My First Day of Italian University

On May 15th, 2012 I completed 18 years of schooling. After 6 years of primary school, 3 awkward years of middle school, 4 grueling years of highschool, 4 really fun years of college, and 1 grueling/really fun year of graduate school, I thought was  done. No more books. No more homework. No more school.

Like many other things in life, I thought wrong.


One year later and here I am, going back to school for a third degree. Only this time, it’s a different city, a different country, and a completely different subject matter. Oh yes, this smarty pants is attending the Univerisità di Bologna  (which is the oldest university in Europe by the way) to study ……(drumroll please)….Communication Science! Did I mention that it’s also in a different language? Hooray for me! I get to learn communication AND Italian at the same time. Oh, how fate is ironic.

As I was getting ready for my first day of class yesterday, I was reminded of the feeling I had on my very first day of kindergarten. I wanted to make sure my clothes were fashionable, but not too fashionable (for anyone who doesn’t understand why this is important, let me tell you that the only reason that I  am friends with my current day best friend was because she wore the most beautiful flower print dress on the first day of kindergarten, which upon seeing, made me befriend her instantly).  I rehearsed in my head what I would say in Italian if anyone asked me personal information about myself. I even packed a light snack and some lunch euros, *just in case*. I did all of this until a sudden epiphanic voice said to me: “Stop this! You are a grown 24-year-old woman! You have your own fashion style and you do NOT need the approval of those 19-year-old Italian freshies! You are a university godess, goddamnit!” If these Italian students wanted to judge me, then so be it! I shall learn scienze della comunicazione and I shall speak perfect Italian by the end of it!

With my new wave of confidence, I cycled over to the lecture hall, chin high and ready to learn the crap out of whatever it was I was expected to learn. Upon arriving, I passed several groups of students waiting outside. Some were nonchalantly smoking their cigarettes, looking as though they were too-cool-for-school. Others, also smoking, were looking more nervous as their eyes wondered about, arms crossed across their body. I chuckled to myself, remembering my first days of university. How similar I must have looked! Minus the cigarettes….

As the previous class finished, our lecture hall emptied out and over 100 of us shuffled our way in. It became obvious fairly quickly that there weren’t a lot of seats, but that there WERE a lot of us. As this fact became more apparent, so did the aggressiveness of the students entering. People began to move more quickly, shuffle more closely together, and before you knew it, everyone began the scoffing: “Incredibile! No ci sono posti!” – Incredible! There aren’t any seats! And the only thing I thought was, “tipico”, because this is just so typical of Italian organization (not everyone can be as blessed as the Germans!).


After everyone took their seats (some sitting on the floor), the professor began. He, too, seemed quite nonchalant, using “chi se ne frega” – who gives a damn – several times throughout the lecture. First, he covered the syllabus – the books we will read, the topics we will cover, and what the exam will be on (which he  said will consist of “assolutamente nulla di ciò che dico” – “absolutely nothing that I say in class”). Then, a few slides about the general theory of “mass communication” followed by an example that included mortadella, which I’m still not quite clear about.

Mortadella di Bologna

Mortadella = deliciousness that communicates happiness to stomachs everywhere = example of mass communication

About halfway through, the professor called for a 5 minute break which caused an amazing reflexive response: cigarettes suddenly appeared in everyones hands as they stepped outside to continue nonchalantly killing their lungs.

Thus so far this is what I have learned from Italian University:

1) There is no need to go to class.
2) If you must go to class:

a) arrive early to assure yourself a seat, and
b) act as non-chalant as possible. You can achieve this by not smiling, smoking some cigarettes and generally not giving a damn.

10 comments on “My First Day of Italian University

  1. Brilliant and congratulations for your Bologna experience then : make sure you eat Tortelli di Zucca, unique in the world, and the best ones are in Bologna and Mantova.
    Kind of agree with non-chalant attitude, seems inheritaed in every Italian, lol.

  2. Pingback: How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno per Lavoro | Italy Project

    • Hi Shirley, I had to do an oral Italian proficiency test as well as take a general knowledge exam in Italian related to my faculty. My Italian wasn’t perfect but I was probably upper intermediate at that time. If you need help with Italian, I recommend attending an Italian language school for a few months beforehand.