the name of each tenant (for example, we each had a form with our name). With the confirmation of housing and the passport data of the owner, you can safely go to submit documents for a visa.

Upon arrival in Rome, our interaction with the owner was simple: we met once a month and handed the money (about 400 euros per person), and he gave us a receipt for payment. Of course, everything depends on the options for living in each specific case, but we have a complete cleaning of the apartment once a week included in 400 euros. After taking care of the accommodation in advance (3 months before the trip), we eventually got along well in Rome.

Life in a new place (September-October 2017)

Upon arrival in the country, an international student outside the European Union must apply for permesso di soggiorno (residence permit). The procedure for obtaining it in Italy is one of the most complicated and confusing among all the countries of the European Union. Of course, the process of obtaining more will be told at the university during the orientation session but be prepared that you will have to act on your own.

First, you need to go to the post office and get the application form for "permesso di soggiorno". Remember that Italians rarely speak English, and even less often want to do it, so be prepared to communicate with signs or with dictionary.

In the post office you take the envelope with a bunch of forms and receipts (completely in Italian), which must be filled only with a black pen printed letters on a strictly installed sample (fuch!). There are detailed instructions on the Internet, so there are not many problems with this. Further, it is necessary to buy "marco da bollo" in tobacco stores ("Tabacci") and paste it to an application form that essentially means paying the application tax (and in fact - simply complicates the entire procedure). Further filled applications are placed in the envelope together with copies of all documents from the visa, including scans of all pages of the passport (yes, be prepared to print them all in advance!). The originals of all documents (including the financial guarantee) are retained - they will be needed later!

Together with a thick envelope, we move back to the post office and give it to the operator, not forgetting to fill out a receipt for paying other taxes for remote filing and processing the application (you have no other option). Although the envelope itself is issued free, by this time you will already spend about 60 euros for various fees and taxes. After accepting the package of documents, the operator will print you a receipt (!!!), which will indicate the date and time of arrival at the immigration department of Rome.

Attention: expect that the turnout will not be earlier than 2 months. For example: I filed the documents on September 4, my date of appearance in the immigration police department of Rome was scheduled for November 4. Retain the issued leaflet with dates (it will then need a lot of where). Since that moment, your stay in the country is legal: you can study, go abroad to other countries of the Schengen Agreement…in other words, have fun as you want.

In parallel with this bureaucracy "welcome week" and orientation sessions passed and the first classes begin. It will be necessary to choose and register for training courses, to communicate with the study office in HSE, and if possible, to participate in a bunch of parties organized by local student associations. From this moment, a busy student life in another country begins.

As days go by, do not forget to visit the immigration police department for a residence permit. On the appointed day, they will check the availability of all documents and make fingerprints. In fact, it is because of this fingerprinting everything is so long – documents are checked online. After the procedure is passed, there are still 30 days ahead for making a plastic card with a temporary residence permit. You can get it (in theory) in the police station closest to the place of residence. However, do not be discouraged if in the end of your you will not see it (me neither). On the other hand, you have visited Italy!

Study and examinations (October-December 2017)

Arriving in another country on the exchange program, it is necessary to clearly set the goal of the trip. This will be a study of a new culture, language training, better education or travel? In my case, this was the last option, because I adore this affair. I chose three training courses that suited me both for the replacement of courses in HSE, and for the schedule. This is important: courses should be chosen based on the ability to visit them, because it is forbidden to choose courses that intersect in time.

There are many foreign students at the university, so most of conversations is in English. On the other hand, most of the teachers are Italians, so be prepared for active gesticulation and vivid mimicry, so outstanding true for inhabitants of this wonderful country! They are very friendly and will always come to the rescue, but be prepared for the fact that consultations there are held strictly by agreement at certain times. Unlike HSE, you cannot just come to the professor and have a discussion with him – you need to agree the meeting in advance.

Classes are easy and relaxed; very much time is given for self-study. One or two lectures a week is the maximum that can be expected from the courses. On the other hand, homework is quite large, and for exams you have to read and literally learn the textbooks completely. Therefore, many students from morning to evening before the session are studying at the university, where there are many computer classes and audiences for work.

Day after day, week after week - the exams become closer. Registration for them takes place in the electronic system 2-3 weeks before the session. By the way, the student office and the teachers are severely separated from each other: the student office completely regulates the entire educational process up to the dates and audiences, therefore the professors do not know the dates of the exams until the same moment as the students. In this case, the system of passing exams differs from that adopted in the HSE: you can choose from two or three dates of change. As a rule, the first attempt for the fall semester in early December, the subsequent dates are already in January-February. Therefore, for those who are trained by exchange programs, taking exams in the first wave is mandatory. During the exams, the lessons are not conducted, however, in one day there may be several exams that do not intersect in time.

After passing the exams you need to wait 2-3 weeks before the records announcement, which the student can not discuss. The only way to fix them is to retake the exam in the next wave. But do not be afraid: if you prepare a little, then it will not be difficult to pass the exam!

How to get the maximum from the trip

I adore traveling and my trip to Italy was spent with maximum benefit: I made several long and rich travels around Italy and all over Europe.

The first was one-day trip in Cinque Terre - the pearl of the Ligurian coast of Italy. The mountains here go directly to the coast, forming amazingly beautiful landscapes, and on their steep spurs are located five towns, all in the UNESCO World Heritage.

Not far from Rome there is a small town of Terni, next to which is a huge cascade of waterfalls. It's definitely worth a visit here!

Coming to Naples, you feel yourself in real Italy! Narrow pavement, flooded with sunlight, smiling and ever-hurried talkative Italians, incredible landscapes of Vesuvius and the bay ... Next to Naples there are even more outstanding places. You can learn about the tragic history of ancient Pompeii, climb the highest volcano in Europe, drive along the breathtaking serpentines of the Amalfi coast and eventually find yourself in a small paradise - the island of Capri. Photos will give the first impression, any epithets are powerless in front of these beauties.

The center of Italy is also full of attractions! My travel to the central part took six days and about 180 euros, but in return I got a lot of impressions, which will last for a year ahead... Just think: the largest karst caves in Europe (Frasassi grottoes), the endless beaches of Rimini, the high mountain castle San-Marino, student and eternally active Bologna, the quintessence of Italian architecture and art Florence, the cozy Siena and the famous Pisa... During your visit to Italy, be sure to stay everywhere, it's worth it!

Finally, to maximally use the visa, after passing the exams, I made a great trip to some European countries. Within 1,5 months I visited more than 13 countries and 25 cities, ride/walk/flew thousands of kilometers, visited dozens of museums, castles, national galleries and countless churches, cathedrals, churches and parks. Nevertheless, most of all I was impressed by nature! Truly, the world around is beautiful. A detailed description of the trip can be found on my website (pdeminmedia.wixsite.com/pdemin). Please, be welcome.


In conclusion, I want to mention that when people leave for a long time in another country, they are changing greatly. Your views and minds will change, you will learn to rely on yourself and at the same time you are protected from almost all the turmoil. In such trips, all worries and sorrows, all sad thoughts and routine are forgotten. It is something more than just a baggage of knowledge or new friends that you can gain: it is self-confidence, trust in one's thoughts and feelings, unique experience and harmony with yourself and the whole world around. It seems to me that such trips are a unique chance to feel like an adult and see the world around, while at the same time retaining the young dreamer inside. The world around is so much different from our thoughts, so incredible and various... that I would advise to take a chance when any opportunity appears. If everything goes well, it will turn your life into a better one!

The article is prepared by: Pavel Demin, 2nd year student of Master’s program “Applied Methods of Social Analysis of Markets”, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Higher School of Economics

Website: pdeminmedia.wixsite.com/sighthiker

VKontakte social network: vk.com/pdeminhse