It was that day of the week that gives goosebumps to the students, particularly the exchange students, at one of the Southeastern Colleges (SEC) in the United States. Yaaas! It was GAME DAY at Louisiana State University (LSU). Game day is all about waking up early, attiring in college colors (purple and gold for LSU), tailgating, partying, heading to stadium as a die-hard fan, cheering for your college football team and partying all over again after the game. Having said that, it’s still not possible to precisely convey in words the feeling of a college game day. When you study in the USA, it’s one of those “you’ve to be there to know how it feels like” experiences.
The other day I was talking to an Italian friend. We could vividly recall the memories of our semester abroad in the USA, specially the tailgating on college game days and the atmosphere in the Death Valley (LSU Tiger Stadium). I got to know Ale while I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Italy. Ale has also studied abroad in Germany (Erasmus Programme) during his master’s degree. His study abroad story is inspiring.
I often exchange words with Ale about study abroad experience in Europe and in the USA. Following are some of the highlights of Ale’s study abroad experience especially the one in the USA (I’ve put the points in the form of an informal interview so that it could address some of the questions you as a prospective exchange student might have):
Ciao Ale, welcome to Adifiles. How are you doing buddy?
Ehi Adi! Thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to share my experience with those who are interested in studying abroad.
So! You have studied abroad in Germany (Erasmus) as well as in USA (Extra EU). What drove you to step outside your comfort zone (I mean the perfect Italian weather, food and people) and study abroad?
That’s a nice question. Actually, I’ve asked myself the exact same question so many times. As you said, it’s never an easy decision for an Italian.
But, nowadays with the advent of globalization, it’s not fair to stay in your comfort zone all the time. It is important to travel around, meet new people and explore their cultures. Once you go out there, you see that the world is so beautiful and it’s full of fantastic people.
I agree with you. All right! Could you compare both of the experiences and say a few words about the similarities and differences between study abroad in the USA and Europe (speaking about academics as well as student life and cultural experience you had)?
Sure, the European system (and in particular the Italian one) is far more theoretical, at least in the field of engineering studies. On the other hand, the American system is much more practical. I remember the first time I went to the manufacturing lab, I was the only one who had never used a lathe or a milling machine before.
As far as student life is concerned, it greatly depends upon the university you’re studying at in the USA or in Europe. But, all in all I can say that due to the “campus” concept (having every facility on campus), students are more involved in on-campus activities in the United States. Whereas, in Italy for instance, we have difference campuses of a university located at different locations in the town. Most of the times, students go to campus just for their lessons. So, students are more involved in the city life and events happening in Italy and generally in Europe.
Well said man. Moving on… Best memory?
I think that the best memory of our semester abroad in the USA is related to the last night when we had a dinner with our fellow students and we talked about our study abroad experience, with the promise to see each other again in the coming years.
Sure thing! We’ll keep on seeing all those amazing people. Okay, tell me about something crazy or funny you came across?
Ammn, the big American trucks I would say. Why do they use them! And, some people even make their cars look like trucks. It’s very different from Europe. And of course, how can I forget the moment you said “Ale, one day I’ll pick you and some other good friends up in my luxurious private jet and we’ll party hard in the skies” I wish that dream of yours comes true.
Yeah yeah! Haha! Once day we’ll definitely party in the skies. Or perhaps on some F1 circuit, as you want to become a F1 engineer one day.
Anyway, what about culture shock? Did you get any… if yes! How did you cope with it?
Of course the biggest cultural shock is the one related to the USA. Man, it is such a different country! Even the language is different from the English that we studied at school.
Nevertheless, nowadays it’s no more such a big shock as it could be in the past. You can easily find information in advance and have an idea about the new place. Moreover, thanks to advancement in technology, it is always like being home. We can easily connect to our loved ones.
No doubt about that. Would you like to say a few words about how did study abroad influence your personality?
The side of my personality that has groomed the most is how I appreciate the beauty of diverse cultures. There are so many stereotypes and you don’t get to realize the real essence of the culture unless you get to know people from that culture.
Expectations vs realities of studying abroad according to your experience? Any stereotypes or myths that are true to some extent or they are mere words?
It’s a common stereotype that may be Americans eat just burgers and French fries… As a matter of fact they do (well of course not all the time). But, on a serious note, I tried some of the best burgers of my life in the United States). I still remember those Louisiana Po’boys.
In the end, what advice would you give to those who are planning on studying abroad, especially the Italian students?
I would say to contact as many people as possible who have already studied abroad because there is no better advisor than a person has done it himself.
And, of course, consult Adifiles.
For information regarding application procedure and tips on other documents required for admission applications, check out How to study abroad: Tips and documents required.
In this post, personal views and opinions are expressed. The purpose of the content is to share the experience of a student, and not to offend anyone. If you’ve any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments section below.