The Truth About Studying in Bologna

Theo T


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Bologna’s nicknames – la dotta (the learned), la grassa (the fat), and la rossa (the red) – sum it up. Studying in the city is a great way to experience all three at once – attend Europe’s oldest university, eat in Italy’s culinary capital, and take in the anti-fascist and communist street art that decorates Bologna’s terracotta buildings. Here’s some advice for what to expect.

My overall experience

Personally, I found studying to be an interesting experience. Not only is the University of Bologna the oldest in Europe (if not the world) and therefore full of beauty and tradition, but it’s also nice to immerse yourself in a foreign institution.

Be patient at the start.

Unlike in England, you have to create your timetable yourself, and it can often seem very daunting trying to figure out how the university works. Take time to pick your modules, speak to your coordinators and use google maps to find out where your lectures will be in advance. Expect it to be a challenge, but know that after a little while you’ll be all sorted!

Expect lectures to be difficult.

Understanding what’s going on will be hard at times. To combat this I’d say persevere. Your Italian will improve with time and there’s no reason to feel disheartened. Also, pick modules that actually interest you and you have a bit of background knowledge on (understanding lectures on cinema will be easier than lectures on macro economics for example). Asking Italians for notes is a great thing to do. They’re often happy to help. Remember at worst they say no, at best you could make a good friend. 

Expect to have a lot of free time.

Depending on which modules you choose, you’ll probably wind up with a fair amount of time on your hands. Try and fill it with fun activities – visit nice trattorias, play sport, join societies. Nothing’s worse than spending a semester simply killing time.

Module Choices

Take as many first-year units as possible as some courses are really hard. Teachers are always at least 15 mins late so you can be too. Most of my lecturers were really scary and unforgiving during the exams, make sure they know you’re a year abroad student and go to class as much as possible because the exam could be on anything from the course and they don’t give you much warning.



One of the best things about the semester in Bologna was being able to go to other cities too. We went to Florence, Venice, Parma, Modena and Ferrara, all of which were great (Florence was by far the best). It’s so cheap and easy to travel on the train from Bologna and you can also get to places like Verona and Rome pretty easily.

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