Lisa Andersson: Universita degli studi di Padova - Italy

Last changed: 15 March 2021

An exchange during a pandemic sounds worse that it was. It gave me new friends, Venice without tourists, trying out a lot of new food, learning the Italian way to be proud of everything and to enjoy every little thing because you never knew if new restrictions could appear the day after due a pandemic.

The Italians love the Italian language and culture and it will always be preferred but as long as you show interest they will try to work out any problems. Yes, there was some cultural differences to adapt to but that is part of the experience and in the end, one of the fun parts of being abroad.  

Why did you want to do an exchange?

Early, I knew that I wanted to go abroad for a semester but I also knew that I wasn’t ready until after a few years. I went to the informational meetings created by SLU and soon realized that I wanted to go to Italy, a country famous for its food and a country and that I somehow managed to not visit during my traveling years before my studies. I love to see and learn new cultures and since I felt that some subjects of my interest could not be found at SLU I looked for it abroad while combining it with seeing new places, learning about fun different topic and finding new friends scattered all over the world.

Which courses did you take?

I took four different courses, all on campus Agripolis outside Padova in the commune Legnaro. The courses was held in English and was all connected to the same master of “ Italian Food and Wine”. I found it very good to follow the same master since you avoid overlapping of courses in a broader scale and I only found it problematic with one course, that sometimes was at the same time as another. Since I went to Italy and love food in every way possible, I chose courses linked to it. Luckily for me ,even though very few courses was provided, I found them very interesting. Hence, I chose following courses: AVP7080218 - FOOD AND WINE HISTORY, ANTHROPOLOGY AND SOCIETY, AVP5070057 - PLANT BIODIVERSITY AND FOOD, AVP7079977 - QUALITY, PROCESSING AND SENSORIAL ANALYSIS OF ITALIAN WINE, AVP5070061 - VALUE ADDING QUALITY SCHEMES AND CONSUMER DEMAND. Even though it is taught in English you have to be ready for some incorporated Italian words sometimes and also understand how the Italian language work. One example is that they often remove the letter “h” and it took a while for me to understand that they talked about “the highlands” and not “the islands”. But when overcoming the language differences it worked more than well. It is a small campus making it easy to find and learning new people and if you had any questions they were quick with answering, proving a lot of my preconceptions about Italians making everything complicated, wrong. I just wished all the planned excursions would had been performed. But, if there is a pandemic, there is nothing you can do except be grateful that we at least had the opportunity to go to a rice farm while the situation was less critical. Excursion help a lot in understanding the broadness of the food industry and according to me its not just fun, it is also the best way of learning when you can talk to the people working in the business and not only read about it. This also seamed to be the main teaching technique of the courses I chose.

What was the student life like outside of your courses?

I went to Padova in a Pandemic. I took the chance knowing that it might be very different from how previous student experienced the exchange. I arrived to a country with more restrictions than back home, but in the beginning it was still allowed to meet in bigger groups. Student associations as ESN Padova created several activities in controlled forms to make it possible for people to get to know each other as welcoming dinner, pub crawl, speed friending etc. but after around 3 weeks more restrictions was taken in actions and a few activities was still created by these groups, but the allowed number of people was quickly reached and made it hard to participate. However, during these first weeks you easily got to learn new people, which whom you could plan activities with. I knew I wanted to see as much as possible of the country, so I decided to travel somewhere every weekend. Luckily, I was free almost every Friday which made it possible to travel when not everyone else did and made it possible to go little further. There is a lot of train connections going to Padova making it possible to go basically anywhere in Italy. Since the pandemic quickly stopped my plans to go further than Veneto region I had to cancel the plan of going to Naples during the holidays in the beginning of December. But still, even though I was forced to stay in the region due restrictions, you can find a lot. The country are rich in culture, experiences, pubs, history, food and wine. I went to lake garda, Treviso, Bassano del grappa (tasting grappa), Venice and Murano (without any other tourists), Vicenza ( the old theater “teatro Olimpico”), Citadella ( a complete bailey around the central part of the city), Verona (Romeo and Juliet and wine festivals). I got to know some Italian people of the courses I studied and thanks to them I got some help to find all the small places, which many I sadly never got to see because of increased restrictions.

What was your best experience during your exchange?

It can sound scary to go to another country and learn how everything works there. But really, it is not that hard. You get a lot of help from the university with papers and finding your way in the area. You meet new people that are as interested in getting to know this new place just as much as you do, and whatever you want to do, you will always find someone that wants to see or do the same thing. If you get any setbacks, it will be solved in some way or another and it can be worth some tears just too release some emotions at the moment. I met so many nice people that I definitely will keep in contact with. The people I got to know is in the end one of the best things I take with me. Some of us coming from such different backgrounds as central America, China and Europe giving very interesting topics to talk about and made me realize how much we in Sweden take for granted and how privileged we are. Taking an Aperitivo, or several, with some nice friends, sometimes in a new environment after climbing a nearby mountain, despite masks and restrictions, can turn out to be one of the best memories created for years. And of course, visiting Venice with so much less people due the pandemic was amazing, and that could never have happened if I was to do this exchange during normal times!

What was the biggest challenge during your exchange?

The language and the culture. Even though Italy is an European country they love their language and you must be prepared that some may not want to talk to you if you talk English. I went without knowing any Italian knowledge and my first chock was at the airport trying to buy a bus ticket and no one in the bus was willing to help even though I saw the driver selling tickets to Italian speaking people. Later I found out that it was because of me speaking English that made it impossible for me to buy from the driver. The next chock came when entering the residenza (dorm) for my room. All the people working in the house only spoke Italian, but thanks to different translating apps and friendly people it worked out. This can actually be said about the entire experience, in the end it will work out and there I a lot of people that are helpful.

Advice for future exchange students

Learn the language and the culture, or at least some phrases before you go. Say “ciao” for hi and goodbye, drink some Aperitivo’s, eat a lot of gelato, no cappuccino after breakfast and you will blend in much easier right away. Travel as much as possible and do it right away since the time will fly and suddenly the exchange will be over. A place to visit several times is definitely Venice, and another place called “the ugly Venice” and only known by the Italians are the smaller city of Chioggia. This is a great place if you want to get the same experience of a Aperitivo along the coast “Venice style” but with less tourists. I also tricked my friends, not as used of hiking as I, to hike “Monterrico” reached by easily taking the train to Monselice, 20min from Padova and it turned out to be an easy daytrip extremely appreciated and of course ended with some local wine from the region which we would have explored though al the vineyards if the excursions would ha been allowed. If you are interested to look around I recommend a visit.

Find a room near the city center and start to look for it early through different Facebook groups etc. because it may be hard to find accommodation in Padova since very few people rent out to foreigners. This is something that the student organizations are well informed of and therefore uses e.g. Facebook to help leaving exchange students leave things and contact info for their accommodation to new people. At these platforms, you can also find people selling bikes. I found a bike to be the perfect way to quickly find my way in the city and there are several places to find cheap bikes and you will easily get it sold after the exchange. Just an advice, do not buy a too bad one because it will break before the semester has ended!
If you want to find out more of what you can do or just have some questions about the place or the exchange you can contact me on


Name: Lisa Andersson

Exchange at: Universita degli studi di Padova, Italy
Program at SLU: Agronom Livsmedel

Period of exchange: Semester autumn 2020