Northern Italy’s Padova (also known as Padua) is a lively, historic city on the river Bacchiglione. With grand architecture, bridges, piazzas, canals and rivers, Padova is incredibly picturesque and is also one of the oldest cities in Europe.
This year marks the 800th year of the University of Padova, founded in 1222. The university itself has a notable history, with Galileo Galilei lecturing in mathematics there during the late 1500s.
We spoke to three students at the University of Padova to find out what they most enjoy about studying in this cultural Italian city.
Explore the city’s many attractions
If you’re looking for an Italian city with plenty of attractions, Padova could be the perfect study destination for you. From the Basilica of St Antony to the Scrovegni Chapel to the University of Padova’s Palazzo Bo and Anatomic Museum, Padova is full of exciting things to do.
With so much going on in this medieval city, it can be hard to know where to start.
“It’s a great idea to take a look at all the university’s museums, especially the physics and geography museums, and listen to the various Nobel lectures the university organises” said Maksim Lukashkou, an international student from Belarus, who is studying Information Engineering at the University of Padova.
Carolina Bonardi Pellizzari, an MSc Forest Science student from Brazil, says Padova has the charm of a small city but everything you need from a big city.
“I most appreciate walking around the city centre and admiring the architecture of the historical buildings and squares, with an occasional stop for a coffee or spritz,” she said.
“I love the cultural aspects of being in an Italian city, such as the language, food, art, people, and architecture, in particular the Sant’Antonio church, Scrovegni chapel, Caffè Pedrocchi, Prato della Valle, and of course the 800 years of history of UNIPD. The fact that it is bike friendly was another big plus.”
For students who enjoy music and theatre, Maksim has a top tip. “I recently discovered the collaboration between theatres in Padova and ESU that allows students to visit the most interesting operas (mostly in Italian) for just three euros. This has become my favourite thing to do while studying in Padua,” he added.
If opera isn’t for you, discover the wealth of concerts and theatre productions available for students of the University of Padova.
Challenge yourself and find new interests
Wherever in the world you decide to attend university, studying abroad will push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to try new things.
When he moved to Padova Maksim had to measure himself with a different education system in a new country with different culture and lifestyle. However, since taking on these new challenges and pushing himself out of his comfort zone, Maksim is very grateful for the opportunities he has had.
“Once I got used to the change, I made new friends and participated in various workshops and projects,” he said. “You can build your own university experience and do what matters to you most.”
Within the University of Padova, there are plenty of opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, organisations and student-run clubs. The university frequently runs events for students, so you’ll be able to find friends who share your interests.
“The University of Padova is very engaged with its students. I like its history and its values that celebrate a scientific approach to matters, freedom, equality and the importance of education,” Maksim added.
He offers two pieces of advice to applicants considering studying abroad in Padova:
- Familiarise yourself with Italian: “Learning Italian – particularly if your university offers free lessons – will allow you to participate more in projects and opportunities. It will give you the skills to communicate with more people and it’ll help in many aspects of life.”
- Embrace change: “Be ready for a cultural shock regardless of where you are from. Be open-minded and don’t lock yourself in a certain circle of friends. Try to meet new and diverse people that will make your university experience better.”
Albanian student Kristel Çoçoli says that the flexibility of her computer engineering degree at the University of Padova has encouraged her to focus on her interests and specialise.
She said: “On my degree, we all are different students with different aspirations and our interests differ. I like that even though we are in the same degree, none of us has the exact same study plan.
“I am not forced to study modules that don’t interest me. That has made my journey here even smoother. Professors treat us as colleagues, cooperating with us and giving us advice.”
Easily explore nearby cities
One of the best parts about living and studying in a well-connected European city is the opportunity to travel to nearby cities.
Padova has the benefit of being located in the Veneto region, next to popular Italian cities such as Venice, Verona and Treviso. It is also just two hours to Milan by train.
“This summer I’ve been enjoying one-day bicycle tours to the nearby cities in Veneto,” said Maksim. “It’s a great and healthy way to relax after a week of studying. Each city is something new in terms of architecture, food, and history.”
Kristel also enjoys travelling around Italy. She regularly visits Venice on the weekends, which is just 30 minutes by train. However, she says that the University of Padova regularly provides opportunities for students to study further afield in other European cities.
“Our university offers opportunities in many countries, and some of my friends are now abroad enjoying their Erasmus experience. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” she said.
For Carolina, an interesting aspect of her degree has been the field trips in the northern region of Italy, around Padova.
“It’s a privileged region to have a forest science course, since it is close to a variety of ecosystems, such as the mountains (Alps), plain area (Po river), and the coast (Venice) and where it is possible to see the interaction of people with nature and impacts of climate change,” she said.
In the summer between the first and second year of her master’s, Carolina completed an internship in Rome in the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
For Carolina this was “a dream come true” as it helped her to gain valuable professional experience in a respected organisation.
Enjoy Padova’s varied cuisine
Italian cities are globally known for their mouth-watering food, and Padova is no exception. Padova’s food is interesting and diverse, with traditional Italian food often linked to the seasonality of the produce.
“One of the most important aspects of living in Italy is the delicious food,” said Kristel, whose favourite dish is carbonara, a pasta dish made from eggs, hard cheese, cured pork and black pepper.
“I already had high expectations of Italian food and I was not disappointed,” she said
Maksim enjoys the Italian breakfast, frequently treating himself to a brioche and coffee in the morning before his lectures.
“I believe there is not one international student in Padova who has not tried the Italian breakfast,” he said. “It’s a good way to start your day thanks to the amount of energy it gives you.”
Make new friends
Making new friends as an international student in Padova couldn’t be easier. Maksim thinks this is because Padova is a student city, where students come from cities and countries around the world.
“Padova is full of students and it’s really easy to make new friends,” agrees Kristel. “People are really approachable and kind. You’ll exchange cultures, ideas and help each other on course-related activities.”
If you’re looking to meet new friends, Maksim suggests joining a student organisation or a project, or talking to people on your course.
“The international community of Padova is very active. The ESN network and other student organisations arrange parties, events, or thematic nights almost every week. You won’t have time to visit them all!”
Carolina said studying in Padova not only changed her professional career, but also significantly impacted her personal life. She said: “Here I found friends that I know I can count on for the rest of my life.”