Exchange student from Italy enjoying opportunity to live and learn in the South

Elisa Silicato found the perfect opportunity to explore her long-time interest in southern life and culture this spring as an exchange student at Northwestern State University.

Silicato is a graduate student at the University of Pisa in Italy. The University of Pisa was founded in 1343. It is the 19th oldest university in the world in continuous operation and the 10th oldest in Italy.

“I chose to come and study in the United States, and specifically in the South because I had developed over the years a growing interest and fascination for the Southern life and culture,” said Silicato. “I found out about Northwestern State when I started scrolling down the list of agreements that my home University has all over the world, and Northwestern was one of the very few located in the South.”

Silicato is taking courses in French, English and Linguistics, American sign language and ballet. Each of the classes correspond to classes offered at her home university. She has found significant differences in the way classes are taught in Italy and the United States.

“Class structure is where the biggest ‘cultural shock’ happened,” said Silicato. “In Italy the classes are frontal and mostly monodirectional. Following a course in Italy means listening to what the professor says for four months, taking a lot of notes and studying a lot of books. After that you show up at your professor’s office the day of the exam and give an oral exam where you answer all of the questions.”

She had to quickly adjust to the way classes are taught in the U.S. and out of class homework.

“Some of the classes I follow are positioned in a circle giving the student the possibility to face each other and interact,” said Silicato. “Also the weekly homework was new to me, We don’t really get homework in Italy after high school, and that of course has forced me to create a different kind of schedule from what I was used to. It feels more like the university organizes my time rather than me doing it. Another positive aspect I found here at Northwestern is that students are expected to interact, give their opinion, produce and share what has been produced. That felt like fresh air as the Italian University System is a little more rigid.”

Silicato likes the variety of offerings at NSU.

“The university offers a range of opportunities to which I wouldn’t have had such easy access in my home university, like for example studying subjects from very different fields,” said Silicato. “The community of Natchitoches has been more than welcoming towards me, and I am very delighted to live in such a beautiful, warm and multicultural environment.”

Silicato encourages students from Northwestern to spend a semester at an international university like the University of Pisa. NSU and Pisa have had an exchange agreement for several years. Students from NSU pay the same tuition to study internationally, but have access to all services offered by the host university.

“I would encourage students from NSU to come and study at the University of Pisa for many reasons,” said Silicato. “It is a great opportunity to grow and explore a different culture. Our university holds more than 30 courses in English in a variety of fields. Most are graduate courses but undergraduate courses are available as well. Pisa is a wonderful, charming, clean, safe little town, packed with students and fun activities.”

The International Student Resource Center & Study Abroad is currently accepting applications for Fall 2022 and Spring 2023. Travel scholarships are available for International Exchanges. The ISRC & Study Abroad office offers opportunities to Study Abroad through bilateral agreements with partner universities around the world and through the International Student Exchange Program and opportunities to Study Away at colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands through the National Student Exchange Program.

For more information on international and national study opportunities at Northwestern State, visit nsula.edu/international or contact Dr. Telba Espinoza-Contreras at 318-357-5939. 


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