Ciao a tutti!
I am writing this from the depths of week 8 of exam season. Week 8. Luckily my exam season is 9 weeks long so the end is in sight!
Having been chained to one desk or another for most of the last few weeks, my news is not up to its usual level of Exciting. However, I can now give you an insight into the study set up of La Sapienza university, in case you are planning on coming here for an Erasmus year.
La Sapienza doesn’t have one main library like Durham, it has many MANY small ones. I thought this was quite a nice idea, as it means that you have plenty of other options in case you can’t find the ideal seat in one library. The libraries I have been into are quite small, and have school style desks and chairs.
The downside is that most libraries have normal ‘office’ hours as their opening times, and you are hard pushed to find one which stays open until 5pm, let alone into the evening. This may be because most students in Italy live at home, and with long university days many prefer not to study at uni. Also, with so many libraries to keep track of, keeping them all open until late hours is hard.
Thirdly, not all of the libraries have wifi access. This may be a good or a bad thing, depending on your study mood. Sometimes it’s wonderful, because at least you won’t find yourself accidentally watching Game of Thrones instead of writing that essay due next week. But at other times it can be quite frustrating, especially if you just want to google a quick bit of information relevant to your work.
Exams in Italy are oral. All of them. That was a shock to the system when I arrived. You book yourself in for your exam, turn up on the day, and maybe you will sit your exam then or maybe you will be told to come back on Monday. The high numbers of students who need to sit the exam, combined with the fact that only 1 teacher is running it and needs to chat to each and every student for 15-20 minutes, means you can be waiting a very long time to be seen. My average waiting time so far has been 2.5/3 hours.
Oral exams have both advantages and disadvantages, and it mostly depends on what sort of a student you are as to whether you will like them or not. Oral exams force you to know and revise your topic very well, because the exam will not be set in stone before you arrive and it entirely follows the professor’s lead. However, if you don’t know your topic inside out, or you’ve done tactical revision (seeing what the teacher asked everyone else and just revising that), you run the risk of failing or being kicked out for being underprepared.
One thing I really wish I’d know before being flung head first into exam season is that it is really common for people to fail exams in Italy. Due to the flexibility of oral exams, and the sheer volume of material that needs to be revised just in case the teacher says “when did Petrarch live?” (yes I was asked that. Panic.), it is not uncommon for students to pick 3 or 4 chapters to revise, sit the exam, get kicked out, and then try again next time having revised another 3 or 4 chapters. They appear to work on the principle that if you know 3 things, and the professor only asks you those 3 things in the exam, then you will pass with flying colours and no one will be any the wiser that you only knew 3 things from the whole topic…
A word of warning though, most students aren’t that lucky!
Overall, exam season here in Italy is very different to the one in the UK, not least because I’ve never sat a January exam in my entire academic career. But seeing how they do it here is an invaluable experience and has really pushed me to confront my revision techniques and my attitude towards classes.
Anyway, my Filologia books are calling my name. Until next time…
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