Posted by: Students Worldwide
Published on: 15/09/2021Back to Blog
The experience of studying abroad was definitely one of the most eventful years of my life but I would not have had it any other way! Initially, I expected to spend the whole year studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. However, due to the escalation of protests in the city, particularly on the university’s campus, I was forced to leave abruptly at the end of my first semester. The endless memories of Hong Kong’s culture, people, and food made it difficult to leave behind a place I had grown to love. I decided to change my destination to Venice and study at Ca’ Foscari university in my second semester. The opportunity to study in two vastly different locations and embrace a new culture was a welcomed one. I was especially keen to develop my Italian and broaden my international network of friends. I was grateful to be able to explore another part of the world, albeit somewhere closer to home! The contrast in lifestyles were truly eye-opening and allowed me to double the experiences (and friends!).
The year taught me more about myself than I could have anticipated. Having reflected on these unprecedented times, I understand and appreciate the diversity of cultures across the globe. Even though the year had at times felt unreal, I had the opportunity for growth and the chance to meet some fascinating people along the way.
Searching for accommodation last minute was quite challenging! The drastic decision to no longer study in Hong Kong meant that I was left scrambling for accommodation in Venice. Ca’ Foscari offered an accommodation service which provided a list of available residences for the second semester. I made the decision to contact all landlords on the list in the hope that at least one would reply back to me with an offer to rent their residence. After numerous phone calls and emails, I managed to secure a room in a flat in Lido (an island a short boat trip away from Venice) sharing the flat with other exchange students from across the globe. It was a lovely flat with some amazing flatmates who made the whole experience so much more enjoyable! The flat comprised of two Brits (myself included), a Spaniard, a Taiwanese and an Italian. Enjoying each other’s foods and languages was the study abroad experience I had always dreamt of! The flat was similar in layout to something I would have rented as a private accommodation in my second year of university as we were all sharing the bathroom and kitchen.
Ca’ Foscari arranged a week full of events to familiarise us exchange students with the city as well as the university’s buildings. The campus was scattered throughout Venice allowing me to explore a different part with each module. It was refreshing to be immersed in the city allowing me to appreciate its culture all whilst travelling to my lectures. As I lived in Lido, travelling to lectures and tutorials involved taking the Vaporetto (boat) which was a very different commute to what I had experienced both in Hong Kong and Bristol! The five-minute walk had now turned into an idyllic 20-minute boat ride! The Vaporetto was very cheap and with a student card was very affordable. During the evening, the university hosted a food tasting night where all exchange students were offered the chance to make food from their own culture, in similar fashion to a potluck dinner. It was a great experience to socialise over some good food and drink, meeting students from every corner of the globe.
Unfortunately, the clubbing scene was pretty non-existent in Venice with a school disco type club in the centre. I would like to think that the other clubs were not yet in their prime season, but I am unsure if that was the case…
Much to my surprise, studying in Italy posed a larger language barrier than studying in Hong Kong. The Italians exhibited a reluctance to converse in English forcing me to learn basic phrases to navigate across the city. At the minimum I learnt numbers up to 10, how to say hello and how much items cost when it came to ordering food or making a purchase. Alongside this, I took a module called Beginners Italian, which allowed me to expand beyond the 10 words I had learnt from Google Translate!
During my time studying in Venice, I made it a personal aim to try and explore as much of Italy as I could. I was able to partially fulfil this by travelling to Milan, Florence and explored the Veneto region before the Covid pandemic took hold. Exploring different regions of Italy was eye opening and allowed me to immerse myself in the amazing Italian foods the country has to offer. I can definitely say that the pizza in Italy is unbeatable! Italy offers very sleek train transportation making it easy to travel across Italy in a short amount of time. Italy also offers an abundance of history captured beautifully in many museums and galleries.
A difference I experienced whilst studying at Ca’ Foscari was the format of assessments and learning. At Bristol I was accustomed to sitting exams in January and June for each of the three modules I would be taking each semester. However, at Ca’ Foscari there was a collaborative element to their learning with a large number of group presentations, projects and assessed homework. This allowed for an opportunity to collaborate with other exchange students as well as learn from local students. In my opinion it was a more varied style of learning rather than cramming for an exam.
Overall, I really enjoyed my (short) time studying in Venice before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in the North of Italy forcing me to return home within a month of living in Venice. This made me appreciate that time is scarce, and life should be lived to the fullest when given such opportunities.
Credit – Ria Gandhi