La Puerta de Alcalá by Annie Streek (Winner YA Photo Competition)

Hola! My name is Annie, and I spent my Year Abroad in Madrid, Spain, where I worked in Recruitment for the first half, followed by Investment Strategies in Private Equity in the second. I also worked during the evenings as an English tutor to three young children to earn some extra money, by the end they were like family to me and helped me with my Spanish and taught me how to cook typical Spanish food. This photo was taken by Puerta de Alcalá, one of my favourite spots in Madrid, not only because it is right next to the Prado and Retiro, but because when I first arrived in the city, it immediately caught my attention. Choosing to go to Madrid was the best decision I made for my year abroad, not only because it is a bustling city, but because I was able to travel around Spain and Europe to visit my friends who were also on their year abroad. Before coronavirus hit, I was lucky enough to have went to Malaga, Venice, Paris, Bilbao and Milan. I would say to students going on their year abroad, travel travel travel! You will never have this time again and it will go by so quickly, that is what the student loan is for anyway!

Seville is truly enchanting by Alexandra Tilley (2nd Place YA Photo Competition)

‘Hi everyone, I’m Alexandra and I’m a final year Italian and Spanish student here at the University of Reading. My year abroad was split into two semester so I spent September to December in Bologna, Italy and February to July in Seville, Spain.

My photo is a partial skyline of Seville from the view over the Guadalquivir river. I wish I could capture the feeling I had taking that photo and the many times I walked over the bridges in Seville. The city completely captures you in it’s beauty and I was always completely mesmerised.

During my time in Seville, I studied at the University of Seville until quarantine was announced on March 14th, however, I made the, now, best decision of my life to stay there during the strict regulations of the lockdown. University abroad is always a whirlwind, there will certainly be times when you feel like pulling your hair out, especially when it comes to scheduling your own timetable (which was a massive surprise to me). In the end, I managed to find modules that didn’t all clash and I was interested in. Despite the tricky times and trying to get yourself understood, it pays off massively. The students in Seville were so welcoming and a couple offered to help me by sending me their notes of the classes!

Of course, we go on our year abroad to study/work and it is very rewarding, however the true Erasmus experience comes from making international connections. I was in a flat with 10 other Erasmus students from all over the world and, it’s safe to say, I have made friends for life. We all went through the struggles together of attempting to understand our teachers, waiters/waitresses and any person who tried to communicate with us in the thickest Andalucian accent! But once we got the hang of it, we felt so proud of ourselves

My first night in Seville, I went for a walk by the river at sunset whilst I called my mum and cried. They were tears from being so overwhelmed as I could not believe how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place, it was nothing like anything I had ever seen before. Coming from a low income background, spending time abroad is not something I was widely exposed to and it really changed my life.

Seville is truly enchanting and I, normally, wouldn’t be so poetic but the city really takes hold of you. It is full of vibrant culture, stunning buildings and citizens who are always willing to help you. Every corner you turn, there is something new to look at or to learn about and there are a million places for impressive photo opportunities. My greatest advice, if you plan on going to Seville, would be to lose yourself in the city – go in the morning when it’s not a million degrees, and just walk around all the streets as you will discover so much, you will hear the natives communicating and just immerse yourself in the culture.’

Sevilla tiene un color especial by Harry West (3rd Place YA Photo Competition)

Hey, I’m Harry West and I study Spanish and Economics. I was in Seville studying Filología Hispánica. It was something of a shock, Spanish taught in the classroom is something else to what is spoken on the street, and I remember thinking to myself “what on earth has 6 years of Spanish done for me?!”. But 12 months later here I am, with a great group of friends from all sides of the globe, from Mexico to Poland; and a Mexican-Sevilla-argentine accent. I wouldn’t look back and regret a thing.

Sevilla tiene un color especial

Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía, is renowned for its flamenco, La Feria (a huge festival celebrated every May) and of course, Cristobal Colón. It is a city full of things to see and do, aquariums, a replica of the first ship to circumnavigate the globe is moored on the Guadalquivir, Las Setas gives you a panoramic view of the city, and of course, FC Sevilla, champions of the Europa league have its stadium there.

I lived just outside of the old town, so the Giralda was only 15 minutes away. I would recommend trying to live somewhere near the centre as this is where I spent most of my time with friends, in local bars and restaurants, and under normal circumstances, the nightclubs. Sevilla is well connected to the rest of the country, AVE can take you to Cordoba within 40 minutes, a bus can take you to the beach within an hour, and through ESN, you can get to Morocco within 4 hours.

The photo

The photo which came in at third place is the town of Chefchaouen in Northern Morocco. It is a beautiful town with almost every surface painted this rich sky blue. It was inhabited by Jewish people after their expulsion from Spain back in 1492 so it´s rich in history. For any cat lovers, this is the place to be. You go into a restaurant in the central plaza and you will have cats playing all around you. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if a few of the locals ask to have photos taken with you either, as this happened to me on multiple occasions for whatever reason that was. I made some great friends on this organised trip to Morocco, we had beautiful food and we even got to ride camels in the Sahara. It was amazing.

Some advice I would give to students who are going on their year abroad would be to make sure you sign up to ESN ASAP. They have probably already organised events for other Erasmus students before you even arrived, and this is how I met most of my social group, and how I went on this fantastic trip to Morocco.
Another piece of advice would be, don’t get too comfortable with other English speakers. I know it can be stressful trying to get involved in a conversation with other speakers, but, just swallow your pride and get in there. Even though you will be making mistakes, calling a drawer a cojón, they will find it funny and it´s an ice breaker.

So, whilst on your year abroad, sign up to ESN or another group that organises events for students, and get involved with locals or other Erasmus students, this is the only way you will improve your Spanish! Finally, jump at every opportunity that comes your way, be it an invitation to grab a coffee, go to the beach, or to go to Morocco, you only get this year to have these opportunities, so make the most of it!

Endless opportunities: from an Italian degree to the fashion industry:

With the graduation ceremony for the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading just around the corner, there’s no better time to celebrate the successes of our recent graduates. This week we’re featuring an inspiring story from Alice Boulton, who earned her BA in Italian Studies in 2016, and who now works in fashion. We asked Alice to tell us how she found the transition from uni to her career, and how she thinks her languages degree has helped her in the fashion world. Here’s what she had to say:

Alice Boulton received her BA in Italian Studies from the University of Reading in 2016.

A degree in languages without a doubt sets you apart from many other candidates when applying for a job. Not only does it demonstrate your ability to learn, but it also exemplifies your ability to adapt and to conquer the many challenges that you may face. When people ask me what I studied, I always get the same response: Wow! I am so proud to say I earned my degree in Italian Studies at Reading. I know it played a huge role in how I secured my current position, and all of my prior positions as well.

I currently work as a Product Admin Assistant at the British clothing brand Boden. A PAA is essentially a hybrid between a Buying and Merchandising Admin Assistant, which allows me to gain the skills and knowledge to further progress in either field in the fashion industry. I spend my days switching between two lines in Womenswear, currently Accessories and Softs (basically garments like dresses and skirts), both of which vary greatly day to day. For the Merchandising side of my job, I do a range of tasks from creating purchase orders to our warehouses in the UK and US, ensuring new collections will arrive on time for launches and line drops, to minimising backorders and creating finance plans for new seasons. With the Buying team I create style plans, uploading new designs to our systems, ensuring all colourways, size ranges and style codes are correct, as well as checking each style on our website and catalogues are correct before going live, and creating comp shops; comparing competitor styles and prices to our designs for the upcoming seasons. Additionally, I make sure our showroom is prepared for fitting sessions and meetings with Head Buyers.

I thoroughly enjoy my career. Boden is an amazing place to work. I love that each day is different, and I love the fast paced nature of the fashion industry. I find it really interesting how a product evolves from the initial ideas on a moodboard to the actual finished item. The fashion industry is a competitive field and one that constantly keeps you on your toes, but I truly believe my degree prepared me for the challenge. Throughout my studies, whether it was at Reading or during my Year Abroad, I was consistently using my initiative. Additionally, my knowledge of languages is important in my career, given Boden’s aim to expand further throughout Europe. It certainly helps that I can speak to our many Italian fabric suppliers in their mother tongue.

I’ve always wanted to work within the fashion industry, but I never wanted to do a specialist fashion degree. I didn’t want to narrow my opportunities after university, especially if I eventually decided to pursue a different career path. I believe that a degree in languages offers endless opportunities for work, at home and abroad.

Alice Boulton and Milly Bolton on their Year Abroad in Florence

My degree in Italian undeniably paved the way to me securing this position. I was able to intern at the Italian fashion designer Ermanno Scervino during my time in Florence as part of my degree at Reading. During my Year Abroad I worked backstage at Milan Fashion Week during their catwalk, and gained experience in a fashion house. In addition, the Year Abroad helped me develop so many life skills, from improving my language to boosting my confidence in challenging – as well as in general-day-to-day –  situations. After that, nothing feels too challenging. An interview in English? EASY! If you can enroll at a university overseas, take an exam in a foreign language, or debate over the phone to a late taxi driver in his mother tongue, you’ll find it easy to explain in English why you’re the right person for a job. That’s as simple as ordering your morning coffee.

Alice Boulton and Milly Bolton show off their well-earned first-class marks on their dissertations.

A lot of people think that a degree in languages is simply learning a language. It’s so much more. My degree covered the golden age of Italian Cinema way before the glitz and glam of Hollywood; the history of the Fascist period; the literary icons Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch; the history of the Italian language; linguistics; poetry and literature from from the Medieval to the Post-War period; and so so much more. A languages degree is like every other degree mixed together along with learning a language, which is the cherry on top.

The Year Abroad was a fantastic experience, it’s hard to put into words just how great it was, I now return to Florence as much as I can, just to bring back that feeling of living there again. With such an array of topics to study overseas, you become agile and gain skills in a variety of subjects that mould you and allow you to jump into any industry, be it straight into work or in further education. My degree also gave me the confidence to apply for jobs in Italy, of which resulted me interviewing for a job in Florence, one which I would never have been able to do if I had not pursued this degree.

Alice Boulton, Milly Bolton, and Dr Paola Nasti

It’s almost impossible to pinpoint my fondest memories from my time at the University of Reading because there are just so many incredible times. I remember my daunting first language seminar, where I met Dr Chiara Ciarlo, who made me feel at ease straight away. I even remember visiting Reading for the first time and meeting the fabulous Enza (da Potenza) Siciliana Verruccio, and I knew this was where I wanted to go. I remember how Dr Federico Faloppa and Dr Paola Nasti managed to make Linguistics and Dante enjoyable. Dr Charles Leavitt, who was my tutor throughout my degree, managed to keep me grounded while I was writing my dissertation abroad. And Dr Daniela La Penna inspiring me with her extensive knowledge of the Italian poet Ungaretti (and so much more). Each and every lecturer that taught and supported me along the way, made my time at Reading unforgettable.

Graduation day was bittersweet, I had gained a degree and ready to move on into the world, but at the same time I was leaving a family and amazing memories behind.

Celebrating success with the staff and students of the Italian section at the University of Reading

If I could give any advice to prospective students it would be: Do it! You will not regret it. A degree in languages prepares you for so much. I would also say do a degree that you will enjoy, rather than what you think sounds prestigious or what you imagine will get you that high-rise job in the city. You can get that job with a degree in languages. Some people may wonder what you can do with a degree in Italian Studies, since it may seem like you’re bound to become a teacher or a translator. You can pursue those jobs, of course, but in truth a degree in Italian opens up endless avenues, especially with the rising demand for bilingual applicants. My advice to current students, of whom I am extremely jealous, is: Make the most of it, work hard and enjoy it, because it’ll fly by and before you know it, those 9ams will feel like a lay in! Keep up your language skills, watch Netflix with subtitles, keep in contact with those you meet abroad and finally don’t be afraid to apply for jobs abroad.

The staff and students of the Italian section at the University of Reading

I cannot stress enough how incredible the Italian section at Reading University is. They made every day at Reading a joy and they become your family away from home, the support you get is sky high and they make every seminar and lecture interesting and enjoyable, even if it is Dante at 9am. My time at Reading was the best 4 years of my life (so far), and if I could do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Thanks Alice. We loved working with you at Reading and we’re so happy to hear that you’ve found success in your career in the fashion industry.

If you’d like to learn more about how a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish from the University of Reading can prepare you for a wide variety of careers, including a career in fashion, check out our careers page. Be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, too, so that you can keep up on all the news and events of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading.

The Edith Morley building at the University of Reading

If you’re a Reading graduate, we’d love to hear from you about your career choices after university. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your experiences, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of our departmental blog. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

And remember to subscribe to our blog:


 

Venetian Dreams: Merging Languages and Art by Venetia Baker (French and Italian alumna).

When I graduated from the University of Reading in 2012, I wasn’t sure where I wanted my degree in French and Italian to take me. I was passionate about languages, and my confidence in both languages was at its highest. I knew I wanted to use them in whatever career I would enter into. It was the desire to use my languages that spurred me on to accept a place on a Master’s degree in Technical and Specialised Translation at the University of Westminster.

After graduating from my MA, I gained my first full-time job in a large translation company, TransPerfect, based in London. From here, I built on my knowledge of the translation industry and after one year I gained the confidence to go freelance, setting up my own translation business. I loved being in charge of my workload and building up a steady network of clients, both privately and through agencies. After two years of working from home as a translator, however, one of my other passions was niggling at me, and I realised that there was perhaps another career route for me where I could combine my love of languages with my passion for the arts.

I had studied a few history of art modules during my time at Reading and during my year abroad in Padua, and in particular I had enjoyed learning about the art of the Italian Renaissance. I wanted to build on this knowledge and learn more about the field of art curation in a contemporary setting. What better way to do this than by enrolling on a course in Curatorial Practice and Contemporary Art in the Italian heart of contemporary art: Venice.

I hadn’t realised what I had let myself in for when I landed in Venice last October and made my way to my rented apartment, just outside of Venice in a town called Malcontenta. I was hopeful that the name of the town wasn’t an omen of how the year to come would pan out! Taught completely in Italian, in a class of 20 Italian students, I was truly immersed from the word go, and was suddenly grateful for all the intensive language skills classes Enza had put us through in fourth year! I particularly loved the location of my school in Campo Santo Stefano, near to the Accademia bridge. I would take my morning “caffè ginseng” in the campo before attending lectures on curatorial practice, art project management, fundraising, graphic design, press relations and conservation in the crumbling Conservatorio di musica Benedetto Marcello. The course worked towards the creation and realisation of an art exhibition, which we designed and managed as a group. The best part of this process for me was working with internationally renowned contemporary artists, getting to discuss with them their artworks, and helping them throughout the exhibition process, from choosing the artworks to their arrival in Venice and installation. It was an exhausting but incredible experience, and to top it off we got to attend the openings of several exhibitions as part of the Venice International Art Biennale, meeting artists and networking.

During my time in Venice, I also managed to fit in a one-month internship at the amazing Peggy Guggenheim Collection. I loved being surrounded by the incredible artworks in the collection, from Picasso’s, Dali’s, Matisse’s, Miro’s, Giacometti’s and Brancusi’s, to Pollock’s, Still’s, Bacon’s, Warhol’s and Fontana’s. The art collection of the PGC is out of this world, and I absolutely loved guarding the galleries, selling tickets and preparing talks for the public on the life of Peggy Guggenheim. My favourite part however was putting the artworks to bed every evening, by placing their “pyjamas” over them and being the last ones left in the museum after the crowds had left. What a dream! This experience also enabled me to learn more about the running of a small art museum, and a particular highlight for me was having a private guided tour of the collection by the Director, Dr Philip Rylands.

Having returned to the UK in May, I am now working at Royal Museums Greenwich as a Bookings and Customer Service Coordinator, having started in the museum as a Visitor Assistant. I love my job and couldn’t ask for a better place to have my office – a Unesco World Heritage site surrounded by wonderful artworks and historical artefacts. My team are from all over the world, and I use my languages on a daily basis both with my colleagues and our visitors, and I’m hoping to develop within the museum, and perhaps one day move into the curatorial department, if the opportunity arises. Amongst all the craziness of my time in Venice, I also got engaged there at the start of my course. A perfect place to be proposed to, being the lady of Venice! My fiance, a fellow Reading Modern Languages graduate, and I are now busy planning our wedding and looking forward to building our future together.

Venetia Baker

Michael O’Hagan, Winner of the Year Abroad Photo Competition 2017

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Hello, my name is Michael O’Hagan and I spent my year abroad in Paris for a 10-month internship, working as a purchaser/product manager. Obviously completing an internship abroad is a bit more fast-paced than studying abroad, but it was just so worth it.

Well, what can I say about Paris? It’s an incredible city. I didn’t actually live in the centre of Paris (to save money), but in a very small town about an hour’s commute south of the ‘périphérique’ (ringroad) which encircles central Paris. Although the commute was long, it was really nice to be out in the quieter countryside with fields and a forest, but still close enough to the centre of the capital.

To give you a bit more of an insight into my internship, I worked for a company which buys and sells new and used cars in France. I was a purchaser of new cars, so I was contacting suppliers all over Europe to buy cars from them and import them to France. The first few weeks completely flew by as I tried to take in all the French I could, and learn the principle tasks of my internship. Once I settled in, I was quickly given a lot of responsibilities, which was awesome, seeing as some French internships offer interns seriously limited responsibility. As I speak Czech too, I was able to travel to the Czech Republic in December for 4 days with my manager, to meet new suppliers who I had made first contact with over the phone. This was the toughest but also the most rewarding experience of my whole life.

I could go on forever about my internship, but I should instead say to all future languages students looking to potentially do an internship instead of studying abroad, to not hesitate even for a second to search and apply for internships. It will change your life, and give you some serious experience to help you stand out from other candidates in applications for jobs after university.

The photo I took is of the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, in summer time after my placement had finished. It was easily 30-35 degrees at the time! Not bad for Paris, I know. The photo shows that although Paris can be a really loud, bustling, and busy city, there are so many chilled and relaxing parks you can go to and take some time out.

The Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection

Thursday April 6, 2017 marked the official launch of the Christopher G. Wagstaff Italian Film Collection at the University of Notre Dame. Wagstaff, who retired from the University of Reading in 2015 after four decades as a teacher and scholar of Italian, delivered a short talk at the event, which recognised his distinguished career as well as the generous donation of his personal film archive to Notre Dame.

Chris Wagstaff, who taught Italian at the University of Reading for four decades

As Wagstaff’s former colleague Professor Zygmunt G. Baranski has said, in his long career at the University of Reading Chris “worked tirelessly and, at times, eccentrically, to develop new undergraduate and graduate courses, to build a major film library, to establish national and international contacts and networks, to enlighten and encourage students, and, most importantly, to demand the highest standards of scholarly seriousness from himself and his students.” With that in mind, we want to take this opportunity to recognise Chris’s contribution to the University of Reading and to the wider Italian and Film-Studies communities.

We asked Tracy Bergstrom, Curator of Italian Imprints and Co-Director of Digital Library Initiatives and Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, to tell us about the archive. She explained that the Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection is built around roughly 2,000 Italian films and television programs donated from Wagstaff’s personal collection. These films are currently being catalogued and made available through the Hesburgh Libraries, as well as digitised for preservation purposes. Both digital and commercial copies are supplemented by the University of Notre Dame’s large print collection, housed in the Hesburgh Library, which explores the history, culture, and aesthetics of Italian media.

The Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame, new home of the Christopher Wagstaff Film Collection

Brendan Hennessey, Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Binghamton and the archive’s first curator, further expanded on the significance of the archive. “The Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection aims to become a centre for the study of Italian film and television that will be open to scholars and students, a North American cineteca at Notre Dame, the first of its kind, capable of supporting extant research while promoting future projects in Italian screen studies.

The mission of the Wagstaff Collection is not to preserve individual films, but to permit the study of a corpus of cinematic works facilitated by their digitisation. It will nurture research, screenings, curated film series, and scholarly events. In so doing it perpetuates Christopher Wagstaff’s original vision to expand our understanding of Italian cinema through the study of all types of Italian media production. Over the course of his prolific career as both teacher and scholar in Italian studies at the University of Reading, Christopher Wagstaff’s role as amateur archivist reinforced his position as one of Italian cinema’s most respected interpreters.

During his career at the University of Reading Wagstaff published several path-breaking studies, including this magisterial examination of Italian neorealism

As an archivist-scholar, Wagstaff brought precision to the study of both “classics” and non-canonical films, with a particular interest in exploring how production contexts (and their illuminating empirical data) could be gateways for sharpening Italian film hermeneutics. Evidenced by the titles in the archive, his tastes are indeed eclectic: art-house staples, rare versions of neorealist classics and auteur films from the 1960s neighbour popular genre films (science fiction, action-adventure, peplums) and an extensive assortment of spaghetti westerns. Recent scholarship attests how such an expansive horizon of types was prescient for Italian screen studies in the twenty-first century. Today, as the reverence for traditional canons and their inevitable hierarchies are on the wane, collections that stretch beyond the precincts of the post-war Italian art film are increasingly vital.”

We at Reading are proud of the work that Chris has done and want to congratulate him on the launch of the Christopher G. Wagstaff Italian Film Collection at the University of Notre Dame. Well done Chris!

Reflecting on Paris attacks by Gemma Dutton (French and Economics student on her year abroad in Paris)

On the 13th November 2015, people from all walks of life were out enjoying a Friday night – drinks on the terrace, watching the football game or enjoying a live heavy metal concert.

On 13th November 2015, Paris was victim to a wave of coordinated terrorist attacks leaving 130 dead and hundreds injured.

On 13th November 2015, France became the centre of international thoughts, not forgetting those in Beirut, Baghdad, Syria, Ankara, Nigeria, the list goes on…

 

My mum rang me just after 9pm “There’s a madman, you’re home aren’t you!? Oh my god Gemma don’t go out!” I reassured her and put the news on. Paris is a city and, as awful as it sounds, there’s always something going on. We stayed on the line for a while before she hung up to tell people at home that I was ok.

This is a re-post, to be redirected to the original post click on the image below.

To watch the full original post by by Gemma Dutton, click on the image.

To watch the full original post by by Gemma Dutton, click on the image.

Student Life: A Year Abroad in Siena

In their third year at university, students in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading go abroad to live, study, and work. They head to France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Canada; soon they’ll also be going to Spain and Latin America as well. We’ve asked some of the students who have just come back from their year abroad to let us know how they found the experience. Here’s a reflection from Elliot Reeman, a final-year student of French and Italian, who has some advice for those of you getting ready to set off on your adventures abroad:

 

 Our weekend road trip to Castiglione Del Lago with our Italian friend, Beatrice. An amazing weekend filled with bbqs, swimming, taking her boat out on the lake etc. So memorable.

Our weekend road trip to Castiglione Del Lago with our Italian friend, Beatrice. An amazing weekend filled with bbqs, swimming, taking her boat out on the lake etc. So memorable.

Firstly, I hope this post will serve to comfort, inspire, or at the very least deliver insight to those either contemplating or preparing for a year abroad. I had access to information from former language students prior to going abroad, and I really do believe that every bit of advice/knowledge is valuable.

 

I’ve never actually ‘blogged’… so I guess I’m just going to outline my experience and try to highlight things I learned to avoid, things I learned NOT to avoid and the best ways to make a super memorable chapter of your lives, because (for the record), I had an incredible time in Siena. I really did.

 

My mobility to Siena was the second of my two study placements (as I also study French), and was a period of five months between the 10th February and the 10th July.

I was very lucky with many aspects of my time in Siena which helped with my arrival and which positively impacted on my experience in general. A close university friend of mine who studies single honours Italian at Reading was to spend her entire year abroad in Italy (Siena), and this meant that she had settled herself in Siena 5 months prior to my arrival (whilst I was in France). Through her, I was able to fill a room in the same apartment building which a student left, presumably having only spent the first half of their mobility in Italy. I was given the contact details of the landlady in advance and this was all confirmed well before my arrival. I suppose this is exactly why having information, such as posts on this blog and points of contact, is so important and valuable. With people and their information readily available, you’re so much more likely to find something or someone to make your transition smoother and easier.

 This cafe in the Piazza offers customers their balcony. A perfect spot for a morning espresso whilst watching the people go about their days. It's funny... the whole town seems to adopt the same care-free pace of life here - so refreshing.

This cafe in the Piazza offers customers their balcony. A perfect spot for a morning espresso whilst watching the people go about their days. It’s funny… the whole town seems to adopt the same care-free pace of life here – so refreshing.

In the six minutes spent in the taxi from the train station, going through the old, narrow, cobbled streets of what was to become my new home-town, I made up my mind that I had chosen well and that I was going to thoroughly enjoy my time here.

The only type of person who I can imagine not enjoying Siena is someone who needs huge, busy cities. Siena has enough charm and character to last you a lifetime. Just a look at the view from my apartment window should give a clue – and this is completely standard view for an apartment in Siena!

 

The view from my apartment. It was as breathtaking the 100th time as it was the first time.

The view from my apartment. It was as breathtaking the 100th time as it was the first time.

There is so much intriguing culture in Siena, the likes of which I can almost guarantee you won’t have come across, and being a resident as opposed to a tourist, it makes you feel an actual part of something so special. I realise I’m not actually explicitly describing said culture, but that’s because I don’t think I can. You simply have to experience it. I will say this: the town’s medieval history can be felt (and often seen) in every street within the walls. Imagine having your breakfast interrupted by the sound of drums, only to get up and look down onto the street from your window and see the whole street filled with men dressed in medieval armour and carrying pikes… well, this happens in Siena.

 

I could write for days about the things I did and saw (and ate) in Siena, so I’m really trying hard to condense. For this reason, I am going to switch to a list. Call me lazy, but I’m saving your scrolling finger. I just want to highlight the things I believe you should do, and those you shouldn’t:

 

1: GET A MAP – a good one! Whether it’s Tuscany or any other region, give yourself a real sense of where you are in relation to your host country. Not only will this save potential embarrassment, but you can then see what’s around you.

 

 This is on top of 'the arch' alongside il duomo di Siena. Offers spectacular panoramic views of Siena and the surround tuscan countryside - Free to go up for Erasmus students with your student card! FYI, that's Elliot's on the right.

This is on top of ‘the arch’ alongside il duomo di Siena. Offers spectacular panoramic views of Siena and the surround tuscan countryside – Free to go up for Erasmus students with your student card! FYI, that’s Elliot’s on the right.

2: EXPLORE – Once you’ve got your map, I suggest picking a surrounding or neighbouring town/village each fortnight, research it a little, and make it your quest to explore it! Public transport does exist everywhere (even if it can be frustrating). Of course, prioritise getting to know the town/city you live in, but spread your wings – you’ll thank yourself later.

 

3: MAKE NATIVE FRIENDS – So, in Siena, we had a small local bar – called ‘Bella Vista’ for anyone interested. We befriended the girl who worked behind the bar – an incredibly outgoing Italian girl in her mid-twenties who lived in Siena. She happened to have a car, and this made point number 2 absolutely amazing for us. It also made number 1 slightly redundant for us… It also means that you are much less likely to fall into the English-speaking trap if you live with other English students. It’s just the best thing you can do to enhance pretty much ever aspect of your experience.

 

4: PACK LIGHT – Moving to France in September, I made a bit of a mistake. “France is nearby, let’s take a drive down with the parents and move in a completely full car-load of possessions.” No. It was a nice idea, and I did enjoy my 30” computer monitor and printer, but no. Obviously Italy isn’t the same – you’d have to be a bit of a fool to drive from England, but my point remains: having just one large suitcase and one hand luggage case is SO much better. I still had plenty of my clothes, and it meant that short trips were manageable and ultimately, moving back was stress-free – let’s just say that moving out of France involved much cardboard and duct tape… So pack light(er) people.

Our trip to Follonica - the nearest and prettiest coastal town to Siena. Can't be without the beach, now!

Our trip to Follonica – the nearest and prettiest coastal town to Siena. Can’t be without the beach, now!

5: BRAVE THE PAPERWORK – Okay, so it’s no secret that the administration of a year abroad is a bit of a nightmare. We all get frustrated as hell with it, but when you think of it, organising a year long exchange on a national scale is a tough job. Do your paperwork EARLY. Yes, you will probably have to print out and scan the same form around 3 times, and yes the office will be open at the stupidest of hours in France, but persevere because the simple fact is that you can get into all sorts of post-mobility trouble if you leave it late. Besides, you want that generous government money, too!

 

6: SPEND WISELY – If you can, think ahead and put money aside for your year abroad. Yes, you do get some money from Erasmus/government, but I want to stress how being in a new country presents you with SO many exciting opportunities. You want to be saying yes to as many things as possible, and many of them won’t be free. Italy was not expensive. In fact, my accommodation; the food; the drink… these were all impressively inexpensive compared to England. The only thing is that, because of this, you’ll want to experience dining out, having evening drinks, taking day trips etc. much more frequently. In a sentence: think about how to financially manage a lifestyle you’ll both enjoy and be able to maintain right up until your departure.

 Palio Day in the Piazza del Campo, which is ram-packed with spectators waiting for the horse race to commence. The build up to this 3-minute long race is electrifying.

Palio Day in the Piazza del Campo, which is ram-packed with
spectators waiting for the horse race to commence. The build up to this 3-minute long race is electrifying.

Much of what I’ve written refers to the Year Abroad in general rather than specifically rather than Siena specifically. Anyone thinking about / preparing for / in Siena who would like more detailed information about my experience or advice, please get in touch with me. In the meantime, I hope that my photographs can to the talking with regards to my cool experiences and some of the great places I went. These include much drinking in the Piazza del Campo, road trips to lakes and, of course, the famous Palio. Bouna fortuna à tutti!