Shraddha: an Indian Student in Italy

Indian Students in Italy

Shraddha is a Molecular Biology and Genetics Master’s student at the University of Pavia (Italy). She comes from Karwar,South India, Karnataka and has lived in Italy for about a year and a half now.

I had the pleasure of chatting with her about her experience as an Indian student in Italy.

Let's start:

UNIVERSITY

Shraddha, why did you decide to study in Italy?

I focused more on the course than on the country. I wanted to do a master's degree course that would focus more on research: I found the course offered by theUniversity of Pavia.

And what do you think of the Italian University?

I like to choose exams and to do them again, if I want. Here I can have a closer relationship with the professors, and really understand how they work. In India you usually do what the professor says and that's it. We have a Whatsapp group and Italian students always discuss exam dates, while international students are silent as we are not really used to it.

I can't really talk about the university experience because I was following online lessons (because of the pandemic), but I like how the exams are conducted (obviously depends on the professors): in the questions they don't just ask you to memorize what they have said in class but they want to see if we understand the key concepts.

University of Pavia

What do you think of the opportunities that your university offers? I am thinking of Erasmus (Exchange), internships...

In my course, finding an internship (which lasts 1 year and a half) is very competitive and I suggest looking for them right in the beginning of the semester. I decided to do it in the university lab. I know there are many Erasmus opportunities, but I didn't apply yet, maybe I'll do when my courses are done.

And in what language do you study?

I study in English. The course is in English.

Pavia.

I don't know how to speak Italian even though I've been here for more than a year. If I know the topic of the conversation, I understand 60% of it. And all the Italian people I know speak English, so there has never been a moment when I really had to make an effort. I should have done it.

The next topic is boring, I know, but in my blog I want to give a transparent idea of immigration: let's talk about...

VISA

What visa do you need to study in Italy? And how long does it last?

The Schengen study visa. In Italy it is only for one year but my course is two years. It works like this: you have to arrive in Italy and apply for a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno), during the first week. And this permit lasts as long as the insurance, so one year. When the insurance expires, the residence permit expires, so then I have to renew my permit and not the visa.

Was it difficult to obtain a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno)?

(She rolls her eyes!)

Once in Italy you have to go to the post office and take the kit of documents to apply for the residence permit. The form is 10 pages long and they ask you for another 15 documents, which they then send to the police station (questura). I have to wait to be called by the police (questura) to give my fingerprints, and then I have to wait another two months to get the actual permit.

I arrived in Italy in October 2019 and they gave me my first residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) in August 2020. My residence permit expired in December 2020 and I had to renew it one month before the expiration date. For the renewal I have to give my fingerprints one more time but I have an appointment in September 2021, I hope to have already finished the master's by that date! So at the moment I have neither my visa nor a residence permit. I have proof that I have made the renewal request...

In what language are the forms at the police office (questura)?

The documents are in Italian but they give you the English translation to read.

Karwar, Shraddha's hometown.

And what about your Student Schengen Visa? Did you need an italian language certification?

They didn't ask me for any language certification, at least not for my course. Obviously you have to prove that you have sufficient financial means (not less than € 448.52 month/academic year), and they wanted all the documents of my school career (diplomas and degrees). Original documents. 

Where did you apply?

At the Italian consulate in Mumbai as I'm from South India. You have to go there and submit all the documents. There is a step called "Pre-Enrollment" where they ask you:

"why do you want to go to Italy?", "Why did you choose this course?" "Oh, I see that you studied nanotechnology, what do you remember about this course?".

I did not remember anything and I thought:

“here, this is how I don't get a visa!”.

From the consulate they also contact the course coordinator in Italy to confirm my enrollment request. And they tell you if your documents are fine or not.

Then, you have to go to theVFS agency and make the actual request for the visa. I had to wait 3 months.

Do you know if there are any concrete opportunities to stay in Italy once the student visa is over?

When your permit ends, you have to leave the country but nothing prevents you from looking for a job or applying for a PhD.

Pavia, Ticino.

You often speak about the importance of insurance, can you tell me about it?

I got my insurance through theASL(Lombardy Agency for Health): you have the option of having one with or without a family doctor. The cost is around 150 euros, and lasts for the whole calendar year.

How much did your visa cost? 

About 10,000 INR (110 euros), I know that the price has increased now because of the pandemic. The biggest costs are the additional ones.

If you want to apply for a visa for Italy, start immediately, at least 6 or 7 months in advance and be prepared to be very patient.

I know you have a scholarship, will you tell me more about it?

I applied for a scholarship at the University (which must generally be done before September), submitting ISEE (Equivalent Economic Situation Indicator) and family status. In my case, I don't have to pay the enrollment fees but only the standard taxes (156 euros in my University), and with the scholarship I have one meal included per day at the canteen. The scholarship is open to local and international students. To keep it activated, I have to give my exams and have a specific number of credits. I knew about the scholarship since I selected this course. It lasts one year, but I can also apply again for my second year of studies.

Mensa: Canteen.

COST OF LIVING

Is it expensive to study in Italy?

I would say it depends on the city. Pavia is a small city and is cheap compared to Milan. I spend a maximum of 400/450 euros per month, 500 if there is a holiday. All included. Then it depends where you go buy groceries. 

With the University we can have access to theUniPass, with only 20 euros a year I can travel throughout the city. Pavia is very cheap in my opinion, in the city center for example, I can get a good pizza for 10 euros and they often give students discounts for “aperitivo”.

LIFE IN ITALY

What do you like about your life in Italy?

The food is really amazing...and the passion people have for food and wine. I've never met an Italian who hasn't told me about how good wine or pasta is. Italians are also very friendly. It is said that Europeans are distant and that they want to be with each other, but I have met many Italians who want to talk and interact with international students. I have more international (not just Indians) than Italian friends, I think it's easier. 

First Snow. Pavia. Italy

And what don't you like?

Bureaucracy, I'm Indian and I shouldn't say that things are slow, but they are really slow.

Have you ever felt a strong cultural difference?

I see myself as different from some people but I have always been open-minded. You see the difference in the little things. I was talking to my roommate a few days ago about this. She confessed to me that at first, she thought that things would be "different" in having an Indian roommate, but she said that in a short time she really forgot where I come from. On public transportation, old people sometimes look at you with curiosity... but I don't take it personally.

Karwar, Shraddha's hometown.

What did your family say about your choice to study in Italy?

My mother has always been happy that I continued my studies and in India it is not very common for families to support theeducation of their daughters, especially if they move abroad. If she had a choice, obviously she would want me in India but she never told me "you shouldn't do this!"

How do you think Indian and Italian culture are similar?

I can recognize Italians and Indians everywhere! Italians, like Indians speak loudly, it almost seems as if they are screaming. And I always say:

when I hear noise around me, I feel at home.

And the love for family...and the obsession with food!

And how are the two cultures different?

Before coming to Italy I thought that Italians were very religious, but I have never met a Catholic in Italy. Most tell me that they are "atheists" and it is a very curious thing for me. 

Can you find Indian food in Pavia?

Yes, although I must say that I have stopped cooking Indian food because I now prefer cooking a quick pasta! There are little shops with Indian and Bangladeshi products where they sell spices and they are good. 

My favorite pasta is carbonara! 

I recently discovered that ready-made sauces are delicious! The red pesto is my favorite! It's so simple! One of my roommates has a passion for cheeses and every day I try a new one.

It's Pizza Time!

Have you ever had problems communicating by not speaking Italian?

If I go to the supermarkets or restaurants, I can make it, but I can't hold a conversation. I always go out with at least someone who can speak Italian, so it's easy. I use Google Translate too. I live with 3 Italian girls and they speak English, not very well but we understand each other.

Do you have a favorite word in Italian?

Italians teach me a lot of bad words, I don't understand why! But my favorite expression is...

“che schifo!” 

I laugh. It means: “How disgusting!”.

What do Italians think of India and Indians?

On the first day of the course, this beautiful Italian boy sits next to me and we start having a conversation, you know the typical things:

"what's your name, where are you from..."

And I said:

“India”

and he told me...

"they have amazing ganja in India!”

"Oh my God, I think so."

My Italian friends think that in India we always dance. Once a friend told me:

"I know something about India. Tunak Tunak! ”

...which is a Punjabi song that became famous as a meme. And that we eat very spicy. In the supermarket, there is always this spice called "Curry" but curry is not a spice! In the end it's just turmeric and tastes like Maggi (noodles) in masala.

I don't include the link guys, but you are free to google it :)

Now it's the time for the most hated question by Italian Students:

What are your plans after graduation? Do you plan to stay in Italy?

I want to do my PhD and now I am looking for different opportunities. I'm not very sure about staying in Italy, but I'm sure I want to stay in Europe. I would like to explore some other country.

Would you recommend Italy to Indian students?

I would recommend focusing on the course rather than the country, but I would recommend staying in Europe. There is also the possibility of traveling a lot. I visited Milan and Venice, then unfortunately the pandemic started. Last summer I went to Eastern Europe and it was great.

I would definitely make the same choice again. 

Shraddha in a beautiful saree.

Thank you for reading until here! Thank you, Shraddha for your time! Good Luck! Buona Fortuna!

[For information on immigration to Italy, always consult the website of the Farnesina (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the Embassies in the country of reference.]

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