A few years ago, I took the first step in creating my own adventure by moving to Italy for an exchange program. This is going to date me, but in 2012, Instagram wasn’t as big as it is now and I wasn’t able to find any real reviews of the school online, even from my own University. LUISS is very small, so only a handful of students end up going there. Thus, when I looked through my university’s records, only 3 people had previously written reviews. After completing the program and releasing my email for potential contact students to contact me, I’ve since had students email and Skype me on advice and what it’s really like. I’ll save you the dramatic “it changed my life” bit for another post since you’ve already to chosen to go on exchange. But here’s what you need to know before you go on exchange to LUISS:
1) School Structure & Classes
Like most universities in Europe, LUISS is a subject-based school. It specializes in business, international relations and law. Now, I will 100% admit that my only motivation for going to LUISS was to be able to live in Rome. That had been my dream since high school, I was going to the birthplace of ancient history. LUISS offers classes for Bachelor of Business and Master of IR and Law. I figured I was just going to take business classes that would go towards my elective credits as I was a Political Science major. However, when I got there, I found out that they opened up the Master of IR classes to Bachelor students and UBC said that they would take them as upper year Political Science credits. Sweet.
2) Dress Code and Environment
LUISS is a private school and thus very elite. People are nice but they dress up for school in comparison to the UBC sweats/leggings/dress code. Just something to be aware of, I didn’t bring that nice of clothing and one day I wasn’t feeling well so I just came in sweats. I got a lot of looks. Because I swear, everyone looks like they moonlight as a fashion model.
3) Grading & Exams- UBC vs. LUISS
Overall, getting a passing grade at LUISS was easier than at UBC. However, it was harder to get a higher grade. Exam structures were dependent on the class but generally you got 2-3 shots at an exam. Unheard of, I know. But they are scattered throughout the months so if you wanted your summer break to start, you had to nail it on the first time. Another component that I really liked was that you had the choice of doing the exam orally or written, and that’s something that I find lacks in Western universities. Different have different strengths, I say the grading was easy because writing has always been my strength so writing essays has never scared me. Public speaking freaks the crap out of me.And for some other people it may be the opposite so I liked that they were given a fair chance in it as well.
4) Credit Transfers
Be sure that if you need these credits to graduate, you clearly understand how your credit transfers work. I did exchange on my third year so I still had a year of classes to make up my credits if I effed up the transfer system. For the most part, UBC’s general rule is that if students in the past have taken that course, then it will transfer to a specific class credit. However, if no student has taken that class before, then the Board will review the syllabus and course description/material that is submitted and determine if it transfers into a direct course credit or is just a general upper year credit. Now, for UBC Arts, this process is quite long as there are only certain dates that the Board meets, so for me, it took 6 weeks after I had finished the program to find out what classes and credits I was having them transferred into. Like I mentioned before, give yourself some leeway if you are not 100% sure.
5) Books & Classes
Don’t buy any books until after class has started. This is just general university advice. Every professor is different and some use books and have them as a “guideline” but you don’t need it to pass the class in full. I know it’s easy to get carried away and want to be super prepared but there’s plenty of time to get everything you need.
On that note, the class schedules are very different. As in I mean some of my classes were Tues/Wed and other Mon/Wed/Thurs. It’s not a cohesive schedule and can actually change from week to week (one of my Master classes that had a guest lecturer come in every other week, but if he wasn’t there, there was no class) so it’s easy to overlap, so be careful.
6) Visas and Permit of Stay
Ugh the visas. Like most visas, you have to apply for it in a very short time frame and of course you’ve got lots to do before leaving. There is something I really do want to clarify when obtaining your visa though:
If you are a Canadian citizen and you get your student visa through the Italian Consulate in Vancouver, you are on a multi-entry visa, which means you can freely go in and out of the country. I know this sounds straight forward, but while I was there, everyone was giving me very confusing advice (including the international office at the school and other Canadians that had a different type of visa – the Schengen visa) stating that I might not be able to leave the country until I receive my Italian Permit of Stay. Do not listen to anyone. If you have questions, email the Italian Consulate in Vancouver directly (not even the Canadian Consulate in Rome is that helpful).
You do need to apply for the Permit of Stay as soon as you land (you need to apply for it within 15 days of arrival, and it’s going to take months to process) but until then, you can leave the country whenever you want. The only thing worse than dealing with the Italian government before you leave is when you get there. And it was like it never ended. The following year, I needed my criminal record check from Italy to work for the Government of Canada, and oh god, that was a whole other story. Spoiler: Neither the Permit of Stay or clearance check is fun. But it’s necessary.
Housing through the CTS system is hit or miss. If this is your first time abroad, don’t worry about it too much, there’s plenty of stuff so don’t feel like that is the only option for housing. I originally got matched with a landlord who was kind of a jerk about the reservation so I didn’t end up staying with him and instead found a last minute apartment with 3 other Italian girls who were super great.
And in short, enjoy your time at LUISS! I loved every minute it. However if you have any other questions or would like me to do a follow up post on the technical logistics of how to get your visa, permit of stay, criminal record check, housing, etc., please comment below or feel free to shoot me an email. I could write an essay about that kind of stuff. Finally, I had a wonderful time but I also made a lot of mistakes and only want the best time for you too!
Good luck & arrivederci!