An Italian In Lugano

Studying in Lugano is a great choice if you are a curious student aiming to have an international experience

When I was eighteen, I decided I would study in Switzerland for my bachelor’s degree. The choice was due to the fact that I did not want to move too far from home, but I had a strong intention to try a different university system than the Italian one. Coming from the northern part of Italy, I looked for universities in Switzerland, and I found the “Università della Svizzera Italiana” (USI), located in Lugano. To date, it is the only university with courses taught in Italian outside of Italy’s borders. However — already at the bachelor’s level — they strongly support you in reaching a good level of English, in order to be able to follow lectures in Shakespeare’s language, and to enjoy experiences in foreign institutions.

The teaching approach 

I really appreciated the university structure in Lugano. For example, I studied economics, but there was always a humanistic approach to the lectures. We read a bunch of texts from the first philosophers, who were theorizing an economic approach in codifying reality, like Hobbes and Smith. Apart from that, strong quantitative tools were already given starting from the first semester. Econometrics, informatics and statistics courses were taught at a very high level. The humanistic attitude was not warding off the students from studying the necessary tools to have a quantitative analysis on reality.

Strongly international, with strong financial support for Erasmus students, USI really helps you experience life abroad, open to any sort of academic path you want to pursue. Most of the exams were worth six credits — common throughout Europe — so it is very easy to transfer and have international experiences recognized by USI. You have the power to shape your own personal and academic background.

After this experience, I decided to continue at USI for the Master’s in Economics, and this was the best academic choice I have ever made. With only a few students, the professors aim to effectively improve your academic qualifications: during the first year you learn several tools that improve your analytical skills, becoming ready both for private and academic sectors, in Italy and abroad. The level of teaching is comparable to the most renowned economics departments in Europe.  

The campus, in Lugano, is really small, even if now it is being extended for the new biomedical department. You should not picture yourself the huge American campus in the centre of the city. However, this represent the strength of this small university. If it were huge, it could not provide all the services that it does. As a matter of fact, the departments are not numerous, at USI campuses in Lugano and Mendrisio you can study — as already mentioned — economics and biomedical sciences, plus architecture, communication, Italian literature and informatics. One benefit of being small is the actual possibility for students to interact directly with the smiling professors of the departments. This represents a significant advantage for USI students to be inspired by ideas coming directly from top level professors’ minds. Another advantage of being a small university is the fact that the international office can place USI students in the top ranked universities around the world very easily.

Moreover, student organizations are growing and becoming really prominent. In fact, at this university, the first branch in Lugano of Rethinking Economics Switzerland was founded, which is a student association originally founded in 2012 in the UK. The association aims to increase the interdisciplinary approaches in economics teaching. Being in the Swiss country, Lugano is a bit expensive, both the rent and necessary expenses like food. I personally used this as motivation to find the strength and courage to go away for two separate Erasmus projects and one working experience (in Spain, Belgium and Germany). This allowed me to receive the scholarships (USI offers lots of financial assistance for experiences abroad), going to less expensive countries and saving some money!

Running along the lake

Studying at USI was — eventually — a really good choice. Being a small and new university, I could have strong and close relationships with several professors, quickly improving my human capital, in an inspiring and international environment. Lugano is a small, tranquil and mild city, and the nightlife is not as alive as other university cities such as Padova, Bologna or Milano. But when you are in Lugano, and there is not a huge party to attend during the week, a nice run along the river and an aperitivo in its central square is all a student needs to recover from all the difficulties of studying hard: being in contact with nature in motivating and smiling city.