Do you know that the oldest university in the world is found in Italy? The University of Bologna. Well, between having some of the oldest and best educational institutions, stunning scenery, world-class cuisine, historic cities, and vibrant culture, Italy has something for everyone.

Italy is an appealing place to study abroad, with a low cost of living, English-taught degrees, and a central location in Europe. An Italian degree can open doors to career opportunities internationally. If you’re looking for an adventure and want to immerse yourself in a new culture, Italy may be the perfect place to pursue your degree.

But studying in a foreign country also comes with its challenges. From choosing a program and school to obtaining a student visa and navigating student life, it can be very challenging for international students as they make the transition.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This guide will give you everything you need to know to have a great study abroad experience in Italy.

How to Plan for Your Studies in Italy

Planning your studies will help you anticipate challenges and know how to navigate them, hence making your move to study in Italy a breeze. Let’s check out some of the things you need to prepare for as you plan your studies in Italy.

Education System in Italy

Italy has 97 accredited universities, comprising 67 state universities. There are other several institutions of higher education including non-state and telematic non-state universities. There are over 2 million students enrolled at various Italian institutions of higher education countrywide, with almost 130,000 international students. In the 2021-2022 academic year, a total of 18,798 international students enrolled in various universities across Italy as compared to 17,781 students in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Most bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Italy universities are taught in Italian, though some programs offer English tracks. Doctoral programs are often in English.

Overall, the Italy education system follows the Bologna process. This is similar to other European countries that strive to provide high-quality, specialized programs for students looking to advance their education and gain valuable cultural experiences. With many historic universities, degrees taught in English, and affordable costs, Italy offers a lot for prospective international students.

Choosing a University in Italy

Before you proceed to choose Italy colleges or universities, you need to consider factors like location. Do you want to study in a bustling city like Rome or Milan or a smaller town? Location can impact opportunities for internships, activities, living costs, and the general lifestyle.

Additionally, look at the admission criteria and the tuition costs. Public universities typically have lower tuition but may have additional language requirements or entrance exams. Private universities usually have higher tuition but may have more flexible admission for international students.

The top university in Italy is the University of Padua, which ranks 1st in Italy and 115 in the Best Global Universities, according to the US News and World Report Global Universities ranking. Other top universities in Italy include the University of Milan, the University of Bologna, the University of Naples Federico II, and Sapienza University Rome. You can also check out other great universities in Italy to explore your options.

Choosing a Study Program in Italy

Italy has outstanding programs, with its favorites being Architecture, Humanities, Agricultural Sciences, and Biological Sciences. Before choosing the program of study, ensure that you are clear about your career goals and research the opportunities available in that study area.

Once you know your area of interest, explore universities that offer strong programs in that field. For example, the University of Padua is known for having top-ranking subjects like gastroenterology, Space Science, and Water Resources. Additionally, research the costs for the academic programs in Italy at the various universities, the intake period, and the language of instruction.

The Italian higher education system is organized into three cycles:

Bachelor’s degrees (Laurea): 3-year programs preparing students for careers or graduate study. You require 180 credits (60 per academic year) to graduate.

Master’s degrees (Laurea Magistrale): 1-2 year programs that provide advanced theoretical and practical knowledge in a specific field. There are 60 credits per academic year.

Doctoral degrees (Dottorato di Ricerca): 3+ year research-focused programs culminating in an original thesis.

How to Finance Your Education in Italy

One of the major challenges international students face when studying abroad is how to finance their education to completion. Whether you want to pursue undergraduate or graduate studies in Italy, let us look at the tuition costs for international students in Italy and explore some financial aid opportunities to help lift the financial burden.

Tuition fees in Italy

The tuition fees at most Italian universities in much more affordable when compared with other European countries. Generally, you should expect to pay around €2,000 to €5,000 per academic year at public universities. There are even cheaper universities in Italy where you will pay way less, like the University of Florence, where undergraduate tuition fee starts from €156.

Private institutions are more expensive, charging between €3,000 and €35,000 per academic year. For example, the Catholic University of Sacred Heart charges between €3000 and €9700 tuition fees per academic year. Additionally, undergraduate tuition fees at IULM are €8,556 per academic year.

However, tuition fees will also depend on the program and level of study. Programs like Medicine and Engineering are more expensive when compared to Humanities. International students can also take advantage of scholarship opportunities offered by their institutions and various organizations to cover tuition and other study expenses.

Cost of Living in Italy

The cost of studying and living in Italy for international students is generally cheaper compared to other European countries. However, the living costs also depend on the city you are based in, as places like Rome or Venice are more expensive when compared to cities like Bologna or Pisa. Generally, you should budget around € 1,100 per month for your living expenses, including accommodation, food, transport, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Let us look at each expense and the approximate amount you are likely to spend.

Food

When it comes to food, you can expect to spend around €100 to €200 monthly. A plate of food in a local restaurant costs between €5-€15 depending on what you eat. Meat dishes are likely to cost higher. You can buy groceries and cook some meals yourself to save money. Italy is known for having the best pasta, pizza, gelato, and espresso.

Accommodation

The cost of housing for international students in Italy depends on a lot of factors. Rent for a single room in an apartment share or student residence ranges from €300 to €700 per month. While a room in Rome may cost up to €800 per month, the same room may cost an average of €400 per month in Bologna. For example, a double room at the University of Siena costs €300 per month inclusive of utilities. You can look for housing on sites like Uniplaces, HousingAnywhere, or Erasmusu. You can opt to live with a roommate to lower costs.

Transport

Most cities offer student discounts for public transit. In Rome, a monthly student pass is around €35. A single bus ticket costs € 1.20 and is valid for 70 minutes. Between cities, opt for budget airlines or regional trains. High-speed trains can be pricey, so book in advance and consider rail passes to save. There are other transport modes like trams and bike or car-sharing services making it convenient to move around Italy.

Insurance

Non-EU students have to take care of their insurance costs. You can purchase comprehensive health insurance before your trip. You can expect to spend around €150 per year on health insurance for international students in Italy.

Books and other school-related expenses

You can budget around €50 per month for books and other study-related materials. You may either buy the books or see if your school offers rentals. Some programs like medicine or architecture may require you to have extra study-related materials hence more expenses.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Well, to make your student life in Italy more enjoyable, you may need to budget for things like entertainment, the internet, visiting museums, and airtime. You can get an Italian SIM card and data plan. This should set you back around €100 per month.

With some budgeting savvy, the cost of living in Italy for students can be under €1,000 per month. Look for student discounts whenever possible, choose affordable accommodation and transportation options, and balance eating out with home cooking.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

There are various scholarships and financial aid options available for international students in Italy. Let us check them out.

Government scholarships

The Italian government offers scholarships and grants for international students through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Several scholarships including the Study in Italy Grant offers an allowance of € 900 per month and an exemption from paying tuition fees. There are also grants for Higher Education in Italy that provide funding for research, specialization courses, and Italian language and culture courses.

University scholarships

Many universities provide scholarships in Italy for international students. These include;

  • Merit-based scholarships, awarded to students who exhibit outstanding academic achievement and potential. For example, the University of Pisa awards 24 merit-based scholarships annually to international students for their English-taught master’s degrees or the Bachelor’s program in Management for Business and Economics.
  • Need-based scholarships, which are offered to international students demonstrating financial need. For example, the Opera Universitaria scholarship is offered to students at the University of Trento who meet the scholarship requirements.
  • Departmental scholarships are offered by individual university departments for students in specific fields of study. For example, several departmental scholarships at the University of Padova for international students enrolled in various programs.

Private scholarships

There are also private organizations that offer scholarships for international students in Italy, such as The Fulbright Program which provides grants for research, study, and teaching in Italy for U.S. students. Other private scholarships include the UNICA Scholarships which cover tuition for master’s degrees at universities in the UNICA network

International students can get fully-funded scholarships, like the merit-based scholarships (platinum) at the Polytechnic University of Milan for international students pursuing a Master of Science degree. You will only be required to pay a non-refundable administration fee of €200. The scholarship takes care of tuition fees plus €10,000 per year.

How to Apply to Italian Universities

Applying to Italian universities is not centralized, thus you need to contact your institution to find out the admission requirements. However, there are general requirements for admission to most universities that you need to meet as highlighted below.

Admission Requirements

To study in Italy, you’ll need to meet the admission requirements of your chosen university.

Academic Qualifications

A high school diploma or equivalent is required if applying for undergraduate programs. For graduate programs, you must have a degree equivalent to level 6 qualification for overseas studies. Some programs may require specific coursework or minimum grades. There may be additional entrance exams in some universities before granting admission.

Proof of Language Proficiency

Depending on your university and program of study, you might need to provide sufficient proof in either English or Italian. Several universities offer their programs in Italian and English. For English Language proficiency exams, most universities accept TOEFL, Duolingo, or IELTS. For Italian Language proficiency, a standardized test like CELI is accepted with at least a B2 level on the CEFR scale.

Required Documents

Whether the application process takes place online or requires you to download the application form, there are certain documents that you will need to submit with your application.

Depending on your program and university, the university’s admission office may ask you to provide the following general documentation for admission purposes:

  1. Academic documents including your high school transcripts for undergraduate programs or undergraduate transcripts if applying to a graduate program
  2. Standardized Language Proficiency Test scores
  3. A copy of your passport
  4. Bank statements proving that you have sufficient funds. The amount will depend on the city and university.
  5. Entrance exam scores like GMAT
  6. A statement of purpose explaining your reasons for choosing the program and university.
  7. Letters of recommendation. You can ask teachers who know you well to write letters discussing your abilities and potential.

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines for Italian universities are often 6-18 months before the start of the academic year. An academic year in Italy has two semesters – the winter and summer semesters. The summer semester runs from February to July while the winter semester is from September or October to January.

Application deadlines vary with the universities. However, the general application period for the winter semester is from May to July. Most undergraduate programs in Italy have rolling admissions, but it’s best to apply in the fall or winter for the following academic year. This will give you plenty of time to submit all required documents and take any necessary tests required for admission.

General Admission Steps

The application process to Italian universities typically involves:

  1. Researching programs and universities of interest. You need to consider location, courses offered, tuition, and admission requirements.
  2. Completing the online application which will include uploading the required documentation.
  3. Paying the stipulated application fee.
  4. Waiting for an admission decision. This could take weeks to months.
  5. Applying for a student visa, if required. Non-EU students will need to obtain a student visa to study in Italy.

Following these steps and being well-prepared with the necessary documents will set you up for success in applying to universities in Italy. Do your research, choose programs that excite you, and don’t hesitate to contact the university with any questions you may have about the admission process.

How to Obtain a Student Visa in Italy

To study in Italy, you’ll need to obtain a student visa at your closest Italian embassy or consulate.

But first, some of the documents needed to apply for study permits for international students include:

  1. Acceptance letter from your Italian university or program
  2. Proof of health insurance
  3. Bank statements showing you have sufficient funds for tuition and living expenses
  4. One-way or return flight itinerary depending on the length of your stay
  5. Passport photos not older than 6 months
  6. Proof of accommodation
  7. Passport (valid for at least 3 months after your entry date)
  8. Visa application form which can be found on the consulate or embassy website

Once you have all the visa requirements for studying in Italy, schedule an appointment at the embassy consulate to submit your documents and get fingerprinted. The process can take up to 2 months, thus you need to start your application early enough.

Once approved, you’ll receive an entry visa for up to 1 year. You must enter Italy within 6 months to activate your student status. After you arrive, register with the local police station(Questura ) to obtain your residence permit (Permesso di Soggiorno) within 8 days.

How to Prepare for Your Arrival in Italy

Before packing your bags to leave for Italy, ensure that you have put the necessary measures in place to guarantee a smooth transition. Let us look at some of the things you can do to prepare for your arrival.

Do your research

Before heading to Italy, learn as much as you can about Italy education rankings for different universities, the culture, lifestyle, and challenges you may face. You can read blogs from other international students and connect with them on social media to ask questions. Here are some key things to know:

  • Cultural differences: Get used to cheek kissing as a greeting, longer mealtimes, and shops closing for siesta.
  • Food and festivals: Experience amazing coffee, pizza, pasta, and gelato. Enjoy festivals like Carnevale and Ferragosto.
  • Explore housing options before arriving, either in a dorm, apartment, or with a host family. You could also ask your school or check sites like Uniplaces for listings.

Prepare important documents

Make sure you have a valid passport, student visa, acceptance letter from your university, proof of health insurance, and enough money to get started. Carry any other important documents that are essential during your stay in Italy.

Pack strategically

Bring only essentials since the living space may be small. You may include the following:

  • Comfortable clothes for different seasons
  • Walking shoes
  • Chargers/adapters – Italy uses Type C and F plugs
  • A small gift for your host family (if staying with one)
  • An important national item like a flag

Tips on how to adjust to life in Italy

Learn basic Italian

Study some key Italian phrases to be polite. For example, you can focus on greetings like “Buongiorno” (good morning) and “Grazie” (thank you). Even if you don’t become fluent, learning some basic Italian will help you communicate with locals and make friends.

Explore the local culture

Italy is a stunning country with a very rich culture. Take some time to explore your new surroundings and learn about Italian history, art, and food. There are many ways to do this, such as visiting museums, attending cultural events, and even taking cooking classes.

Make friends with locals and other international students

Making friends is one of the best ways to adjust to life in a new country. There are many ways to meet new people, such as joining student organizations, attending social events, and using online forums.

Join student organizations and take part in extracurricular activities

This is a great way to meet new people, get involved on campus, and learn more about Italian culture. There are many different student organizations and extracurricular activities to choose from, so find something that interests you and get involved.

Get a SIM card for your phone

Get a local sim card in Italy like from Vodafone. This will allow you to make calls, send text messages, and use the internet.

How to Study and Live in Italy

Studying in a foreign country presents many challenges, especially for international students in Italy. Here are some of the challenges you may face and how to overcome them:

Challenge 1: Language barrier

Not being fluent in Italian can make simple tasks frustrating and isolating. To mitigate this, you can take an Italian language course before and during your studies. You can find Italian language courses at the University of Turin among many other universities. Additionally, carry a translation guide or download a translation app on your phone. Don’t be afraid to ask locals, especially students, to speak slowly if you don’t understand.

Challenge 2: Culture shock

You may find that the Italian culture is totally or somehow different from your culture. And while this can be exciting, it can also be disorienting. Learn about Italian cultural norms and expectations before your trip. Connect with other international students to share experiences. Take time to adjust to the pace of life in Italy, which may differ from your home country.

Challenge 3: Making friends

Building a new social circle in a foreign place isn’t easy. To help you gain a footing and create a social circle, you can try putting yourself in social situations where you can interact with other students. For example, you can join campus clubs and sports teams to find people with similar interests. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself to new people in your classes and dorm. Making an effort to socialize and engage with others will help combat feelings of isolation and homesickness.

Can You Work in Italy After Graduation

While there are no particular restrictions for students from EU countries when it comes to working in Italy, non-EU students can still work for a maximum of 20 hours a week – or 1,040 hours a year as long as they obtain a work visa. However, you cannot start a business.

Job Opportunities

There are several employment opportunities for international students in Italy. As an international student, you have a leg up in industries that value multilingual and multicultural individuals. Some of the fastest-growing sectors in Italy are tourism, education, finance, and technology, all of which often employ English speakers.

You may find opportunities as a teacher, translator, customer service representative, or work in startups.

Work Visas

To work in Italy after graduating, you’ll need to apply for Italy work permits for students like the National visa, which is a long-stay visa to allow you to stay in Italy after graduation to look for work. You must provide proof of sufficient funds to support yourself during this time. The visa gives you 6-12 months to find employment. You’ll need an Italian employer to sponsor your visa to continue working long-term.

Preparing for the Job Hunt

Start preparing for your job search before graduating. Build an impressive CV highlighting any internships, extracurriculars, and relevant coursework. Get letters of recommendation from your professors. Brush up on your Italian language skills. Research companies you’re interested in to identify contacts and see what skills and experiences they value.

Networking is key, so tap into your college’s career center and alumni network. Attend industry events and job fairs to make personal connections.

Conclusion

While moving to a new country to study comes with a lot of challenges, we hope that this guide makes it easier for you to make the transition to Italy as an international student. From the Italy culture and diversity, history, the low cost of living, and the variety of programs taught in English, Italy makes an ideal study destination for anyone looking to pursue a degree and have some adventure. While the application process may seem daunting, if you start planning early and check off all the necessary steps highlighted above, studying in Italy is absolutely within your reach.

 

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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