Do you remember the first days of university, when it was all about self-introduction and hands-shaking? So, not to break with tradition, let’s begin by introducing myself! My name is Erika Poletti and I have (successfully!) finished my first semester at Bocconi University. I have attended an international course held in English and called “Bachelor of International Economics, Management and Finance” (BIEMF, for friends). In comparison with my last year of high school, my life couldn’t be more different. Not only have I started a completely brand new course of study in a language which is not my mother-tongue, but I have also spent a fantastic semester engaging in stimulating and interesting activities. I am here to share my experience, hoping that it could be useful for prospective first-year students.
Why have I chosen International Economics at Bocconi?
My studies at high school focused on Humanities (Latin, Old Greek, Literature and History): on one hand, this cultural background surely made me become a student with open mind and critical sensibility but, at the same time, the subjects concentrated too much on past rather than present. On the contrary, I wanted to study something more directly related to my daily life. Since my first travels abroad, my dream had always been to attend university in the UK. That’s why at first I had decided to apply to Edinburgh University in Scotland, one of the few universities offering an undergraduate program encompassing different subjects, such as Art and History, Management and Science, International Relations and Languages.
There were different reasons for this initial choice. First of all, their academic offering was extremely appealing to me especially because it gave me the chance to go on studying two things I loved: Economics and Biology. Secondly, in Scotland, European students don’t pay fees for undergraduate programs which could lower the expenses incurred to follow a course there. With regards to the negative aspects, in addition to high costs (generally in the UK fees are stuck at 9000£ per year), the only problem is logistics. I wouldn’t say that the application procedure is impossible to carry out for a foreign student like me, but when one is overwhelmed by final exams and paper’s preparation finding a teacher for a report to be written in English, writing a cover letter, filling in endless forms and solving bureaucratic issues may be problematic. Therefore, since at the time I was not sure about my choice yet, I (partially!) gave up on my dream and started looking for something else.
After considering different possibilities and visiting a lot of universities in the area, I found a perfect opportunity at Bocconi, called “Talent Scout Program”: the chance to spend some days in the university, meeting smart people coming from different parts of Italy and following sample lectures, in order to have a general idea of what we would study. For an hesitant person as I am, believe me, it was exactly what I needed to make up my mind! Being a lover of foreign affairs, I was immediately attracted by the international course offered there (BIEMF), which could allow me to achieve my dream of working in a institution such as the EU or FAO. The peculiarity of BIEMF with respect to the other course at Bocconi is that it is entirely taught in English and requires a minimum of 60% of foreign students in each class.
Which are the positive aspects of an international course?
Learning languages faster: when you are in everyday contact with young people speaking at least 5 different languages (including Chinese, Hindi, French, German and Spanish), learning a new language becomes a matter of willpower. Do you want to practice your French speaking skills without spending a cent? Just arrange to take a coffee with a friend or classmates willing to learn your language (Italian in my case) in order to do conversation together, as I did! Once you start talking, you won’t even notice that you are “learning a language” because you will be lovely chatting about your life, passions and hobbies. For instance, I ended up talking about French poetry and theatre, literature and music: there’s no better way to get to know a new culture and way of thinking.
Broader perspective: with respect to the same Economics degree in Italian, the way my course is structured gives a deeper insight into the economic world. If you think about it, every country’s economy encompasses internal exchanges but, above all, external relations with other nations and continents. That’s why it is so important to study it with a world-wide perspective. Foreign companies are nowadays part of our societies and it would be a mistake not to consider their cases and strategies in our academic path. Just to make an example: in my Management course, not only have we analyzed companies like Fiat and Ferrero, but we have also dealt with Starbucks and Mcdonald’s business models.
Open-minded people: international students are used to change country and schools very frequently, thus finding themselves surrounded by people coming from all over the world. Consequently, they are much more friendly with strangers as well as more creative and innovative. It’s always a pleasure to debate with them on current issues because they provide me with a different perspective and make me consider every problem from an unusual point of view. The cultural melting-pot I have lived into for the past 6 months has helped me become enthusiastic about diversity and more aware of what it means “to build a European spirit”, or even better “to be citizen of the world”. Therefore, in my opinion, the only way to start talking about integration or discrimination in a proper manner is to experience such a multicultural atmosphere.