Going abroad can mean many things. It can be exposing yourself to an unknown language on a far-away continent for five months, travelling a lot while at it and having the time of your life. Or it can mean taking a six-week block course in a small town in a European country.
The latter is what I decided to do. I traveled to Italy in the middle of April and came back in the end of May. My courses at the University of Bologna, which is the oldest university in Europe, were held in the sweet small Italian town of Forlì, 80 kilometers from Bologna. Even though the required credit points were pressed into such a short period of time, my schedule was not overwhelmingly stressful. I still had plenty of time to explore Forlì and the neighboring towns and coast side, and get to know its lovely inhabitants.
The experiences that I made in this shortened semester abroad where all-the-same impressive. I was exposed to the Italian language, which I had previously understood a little, but never properly spoken. And even though my courses where taught in English, boy was it necessary to know Italian in every other aspect of life! Thanks to my knowledge in Spanish, I was able to “communicate” somehow, getting many funny looks – but also kind smiles for trying. Furthermore, the Italian culture impressed me greatly. I would not have expected such a big difference, since Germany and Italy are not far from each other. But the openness of my classmates and basically everyone on the street, their natural kindness, and yes, also their general level of volume when speaking made me realize the difference in culture. As obligatory for a semester abroad, of course I also had to deal with a housing problem (think mold in the bathroom and unfriendly landlady) and I had to learn about the typically un-German “relativity of time”, say for example with an exam that starts 30 minutes late and goes on more than 15 minutes longer than it was supposed to… University life overall was similar to Germany, with great and hardworking classmates and a lot of group work integrated in the curriculum of my class. However, I heard from my friends that few courses are set up like this in the University of Bologna.
But why did I chose all of this over five months on a tropical island or in the most exciting international city in the world?
There are many reasons for that:
First and foremost, by shortening my time at the University of Bologna, I was able to do a three-month internship during the semester that I would otherwise not have had the time for. Secondly, it is much easier to finance six weeks abroad than a whole semester, and choosing a small town like Forlì also contributed to making my experience abroad cost-efficient. Lastly, to study at a non-partner university of the Frankfurt School gave me bigger flexibility in all these choices, even though it is a bigger organizational effort.
However, what’s great about the Frankfurt School’s International Office is that they supported me throughout the whole process of planning and conducting my courses abroad. Even when quite short-term changes came up and organizing the whole thing seemed almost impossible to me, the International Office and Program Management of the MiM helped and supported my with very quick response rates and general availability for questions.
Where should you go on your semester abroad? Should you do it at all, or leave it for money-, time-, or personal reasons? All I can tell you from my experience is: Explore your options, ask for help, and don’t be afraid to do a little planning yourself, even if in the process there are some setbacks. Frankfurt School values internationality and diversity, so you will get all the help that you need if you want to go to Forlì as well 😉