It was an icy morning in Padova when I was about to attend my morning class. My apartment manager, Signor Bodin, was unusually early. He was parking his Vespa when I was going down the stairs next to the gigantic pine tree that welcomed my eyesight every time I stepped foot in the front yard. I had to go to one of the classes that I took this semester, Making Arts in Medieval Italy. Walking down to the bus station made me realise something, it had been 3 months since I started my exchange program in Italy.
My name is Aldine, and I was an exchange student under the Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards programme at the University of Padua (UNIPD). This programme is a fully-funded scholarship scheme that enables sophomore and penultimate university students to study abroad for a whole semester at top universities. The university that I chose, UNIPD, is located in a small city in northern Italy named Padova, where the university’s buildings are scattered all around the town.
Being one of the oldest top-ranked universities in this world, UNIPD has always been looked up to for its academic reputation, making this university cater for hundreds or even thousands of international students’ journey in pursuing higher education. The prestige that it holds matches suitably with the experience that I had when I studied there. The lecturers were very invested in teaching us, and the classes were never lifeless. My classes gave me the chance to learn a myriad of new knowledge, including studies about Italian culture and the Italian language which made my love for this city and the Paduan community grow even deeper.
Life in Padua is the perfect epitome of what Italian life should feel like. Settling down in a small city that is brimmed with traditional markets here and there makes the Paduan community enjoy living in simplicity and holds highly the idea of slow-paced Italian life. Stores usually closed down during lunch breaks, and people stayed at home during weekends to spend time with their loved ones. These things felt totally new to me who had been accustomed to the fast-paced life in a big city like Jakarta. Back in Jakarta, I had to commute for hours just to attend a class due to heavy traffic. In contrast, once I settled down in Italy, I could just bring out my bike and go down the road for half an hour to reach my campus. It felt somewhat bizarre yet also funny, knowing how often I was to do grocery shopping at one of the local markets on my way back home once my classes had ended. Sometimes, I cycled further to the river and watched the stream flow under the bridge. A funny thing about a small city such as Padova is that there isn’t much to see, but I will always gladly refer to this place as my second home, right across the Mediterranean sea.
The concept of a second home, however, shall not be fully limited to a beautiful place like Italy, as I find “home” in the friends that I made during my journey. These people helped me a lot in many ways, starting from overcoming the fear of travelling to new places, curing homesickness, and even handling big issues such as having to go through stressful quarantine periods. The friendships that I created along the way helped me grow as a person, and they become one of the most prized possessions that I have ever had.
Understanding the fact that I have gotten countless valuable experiences and beautiful memories from this program, my gratitude shall be passed on to several parties. First, I would like to sincerely thank the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology for selecting me as one of the IISMA awardees in the batch of 2021. Truly, the experience of being one of the awardees has become a big investment in my future and my academic life. Second, I would like to express my appreciation to Universitas Indonesia, for without whose help, I would not be able to study in Italy and have the opportunity of sharing this story with you. Grazie di leggere la mia storia!