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 Gabriella Burns, a Finalist in Italian Studies, who spent her year abroad in Venice:
If you are going to Venice on your Third Year Abroad then congratulations!! You will be going to what I personally think is the most breathtaking place you will ever go to. There may be other cities that perhaps come close to the magic of the canals and history, but Venice really is unique – as well as a trap which will have you returning for years to come. After all, if it’s good enough for George Clooney to get married there, then it’s good enough for us!
I spent, six months in Venice as part of my French and Italian degree after first spending six months in the south of France. Although I’ve now come to love Venice, I must be honest: at first it was not my choice to go to Venice for my Year Abroad. Now, however, I can’t imagine it any other way.
As an ab inito student of Italian in my first year, I had minimal prior knowledge of the language, and this made my year abroad experience particularly significant. Not only do I feel more confident using my language, I feel more confident in other life skills that have enriched my experience in so many ways.
The first advice I would give to anyone who is planning to study or travel to Venice is: Get lost. That’s right – Get lost. It’s not a difficult task in Venice, because to the untrained eye, every “calle” (small street) can look the same. You will get lost, and that’s alright, because it’s the only way to get a picture of the real Venice. When lost, you’ll uncover all the little back calle which none of the tourists go to. What’s more, Venice has a very low crime rate, meaning if you do get lost then you are safe. This idea was indeed drilled into me a lot during my time there and I came to realise it was true: my house mate would never lock the door… much to my surprise.
The second piece of advice which links into this is: Always look up. If you do end up getting lost, there is no need to panic as in every corner of the island there are yellow signs which point to obvious attractions which make it easy to get your bearings, since they point you towards the Rialto, Accademia and Piazza San Marco. I would also like to emphasise the word “island,” which means that you can never stray off too far – wherever your find yourself, you will still always be in Venice.
As Venice is such a small place, every one knows every one so it is very friendly and easy to meet people and make new friends for life.
During the Year Abroad you go through things which at the time seem relatively unimportant but in hindsight you realise that in fact they are quite a big deal and have played a large part in your self transformation. Little things like: catching 3 trains from one side of Italy to another and finding out which platform you need to go to and who you need to speak to. You do these things easily and then when you have 5 minutes to reflect you are filled with a sense of pride.
Places not to miss:
Remer. Remer is the name of a bar/restaurant which does 5 euro “cicchetti” (buffet food) and spritz every night from 7 til half 8. It over looks the Grand Canal and Rialto and you can sit down with a group of your friends and watch the sun go down.
Alfredo’s. A fresh pasta shop by Piazza San Marco. If you speak to them in Italian and let them know you study there, they may even give you a discount on their delicious pasta, which is like no other.
Paradiso Perduto. A bar come restaurant where every Monday night there is a live band who play a different style of music every week! A great evening out right on the canal front!