CHAPTER 2: My first week

CHAPTER 2: My first week

Welcome Day

Organizing welcome and orientation days before the start of each academic year is a grand tradition at major universities, especially foreign ones. Ca’ Foscari is no exception. The event was called Welcome Day in my first year of student life. Other international students and I gathered in the university’s Santa Margherita Auditorium – a deconsecrated church that is now used for events and large lectures – and waited for the presentation to begin. To be honest, I was expecting to learn only about Ca’ Foscari’s rich history and its educational experience. In reality, I got the answers to almost all of my questions during those 2 hours! The most useful part of the presentation was prepared by Orientation and Welcome Unit of the International Office. This unit was specially established to assist international students with administrative procedures, and it clearly explained the documents required to live in Italy and the procedure for obtaining them. Moreover, its friendly staff told us that they would always be ready to help us in any matter. Their actions would later prove the truth of this promise...

The day’s program of activities and events included a tour of the university campuses that was scheduled two hours after the presentation. I encountered a group of Azerbaijani students in the university courtyard. Then I suddenly heard a familiar language in the courtyard, which led me to meet students from Turkey. (Even 2 years from that day, I still hang out with some of these people and we have always helped each other when needed.)

Finally, the tour started. We were accompanied to the San Giobbe Campus in the historic centre of Venice (the Economics Campus where the Economics and Management departments are located) by senior students. I was amazed watching how easily they could find right path on these confusing streets and bridges. That morning I had not been able to take my eyes off my phone’s GPS screen for a second when I had been looking for the Santa Margherita Auditorium. At the time, I could never have imagined that one day I, too, would walk the streets of Venice – or calli, as they are known – with such confidence.

During the tour, we learned about the interesting historical places that we passed by, found out several ways to get to the campus and visited different places around the city, such as the library and the cafeteria, that students usually needed. Honestly, I had already surpassed my daily information limit at the time of the presentation, but I highly recommend that new students join these tours, at least to make new acquaintances and discover new corners of Venice.

After the tour, all of the new international students gathered in the main administrative building for a “Happy Hour”. This moment of the Welcome Day was all about letting new students get to know each other in a casual environment and also get information about student organizations at the university. I could say with confidence that the organizers successfully achieved these goals. At Happy Hour, everyone laughed and talked with each other – with a prosecco in one hand, and in the other a mini pizza. That day, all of us students understood that choosing Ca’ Foscari University had been the right decision.

First classes and impressions

My first class at Ca’ Foscari University was on 18 September 2017. One of the students I met on Welcome Day showed me the class schedules on the university website. So on my first day, I had two lessons: mathematics and accounting. But in order to attend the lectures, first I had to find the university building itself. And of course, I didn't remember any of the routes shown during the tour, so I relied on my navigator again. While watching attentively, I nonetheless ended up at a dead end with a canal blocking me halfway. There was no bridge nearby, but the GPS pointed forward persistently. After a 1-minute panic attack, I calmed down and tried to find the right way myself using a good old-fashioned map. This route took 10 minutes more than the others, but it was my savior during my first days. At the end of the week, my groupmate showed me the easiest and fastest way.

When I finally arrived on my campus, I was again amazed by its uniqueness. The San Giobbe Campus is one of the newly refurbished campuses of Ca’ Foscari. Here you can observe the combination of a historical context paired with modern equipment. Each large auditorium is located separately in its own small building, but they are all connected by a long corridor. Don't be afraid if you find the description of the campus difficult.  You don’t even need to get information from the campus staff even if you follow the number of direction signs!

My first class was a lecture on Mathematics. I still remember how afraid I was of this lesson. The professor presented a long list of topics required to understand the material given us. As the names of the topics in English were new to me, it was clear for me that I could not pass the exams. The calm faces of the students around me frightened me even more. I remembered very well that I started to read the list even from the first night. But as time passed, I realized that actually other students were also worried and that the professor had said all of those terms deliberately in order to make us take the course seriously.

My second class was Accounting. This time the lecturer was more cheerful and kind. A large part of lesson was dedicated to the explanation of the curriculum. And everyone relaxed a bit. We were sure of only one thing: if you wanted to pass the exam, you would have to study hard. As the week progress, our subjects and our schedule remained unchanged. For this reason, I was able to create a routine for myself very quickly and easily, and lived with this routine until the first exam session.

The first weeks were full of impressions and adventures. I had to learn to solve problems on the fly. But the most important thing I learned was not to be afraid to ask for help. Although I found myself alone in Venice for the first time, I realized that if you ask, there are people everywhere who are ready to help you.