My exchange semester in Lugano

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1 My exchange semester in Lugano Carola Konz Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany Communication Sciences My plan was actually not to come to Switzerland but as I did not receive my first priority I decided to come to Lugano. And I did not regret anything! The culture in Ticino is originally and typically Italian but with this sort of Swiss-German correctness. That was also a reason why I enjoyed studying at USI because the university is very well organized but at the same time the professors and students are easy-going. The campus of Lugano is located right in the heart of the city and can be reached very easily by public transport, bike or foot. The university offers a bike service which is free for USI students for 30 minutes. You can unlock and use the bikes with your student ID card. It is very easy to reach the other bike stations within that time, that s why it is a good opportunity to reach the university and other parts of the city. I would not recommend having a car in Lugano as there is traffic jam every day, not enough parking space, parking is expensive and you can really reach everything easily by foot. The campus is very modern as the university was built in All the class rooms and computer rooms are technically very well equipped and you can use the computer rooms all day and night if you need. As the university hosts just a small amount of students, it delivers a kind of family feeling. You see the same people every day and even the teachers recognize and greet you. The classes are often very small from 25 to 40 students and there is no division into lectures and courses like in Germany. All classes are very interactive -

2 it is very rare that the professor just talks by him or herself the entire lesson. The classes are very practical which means that you get tasks which are very close to real work life, you work through case studies and need to do group work and presentations. The people from USI are all very open which means that they integrate Erasmus students very fast and you feel comfortable working with your class mates for projects. In Germany the teaching approach is very theoretical. My courses are normally based a lot on scientific approaches which do not represent very well professional life. I enjoyed a lot studying some practical courses at USI as it was something completely new for me and I could gain some very important knowledge. It also helped me a lot in deciding in which field of communication sciences I can imagine to work in later. USI has a special offer: it is possible for all Erasmus students to take courses from the Bachelor and the Master programs. The Bachelor courses are all taught in Italian and are more basic courses with more theory, whereas the courses from the Master programs are totally taught in English and are more specific. Although I am in my 5 th semester of Bachelor at my home university in Germany I took only Master courses as they offered a very interesting content and gave me some insight into so far unknown fields. As I already mentioned the teaching method is often very personal and the professors respond to the students questions and problems very well. But you need to know that you will have to do a lot of group work, presentations or papers. The workload in comparison to my home university is very high. That was also the reason why I chose just five course and two language courses during the semester. Another good opportunity to decrease the workload is that USI offers mid-term exams. You will have a course just for the half of the semester and the corresponding exam for the autumn semester in November. The coordinators of the different degree programs are very kind and help you with all your problems. Another plus point of USI is that it attracts a lot of foreign students which are taking the regular degree programs. The consequence is that you meet a

3 lot of foreign students not only within the Erasmus group but also within your courses. That is maybe also the reason why you get integrated very fast and don t feel like a stranger. In the beginning of the semester I took part of the Intensive Italian Language Course at the intermediate level as I already studied Italian for five years in Germany. I took the course together with three other Erasmus students, the rest of the people were regular USI students. Most of my Erasmus colleagues took the Absolute Beginner course as they did not have Italian lessons before. The course lasted two weeks with 60 work hours but it was really helpful in getting back into the language and to communicate in everyday life. The teachers changed during the two weeks in order to have some variety of teaching methods. We did some grammar but also listening comprehensions and practiced a lot our conversational skills. In the afternoon we had the opportunity to apply everything what we learnt in the morning by doing a lot of exercises. We also heard a lot about Italian culture and listened to an interesting lecture about Switzerland s history. It is really awesome how much the International Relations Office cares about its exchange students and what they organized for us. I felt very welcome right from the beginning and we could ask them everything we needed. In the beginning we had a short meeting where we got all the important information regarding the Immigration Office, Puntocittà, the university and the course selection. It was very helpful so we did not need to find out such things on our own. Together with all the Erasmus students and the language course teachers we did a lot of nice trips at the beginning of the semester. We were invited to do a city tour all together, made a trip to the adventure park Monte Tamaro, had a nice lunch in the USI canteen, watched a movie, made a trip to Gandria, had a boat ride and an aperitivo at the Lido which was organized only for us. All the activities were very well organized and for free. It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get to know all the other Erasmus students very fast. I would recommend to join all the trips which are offered as it will be an experience you will never forget. In the summer time you have a lot of opportunities to spend your free time in Lugano. You can have a swim in the lake or at the Lido (public swimming pool), do pedalo trips, climb one of the surrounding mountains, relax in the beautiful park, do a trip to the nearby villages (Como, Mendrisio, Melide etc.), go to the shops in the city center, have a walk around the lake and a lot more. The great advantage if you live in a city where you can walk everything by foot is that you are not dependent on public

4 transport. So you can plan all your free time activities as you like because everything is very close. If the sun is shining you should seize the opportunity to take a coffee, go for a walk and enjoy the unique view. Together with some friends I did a lot of city trips for example to Bern, Como or Milano. As Italy is very close you can go there also for shopping and grocery. In the evenings there are a lot of activities, too. In the summer La Villa Parco Ciani, a famous restaurant in Lugano, organizes an aperitivo every Thursday. You can come there, buy a drink and eat for free. It is nice because a lot of Lugano s inhabitants and students come there and you can feel the Italian atmosphere. In winter La Villa organizes indoor aperitivos in a concert hall next to the indoor swimming pool where you can also dance and party. The food is always delicious and the atmosphere awesome. Another aperitivo which takes place every Wednesday is at Gabbani, the famous high quality food shop. The food there is also very delicious and the atmosphere is very good. You can find some clubs which are free but normally you need to pay a high entrance fee. I would suggest going to the La Villa aperitivo because it is cheaper and the atmosphere is the same. In a small village called Ponte Tresa around 30 minutes away with the train, you can find a typical Italian market where you can buy almost everything. It is really nice and cheap, but you need to go there more during summer time. In winter you can find a Christmas market and a huge Christmas tree in the city center. Unfortunately the market it quite small first half of December but it will be bigger in the last two weeks of December. If you want to visit the market and to drink some hot wine you need to go the very early because it closes more or less around 8 o clock in the evening. In Como you can find a nice small Christmas market two but really worth seeing are the ones in Luzern and Zurich. USI Sport Service is organizing a lot of free time activities as well. Its offer is really awesome and there are special prizes for USI students. I applied for a skiing weekend in Davos which was really nice and cheap (180 CHF). We were around 25 students and stayed in a youth hostel which was close to the skiing piste. If you did not bring your own equipment you can rent skies and boots from the USI sport service very cheaply (around 25 CHF). The sport service s offer is really amazing; you can do a lot of different sports. Some of them are for free and during the whole semester like aerobics or zumba. Some of the sports are more special like climbing, hiking or surfing and organized just a few times during the semester. If you live at USI Home aerobics and zumba take place in the gym just across the street.

5 I lived at USI Home, a student residence. It is a cheap alternative to the rest of Lugano and very close to USI, the lake and the city center. You just need to walk 5 min. to the university and the lake and around 10 min. to the city center. You can apply for a single (500CHF) or a double room (350 CHF) but I would suggest taking a single room. As there are not too many single rooms available you should apply as early as possible. The room includes a private bathroom and you share the kitchen with about 8-10 people. A laundry room is available in the residence, too. The rooms are very good equipped and nice looking. USI Home is a residence just for exchange students - that s why it is very international. It is a very good platform to meet the other exchange students. As I lived in USI Home I was in touch with the most of the Erasmus students right from the beginning. You share your kitchen so you can cook and stay together very often. We organized trips and parties or went out in the evenings. You could not miss any opportunity as we did it most of the time all together and it was always a lot of fun. I was not really so much in contact with USI students as most of the time I was in class with another Erasmus student. The USI students I met, however, were very kind and open to exchange students. As you need to do a lot of group work it is necessary to work together with other students. Within one course we needed to organize an event. Therefore I was in contact with all those students from that class and they were all very nice and warmhearted people. Together with the Erasmus students who lived at USI Home we organized our own International Dinners. People from the same nationality prepared typical dishes from their home country for the other people. It was always a highlight for me and it was nice to taste food from different countries. It was also a challenge for every team to find all the ingredients to prepare the dishes. We always had a great time during those evenings. You should really not miss the amazing and unique opportunity and experience to do your exchange semester in Lugano! It is really worth it and you will not regret it!

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