Robbert Hesen in Florence

Field of study in Wageningen: Development & Rural Innovation
Study period exchange:  01/09/2018 until 28/02/2019
Country (exchange): Italy
City (exchange): Florence
University (exchange): University of Florence
Faculty (exchange): Development Economics

2. Motivation for exchange

Why did you choose to go on study exchange?

As a bachelor student I did not had the chance to go on study exchange due to strict study program trajectories, therefore I decided to go during my Master. Besides, I am eager to develop my career in education. For this reason I was curious whether education (e.g. structures, courses etc.) are experienced differently in other countries. And to be honest, studying in a city like Florence is quite something to write home about.

What is the reason you chose for this country/university?

As mentioned before, Florence, and Italy in general, is full of history and has an exquisite culture. I fancied myself living there once in my life, so when an opportunity, like Erasmus+, presents itself it is hard to resist. Furthermore, I love the Italian language and these 6 months I was able to practice the language (although not fluently).

3. Accessibility to reach destination

Do you have any tips to reach your exchange destination?

Flights from Eindhoven to Pisa are abundant and inexpensive

4. University and studying

Could you provide some general information about the followed courses?

How is the study formalized?

As mentioned above some courses were well-structured, yet the majority of the courses seemed unorganized. This resonates with all the other points giving. For instance, in some courses the academic level was high while in others it was not very challenging. In relation to the workload, it is completely different from the WUR, meaning learning material is extensive and therefore examination becomes rather fact-based (i.e. theoretical) than applied (i.e. practical).

What is the culture of the university?

Although I might be biased, studying MDR (small class), lecturers in Italy are more traditional and therefore have more authority in classrooms. This results in less participation and more presentation-like lectures. Yet, in Italy showing up late for class is quite normal (even for lecturers), which somehow gives a more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom. This precipitates also the culture amongst students, which I experienced as pleasant and less stressful.

What does the university offer the student additionally?

Medical services are provided.


What are the possibilities for housing? 

Housing close to the Novoli campus is quite inexpensive, yet far away from the city center. Therefore, I chose to live in the center and buy a bike (very Dutch) to cycle everyday to the campus. Public transport is quite cheap (1,50 EUR for 90 minutes of travelling).

What is the culture of the country like? 

Culture of the country somehow relates to culture at the university, meaning people are less stressful than in the Netherlands. On the other hand, Italy is quite conservative and the current political developments are resulting in friction among its citizens. In terms of cuisine, Italy is just the best.

Could you give a general price indication of the place of residence compared to living in Wageningen?

In Wageningen I lived ‘anti-kraak’, while in Florence I have a nice apartment in the city center. It’s hard to compare, but I guess in price it is more or less the same when living in the suburbs of Florence (close to university).


6. Free time

What are must-sees in the area?

In Florence, you want to see il Duomo, ponte vecchio, Uffizi and several other places. But the city center of Florence is quite small, so that won’t take much times. Nearby, you’ll find places like Lucca and Sienna, which are beautiful. Traveling by train is recommended since it is not expensive. However, having a car brings new opportunities in terms of destinations since public transport to small places is often lacking.

What does not appear in the travel guide, but is worth a visit?
Abetone ski resort.

Do you have general tips and tricks about leisure time?

Il santo bevitore (restaurante), berbere (pizzaria), Sbrino (gelateria).

7.Challenges & best moment abroad

What was a challenge you have experienced?

The challenges I experienced were related to mobility, meaning not being able to visit places due to insufficient infrastructure and lacking a car/scooter.

What was your best memory abroad?

Best moments were eating and drinking with friends and family. The best memory was renting a scooter and driving through the Tuscan landscape.