Hello everyone, it feels nice being able to write here once again, especially because this means I’ve done all my exams and so have something that resembles free time. So, I’m about to move abroad for one year, and I was thinking that new students may appreciate some more information about what kind of accommodation they could find in Pavia (especially since the IMAT is approaching – in case you still hadn’t seen it, the decree for the IMAT has been officially published, and you may find a short summary here).

The thing is, in Pavia students are prominently divided in three categories, accommodation-wise:
-those who are from Pavia or surrounding areas, living with their parents (these are very rare; whenever I’ve told people I’m from Pavia, the most frequent response was: “Oh, so there really are people from Pavia?”. No kidding, makes me feel like some sort of unicorn.)
-those who live alone or with other students; I haven’t really checked myself, but from what I understood finding a room somewhere isn’t that difficult here.
-those who stay in a “collegio”. These are sort of dormitories for students in which there is a lot of social life involved, where people get a single room and generally share a canteen, although there are some in which proper kitchens are present. You can find more info about the application procedure on the university website.

I’ve already spoken in my last article about colleges (and especially their parties in late spring/early summer); however, recently there has been a lot of debate around this type of institutions because of hazing-related issues, as you can see from articles such as this – pity they’re mostly in Italian.
Anyway,  we all know that the Press is more often hunting for stories and scandal than for truth, so what does the good detective do when he’s not sure whether he can trust a piece of information or not? He goes directly to the source.

That is why I interviewed three med students who are acquaintances of mine; they all have been in a “collegio” for at least one year, and so they’ll be the ones writing the majority of this article.

Disclaimer: I have slightly edited some details of their replies such as spelling mistakes or to make them more understandable; I guarantee the meaning of each sentence remained unaltered.
When reading the interviews, bear in mind that the first student is in a “merit” college, while the other two are in normal ones.
Of course names are fictional. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Too much Pokémon GO.

Why did you choose a “collegio”?

Charmander: I thought that was the ideal solution to start living alone while still maintaining all the comfort of a single room, a canteen and the company of many other students of my age at the same time.

Squirtle: I chose a collegio mainly because of comfort, but also because, after some years of living in an apartment, I felt it was time for a change. Most people would answer “for the friends you make!” and that’s indeed a big plus, but I believe you can make friends also outside from a collegio.

Bulbasaur: Well, I chose a Collegio because I attended a sort of college for the last two years of high school. Sharing memories, bad and nice moments, any kind of university experience makes your study path something more complete. University is not just studying, getting degree and all those things strictly related to study, but it’s the most intense and, to some extent, unique experience of our life and I just don’t feel like remembering it just for the studies. The collegio (Pavia is the only city in Italy with this kind of facilities) gives you the possibility to enhance the uniqueness of your university life in a mutual relationship with other students living there.

Did you know anything about it before?

Charmander: I heard about my collegio  one month before the end of high school for the first time. I was fascinated by the enthusiasm of the couple of students who came to my school to present all the advantages of a college life. To be honest, the idea I had before entering was quite different from reality. I mean, I have all the practical advantages I had thought of before sending the application, but I had not the slightest idea of how formative, how amazing this experience would have been for me afterwards. What I often say to students interested in the college life is that you cannot really get to feel it until you are actually part of it.

Squirtle: Yes, I spent three years in Pavia before joining a collegio. I knew people living in different institutions and I collected their feedback before choosing a collegio. You may find they have slightly different philosophies, for example some are more sport-oriented, while others are more academically-oriented. But you can find people sharing your interests anywhere.

Bulbasaur: In my first year I shared a flat with a friend of mine who lived in a collegio. He told me pretty much everything about it.

Was the application process difficult?

Charmander: There were some papers and stuff to present before the deadline in July to submit the application. Anyway the big part of the effort was later on in September, when I had to go through a written exam (we had the possibility to choose among different themes regarding many subjects, from maths to history passing through latin or biology) and two orals with university professors. I had not to waste too much time in preparing the exams as the program asked was more or less that required for the High School Diploma. The really hard part was having to wait until one week from the beginning of the University courses in order to know whether my application had been accepted or not.

Squirtle: The application itself was not difficult, but Italian bureaucracy is rarely straightforward. I had to face some complications, but Filo Diretto (a chat with the administrative office of the university) was a helpful tool to solve them. Remember that there are different kinds of college (Edisu, private, collegio di merito) and their application processes are different.

Bulbasaur: When it comes to deal with Italian bureaucracy nothing is that easy, but not difficult either. You just need to fill in an online application. It takes pretty much 20 minutes.

What is the best thing and the worst?

Charmander: That’s a tricky question you make. The best thing? Only one? I do not know what I would choose as answer. All right, if there is one thing I really judge invaluable of my experience, more than the many cultural proposals my college offers (language courses, conferences, tickets for the theater and concerts around the city, to quote some), the exceptional people I got to know there, the strong and unique relationships resulting from living side by side with students from different faculties mixed together in a sparkling- intellectually speaking – environment, this is what really made the difference to me.
The worse thing was the discomfort to share the bathroom with other people during the first year. Nothing you cannot get rid of, actually: learning to share a common place helped me to become less rigid in my daily routine and helped me a lot in all my travels afterwards. Furthermore, luckily enough, from the third year on I got my own bathroom.

Squirtle: The best and worst thing of a collegio, in my opinion, is life in community. On one hand, you can find good friends and build invaluable connections at an extent you can hardly achieve living in an apartment. On the other hand, community life means obligations; we’ve all had that friend knocking at our door in the wrong moment. But here the pros certainly outweigh the cons.

Bulbasaur: Well I’d define the whole experience per se the best thing. The college party is definitely the best event of the year. Coming to the worst, I’d surely include in this category some of the people you are forced to live with and get on well with. You may find nice people, terrible people and “boh” people [author’s note: “boh” is an exclamation used in Italian to express doubt or scepticism] On the other hand, living together is not always the easiest thing and, as the days pass by, any flaws become exaggerated and you have to accept it. If anyone wants to complain about even the smallest thing the college life will become something very unbearable.

Did your academic career benefit from it in any way?

Charmander: Of course it did! One of the opportunities I appreciated most from that point of view is the availability of the college to host conferences organized by students regarding topics we feel relevant. I had the chance to deepen my knowledge of certain topics being the first one to choose the professors that could deal with it at best.

Squirtle: Having a nice place to study, not having to worry about bills and stuff, and the potential help from many students of the same course are all good advantages for university students, but, to be honest, I didn’t notice any significant difference in my marks compared to when I lived in a flat. I guess my future career could also benefit from the connections I’m making.

Bulbasaur: Sure it did, in the college there are many study rooms and also other people from your uni course read to help you.

What are your relations with the others “collegiali”?

Charmander: There are 180 of us more or less, it would be impossible to know them all in depth. Anyway there is a link between us, we feel part of the same institution and many of them are the best friends I ever had.

Squirtle: Joining the collegio after three years of university, I already had several friends in Pavia. Joining in the first year probably gives you the best opportunity to bond with other collegiali. I’d say most of them are acquaintances, but I had very good times with them. A few are good friends. I’m sure you can find friends of a lifetime in a collegio.

Bulbasaur: Well good relations of course. As I said before, if there is something you don’t like you have to accept it anyway. It’s not worth complaining or not liking somebody as you see this person every day. Find a compromise and get over it.

There has been a lot of talking about the practice of “hazing” in the colleges in the past few months; could you describe what the hazing means to you?

Charmander: Our college is not really involved with that. There is Goliardia which is a sort of way to underline our belonging to one college in spite of the others in particular occasions such as football matches.

Squirtle: Hazing is a small part of non-academic activities. Goliardia, as we call it in Italy, should take place in a playful and exuberant dimension, and that’s what happens in most places and times. The colleges in Pavia compete in sport tournaments and in a huge treasure hunt in the city center. As you join a collegio, you will be involved in social games and activities, and a certain degree of hazing and bantering will take place. You can always opt out, but you will lose part of the experience. Personally, I had few unpleasant moments and a good experience overall.

Bulbasaur: When I did it it was not a bad experience. They say it is useful to create a strong group amongst the new entries because a stressful situation strengthens the personal bond. They say. Well, I have to disagree. You can talk about it when things are done in the proper way. I’ve seen people believing they were the judge, jury and executioner because they were at the top of collegial hierarchy, the thought they could do anything they wanted to whom was new to this new “system”. It’s not about this and of course this has to stop. There is a thin line between this hazing and humiliation. Unfortunately, this line is sometimes crossed. You can still create a strong group of people doing things in the proper way respecting who is going to be hazed. Therefore, I still think it’s an important thing. Even the word hazing I don’t think is appropriate in this context.

To whom would you suggest this?

Charmander: To anybody who wants to enrich his academic career living in a stimulating environment while having the chance of creating human relationships, the strength of which could hardly be possible outside a structure like a college.

Squirtle: To anyone, except those who are not willing to try life in community.

Bulbasaur: Well to anyone willing to be hazed. No, I’m joking. To anyone willing to get to know more people and living in a big family.