Here we go, in the end I did what all high school (liceo) students do: I chose a degree so crazy I can’t go to the university right behind my house.
In fact, it’s so incredibly crazy that I can’t even stay in Italy, or in the “Continent”: I’m moving to England (note for geography geeks: yes, I mean that specific part of the United Kingdom).
But let’s start from the very beginning: to whom did I give puppy eyes to get where I’m about to get?

 The Choice

The first thing I had to do was, incredibile dictu, choose what I wanted to study and where.
My reasoning was more or less as follows: I want to study something scientific → I know that the lab equipment in the university behind my house is half-broken → by the way this subject is something quite specific → wait, what? I would have to study for how many years? → I speak English! → in the UK I can start studying that from year one as a Bachelor’s Degree!

All I had left to do was finding a university amongst the [huge number I don’t remember] there are in Albion, and hurry since applications were due in a few months (January).

Since Britons are meticulous, since we live in the digital era and whatever other cliché you want to put in my mouth, all I had to do was go on Wikipedia and check each university website, exclude those offering only Economy and Theatre classes (back then I didn’t know I could have checked the UCAS search engine), and cross reference these results with a university ranking website.

Once I had 10 universities written down on a piece of paper, I e-mailed each one asking what their entry requirements were for an Italian liceo classico student, crossing off those who asked a final exam grade too high for me to get in my very famous and snobbish school.

UCAS and Entry Requirements

Finally only 5 universities were left in my list, the exact number of application one can send in one year through Apply, their application service.
I had to provide some informations:

  • Name, Surname, etc.
  • School, type of Diploma, Subjects, Passing Grade (which I didn’t know months before my exam)
  • Referee Teacher
  • Reference Letter
  • My very own statement on why I was a good candidate

and wait…

The Unnerving Bit

As weeks went by I would get Conditional Offers, that is a placement offer valid only if my grades were those they asked, and if I would take one difficult English exam they’re particular fond of (IELTS).
And that’s when things went annoying…

Somehow, even though I had explained many times in my e-mails (to each university) that my final exam grade would be only one and not one for each subject, they kept asking me for a 75 in Chemistry.
So I explained: no, we get one final exam grade, but I can tell you all my final year grades instead, which are from one to ten, only integers and the subject is called Science by the way, we study Chemistry only 2 years out of 3.
Their answer: of course, we apologise for the misunderstanding! We now require 7.5 in Science.
No, I try again, grades are from one to ten, only integers, please round it to 8 or 7.
After two or three more e-mails they finally understood how things worked in Italy.

It was now time to choose a Firm Choice and an Insurance Choice, that is to which of the 5 universities I would have really really wanted to go, and which I would keep as a consolation prize in case my grades were too low.
This time I thought: «I will live there for 3 years, maybe for if I do my Master’s in the same place», and I chose the ones that looked nicer to live in.

All was left to do was study for my finals and get at least 75/100.

You really thought all was done after the exam, eh?

Wrong! Even though I had a nice 86% (as they kept calling it across the Channel) they wouldn’t let me have some holidays in peace.
Yet again they hadn’t read my e-mail containing a copy of my exam transcription, and they were looking for a grade in numbers, instead of words as it was written (I had told them at least thrice what to look for). And they had even told me: «A translated copy? We don’t need that»…

I have no idea of how much a call from an Italian mobile in Piedmont (I love mountains) to a UK land line might cost, less than a year’s fee (£9000) plus housing, but education is priceless…

Count Down

I will fly in at the end of September, meanwhile I liked various Facebook pages, including one with a nice info video for international student saying things such as:

  • Being on time, saying thank you and you’re welcome are considered polite, and are part of our culture.
  • Police officers are here to keep you safe and enforce the law, they are approachable and friendly
  • In the United Kingdom we drive on the left hand side, be careful when crossing the street

and I got a welcome pack via mail with many information booklets, including a programme of my first week, the one with orientation talks, some sort of games without frontiers (optional), when they give you a lab coat and you get to choose from a hundred of student societies, including one on debates and one specialised in Mario Kart tournaments (dressing up as one of the characters)…

So, which is my University?

Thank you for reading, see you next time!

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