Fall 2010 Matthew Flocco Temple Rome

La mente

Long story short from the last post, pain is fortunately and thankfully gone and I’m having a great time.

Entrance to La Sapienza

Today was awesome. Period. I woke up at 11:45 AM (that’s right, no classes for me on Friday. Suckers!) just in time to get a quick shower and walk to campus. Gianni led us on a tour of La Sapienza, the University of Rome. If you thought Temple (37,000) and Penn State (50,000 students) were big in terms of student population, think again. La Sapienza has 150,000. According to Gianni, it’s the largest public university and Europe, and second only to Cairo for largest in the world.

La Sapienza is located in Citta Universitaria, just outside the ancient wall surrounding Roma. When we got off the bus, there was a huge gateway that led to the front courtyard. In the center of this is a reflection pool with a huge statue of Minerva (Athena), goddess of Power, War, and Wisdom. Apparently on the day that students have tests, they’re not supposed to look into her eyes. She’ll take it as a challenge, and you’re going to lose the battle and fail your test. So if you ever come to Rome, and are taking a test for some reason at La Sapienza, walk in from the sides not the main entrance. Or walk with your head down when you pass.

Statue of Minerva, goddess of Wisdom, Warfare and Victory

Here’s some of the major differences between an urban public university in Italy and one like Temple in the states.

Tuition for Temple: roughly $12,000 per year. Tuition for La Sapienza: about 1,500 Euro (if my memory serves me correctly). That’s $2,100. Che pazzo!

You may think this is a ripoff, but when you get to the University of Rome, you see why. First of all, in Europe in general, I’m pretty sure taxes are higher and the government pays more for students to go to school. God forbid taxes be raised for education in America, right? The second biggest reason is that our tuition pays for ALOT. We go to classes, yes, but we pay for a state-of-the art computer lab, student center,  a fantastic library, 2-3 gyms, free sporting events, security booths…that’s only to name a few. La Sapienza also has no extracurricular activities or dorms. Correction: there is one dorm, but it only houses a couple hundred students. Out of 150,000. It’s for very special students on scholarships. They go to class, and they go home. That’s it. Anything else is paid for outside, be that gym membership, food, computers, what have you. The facilities, while good, are definitely not like Temple’s either. We pay for upkeep of good facililites. So those are reasons why tuition is so low here. Makes me feel kinda fortunate actually. Oh yeah, and private schools are only 7,000 euri here… $9,800.

Classes at Temple: capped and still empty seats. Classes at La Sapienza: not capped and overflowed.

This fact was perhaps the most shocking. Classes are not capped here. That means, even though a lecture hall may have 100-150 seats, the class can have more students than that. You know how we mosey on out of bed, stop at Starbucks for coffee, then walk into class late? Yeah, students in Rome line up at 7 AM for an 8:30 class to get a seat towards the front. Once the seats fill up, students sit on the floor, stand in the back, or sit in windowsills. Nuts. Before email (and still some now, depending on how old fashioned the professor is), students would have to wait for a long time to talk with a professor during his or her office hours. Despite its monstruous size, it’s still a very difficult school to get into, so students are scrambling to get to class and have a seat often.

Student hub at Temple: The SAC (Officially Howard Gittis Student Center). Student hub at La Sapienza: Ciao.

At Temple, if undergrad students need help getting oriented, there are university programs to help out. Orientation, Free Food Fun Fridays, Owl Team, Counseling Offices, Front Desk at the Student Center, Advising sessions, the list goes on and on. Here at La Sapienza, where it’s more than triple the size, there’s only Ciao. Ciao is the place where older students help out the younger students and get them acquainted to campus. It was proposed by students to the Dean or President of the school. Some get paid, but most are volunteers.

Passing at Temple: written exams, papers, and scantrons. Passing at La Sapienza: oral exams.

Let me first state as caution that this may not be 100% accurate, it’s only what I gather from memory. At Temple, you pay per semester. Here, you pay per class to take a final exam. Exams and classes here MOSTLY work like this. Some, you have to go to class in order to take the test at the end of the semester. Others, you can sign up for the class, get the books yourself, then take the exam at the end to see if you pass the course. No class attendance necessary. You have three chances to take the exam. For example, one in January, one in February, one in March. You sign up on the professors door to take the exam. Most of these professors write the textbooks themselves, so they know them in and out. While some exams are written, most are oral. Meaning, only one person can take a test at a time on those three days. That means you have to know the textbook in and out. And you never never never are supposed to stop talking when asked a question, even if you don’t know the answer to the question. Talk about something else you know, then fumble around until you get to the answer.

Typically, you sign up on the list to take the exam that day, starting at 8:30 AM. If you are third on the list, you go third. The exams last about 15-20 minutes a person. Some people sign up but then have to stay the entire day. Imagine standing in line the entire day to take the exam. Gianni told us about a scenario that happened to him. He was the last person to go. He walked in the room at 7:30, and he could tell the professor was tired. The professor asked him a question, and he pretty much told them about his day. The professor dozed off, and Gianni just kept talking (the number one rule). He then answered the question at the end, the professor woke up, and gave him a 30 out of 30. You need 18 to pass.

Learning at Temple: Textbooks and pictures. Learning at La Sapienza: textbooks and sculptures.

My absolute favorite part of the tour (and what I like better about La Sapienza), was going down to the Museum in the basement of the main building. To learn about art history and classics in the states, you look at a textbook. Sometimes you do on-site visits. At the University of Rome, they have full-size copies made out of plaster of ancient sculptures. It’s incredible. The best part is that these are not protected by any glass (they really don’t have that much value, they’re copies), so you can go wright up to them and look at all the details. THIS is how they learn and gain their knowledge from Antiquity.

Plaster-cast copy of Athena (?) at La Sapienza

There are definitely pros and cons to both schools. It was absolutely fascinating to see the differences. Some of it makes me realize how blessed I am to be in my own system of eduction. Some of it makes me wonder if it would be better if I went to school here instead.

Either way, I’m heading to San Lorenzo tonight. That’s where all the Italian students hang out. Can’t wait!

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