Friday, August 10, 2007

Americans in Italian Universities

My cellphone rang one morning in Siena, Italy. “Mandatory meeting for all California students at the Universita per stranieri, a Siena”. Puzzled, we walked into the room one by one as the murmur of rumors began to circle around us with palpable tension.

As we sat in a meeting with shaken program directors, a California girl lied in Siena’s hospital severely wounded, and her room-mates where being forced to pack their bags and where later driven to the airport by University officials, kicked out of Italy, sent immediately home to face disciplinary action at the University of California where they risked probable expulsion.

Turns out, American college students were used to the “no alcohol until you’re 21” rule in the US. Once they arrived in Italy they began a drunk fest!

Fortunately, I had an all-Italian atmosphere that kept me away from the California crowd. Unlike them, I was about to transfer to Padova to study Italian literature in Italian, with Italians. So naturally, I sought out Italian roommates where I could practice the language better. Yes, we had large dinner parties where there was wine, but no one was ever drunk!

Italians live with wine around them, so they learn to approach wine in a more normal manner. So much that in the University cafeteria, the soda fountain gives students everything but soda! Yes, our options were "beer", "white wine", "red wine", "water" and "soda". Coca-cola is called the "American Champagne" since a bottle of coke costs more than table wine.

The rest of the California students where a bit younger, lived together, spoke only English and partied non-stop! During one night of drinking and dancing that lasted into the early hours a tragedy occurred. Who knows how much they had been drinking, but around 1 or 2 am a girl sat on a window and due to her drunken stupor, she fell 3 or 4 stories down into the street and everyone in her flat was too drunk and passed out to notice.

A taxi driver spotted the girl unconscious in the middle of the street around 2 or 3 am and began knocking on each door trying to find her family. He woke up all the neighbors until someone recognized her and that's when her room-mates realized what had happened. That was their last day in Italy. They were all expelled from the program, their visa was revoked, and they were driven to the airport and sent home… the very same day!

That happened five years ago, why bring it up? I must admit Audra’s posts about international bureaucracy reminded me of my experiences studying with an American Visa in Italy, and all the joys of cultural discovery.

Italy does not recognize American High School diplomas, you can study abroad, you can study languages, but it's difficult to enroll directly into an Italian University. There are exclusions and limitations placed specifically for Americans who want to study directly in Italian Universities, that do not apply to any one else in the world! For example, you need to be a college graduate in order to enroll in the 6 year med school program. So, you're doing pre-med TWICE.Yet, if you have a High School certificate from any country in the world, you can enroll in a FREE Italian 6 year med school program right after high school… Okay, so tuition is about 500 euros a year, but that pales in comparison to the piles of student loans that I still have!

Many of us who choose to enroll directly into Italian Universities must face MANY hurdles! God knows I've had my share! and it’s taken me years to get where I am today. But I'm stubborn, and I know what I want, where I want to get it, the life I want to live, and everything is really just a matter of time...

Hang in there girls! IT CAN BE DONE!

Is it worth it? YES!!!!! You can, and you should! The world is yours and awaits you with open arms! If it takes doing pre-med twice, it's worth it!

Raise your hands, who likes embassies and immigration cross-continental paper work?

Hehe... several of us know what it's like.


... Part two later! Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a few links for those interested in studying in Italy :)

http://www.study-in-italy.it/studying/index.html (Useful info, in English)

http://www.miur.it/UserFiles/2580.pdf (document requirements, in Italian)

14 comments:

Diana said...

comunque, il ministero della pubblica istruzione italiano non riconosce nessuno dei diplomi di studi ottenuti all'estero. siano di liceo o laurea, non e' solo ristretto ai diplomi presi da scuole americane, sono inclusi pure i diplomi ottenute in paesi membri dell'unione europea e altri stati, cosi' come altri stati (unione europea compresa) non riconoscono le lauree brevi italiane. per far riconoscere un diploma di studi ottenuti all'estero occorre per primo richiedere la dichiarazione di valore dal ministero della pubblica istruzione italiano e poi ci dobbiamo recare all'ateneo in cui abbiamo scelto di proseguire gli studi. in caso si tratti del riconoscimento di una laurea ottenunta all'estero, viene richiesto la iscrizione ai corsi di laurea specialistica, nel caso di architettura, io sono architetto, ma il percorso e' piu' o meno questo, anche per ingegneria meccanica e' richiesta la stessa cosa.
lo stile di vita italiano e' molto diverso di quello americano, le bibite alcoliche non sono un tabu' e invece ci sono altre cose un po' scontrose che tutti aspettiamo fossero guardando l'italia dal fuori ma invece funziona cosi', come il fatto dell'istrumentalizzazione della donna e la maternita', uno zampino della chiesa cattolica troppo immerso in qualsiasi cosa... e via dicendo. molti in questo paese vorrebbero essere nei tuoi panni e trovarsi a san francisco.
ti faccio una raccomandazione, leggi a beppe severgnini e il sentire degli italiani: http://www.corriere.it/solferino/severgnini
va bene informarsi ovvunque come lo stai facendo tu, e anche avere un'esperienza previa in questo paese aiuta molto. io stessa sono stata studentessa a firenze prima di abitare qui definitivamente, la esperienza da studente e' molto diversa a la vita di tutti i giorni vivendola con e come gli italiani, non e' lo stesso vedere le cose da lontano e immaginare che tutto qua sia bello, senza il brutto, il bello non ci sarebbe. ti auguro comunque ti tener i piedi per terra, davvero, l'italia dei film e' quello, l'italia dei film.

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

Ciao Diana!!! Come va? You know I follow your blog and leave it to Diana to make me think :)

Yeeea, I'm sure you're right and many Italians want to be in my shoes and live here in San Francisco!

Actually, I've already met a few Italians here! and some love it, but others are terribly homesick and want to go home to Italy.
Why? because "America dei FILM, e' quello! America dei FILM! :)

Hehe, like most things, it's subjective really, and it depends on the person.

Diana, you're from Mexico living in Italy, right? Italy recognizes Mexico's High School for enrollment in Italian med schoolbut not the American, the embassy told me so. They also reserve spots for NON Europeans studying medicine in Italy!
http://offertaformativa.miur.it/studenti/elenco2007/

Ah, with years of letters back and forth between several embassies and universities, I'm pretty aware of this "dichiarazione di valore" etc.

Hmmmm, yea, my home is San Francisco, but I have lived in sooo many countries in both sides of the world! Latin America, North America, several times I've lived in Italy already, and Vikingo, if you're reading this, even your home in Norway has been my home, right? :)

I wouldn't want to stay home just because others think that I'm not going to a better place…Here or there is not better or worse, it's just different!

Different is good! It opens my mind, allows me to see the world from different perspectives and I like that! Actually, I NEED that :)

God knows I've had my share of troubles to overcome and I do understand that things are not easy, but despite challenges, I'm not going to miss out on the beauty that the world has to offer :) Like you said "senza il brutto, il bello non ci sarebbe" ...quello mi piace!

Grazie davvero Diana... Hasta pronto chika, y ahi nos vemos por tu pagina tmb :)

Audra said...

Thanks for the little plug in your blog :)

You know, I could cry over latte versato, but what good would it serve me? It's unfair that Italy doesn't recognize diplomi presi da licei americani ma che ci possiamo fare? Dobbiamo tirar avanti! E questo e' esattamente quello che voglio fare.

I will continue to study my hardest here.. can't wait to apply to med school in Italy though! No test? A piece of cake! Hehe.

Anyway, I sent in my resume' to cyracom since they need Italian interpreters.. vediamo cosa succede!!

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

You did Audra???

YEY!! I can only do translations from Italian to English since I grew up with English, but not Italian.

So, I'm an Italian translator, but Spanish-English interpreter.

So, since you grew up with both languages, actually, all three languages, then you can do either translations or interpretations.

Tip, if you can get that little certificate at NCI, it will take you about 2 weeks, but it will open doors :)

Good luck!

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

Tip #2, try to do a little volunteerwork in non-profit clinics as an interpreter, it will give you experience and help you enter the medical interpretation field...

NCI's certificate is also just for med interp, and will help get you in, too!

Cyracom is all medicine, baby...

:)

I started medical interpretations fresh out of high school, too.. but I had a little certificate :) Look into it... it doesn't take long to get it :)

Italiana Americana said...

CIAo! bel post ! :) I think this is so true ...Americans always think about partying and wine/beer for some reason! I can't wait to live with italian students at an italian university and see what it's really like! What was your roomates like in italY? were they all girls ? or both since I know most universities have apts where boys and girls live together. Also did you have your own Room? :)

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

Ciao Ita Ameri!! :)

You will! Sooner than later and we'll meet up :)

This was actually a private apartment, just girls! The owner was strict about that!

The apartments over there come furnished, with cooking utensils and fresh sheets and towels every 2 weeks, and the owner would clean the apartment once a week and would rent each room out individually.

It was Italian law and bank econ students, smart girls! I had a room-mate from New York who missed New York so much she wasn't there that semester poor girl, I guess moving abroad is not for everyone!

So really I had my own room with 4 other Italians in the flat, and we would cook together and had a great time :)

David said...

There are some pretty good reasons why Italy does not recognize US certifications (diplomas). I do not agree that it is unfair.

You evidence some pretty important differences between US and Italian culture.

I think it all comes down to the general belief that life in the US is better than anywhere else. This keeps us from looking at what needs to be improved and how we can move toward a better life for those who come after us.

Education, views about sex and alcohol, healthcare are a few of the points we should be thinking about.

I wonder if the rise and fall of societies is somehow tied to the population's belief of whether or not something should change.

Calendar User said...

Un caro saluto da CAI

^_^

www.goodmorning-italy.com

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

In all honesty, I think Italy has a "MIRROR POLICY"... what your country asks for, WE will ask for!

This is not about fair or unfair, it's about knowing what you have to do to get that med-school visa...

My point was, the process is long and difficult, but WORTH IT!!!

Most of us who go live abroad have an open mentality and are ready to accept the cultural differences...

So like most of you already abroad, I don't think life in Italy or the US is better or worse, it's just very DIFFERENT, and I accept it as such and enjoy it as much as I can, while I can :)

:)

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

CIAO!!! :)

Un saluto a CAI! :)

Helm & Melacini Architects said...

I was not aware of this problem with high school diplomas from the US not being recognized in Italy. My two little ones are just in elementary school 1st and 3rd grades in Italy. Since they are both Italian and US citizens we are not sure where we will live in the coming years. But this issue may give us something to think about. I don't know that we are really committed to staying in Italy through their high school years but we may have to.

It's interesting that my daughters orthodontist an American practicing in Milan feels that Italian education up to university is much better but American medical education better.

Does anyone know why this exception for Americans exists? While US high schools may have their problems I don't think in general they are worse than ALL other countries. I'm going to copy and post this also on the expats in Italy website to get their comments.

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

I'm not exactly sure, but my guess is that it's due to the courses that high schools take.

Latin America the high school diploma is called "Bachelors Diploma" and everyone is forced to take the same classes which are up there to US college level!

Yes, it is known that American GRADUATE SCHOOLS surpass!

But the undergraduate level is a catch-up phase.

An Italian professor once said in an Italian college; American's are not good all-around, but they are SPECIALISTS. They choose one thing and do it better!

Maybe that's why graduate schools are so good, and even in High School they gear you toward "what will you do? and you work on that... so, overall the education is not "generally" the best, but you are on a path to specialization...

That's my "Guess" on it!

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

FYI:

This topic was discussed in "Expats in Italy"

Sarah went to have her College diploma valued at the Italian embassy, and they equaled an American college to an Italian High School.

So instead of studying a masters, she has to start college all over again!

http://expattalk.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/
f/3210061972/m/4510075405