Messina – a lovely town in the heart of heated Sicily, joined the English-taught med schools family in Italy and opened its program in 2018. As with the rest of the public unis, the course is a standard 6-year long program, lectures and exams held entirely in English. It offers quite a lot of spots and interestingly, an equal amount of places for Eu and Non-Eu candidates.
We asked Soheil, a first-year student in Messina, to let us in on the details of what it’s like to study there. He has experience studying medicine in Hungary, so he’s got a good base for comparison between two major European med schools.
[Disclaimer]: The minimal IMAT scores differ from year to year. Also, keep in mind that the EU and Non-EU ranking lists work entirely differently.
The following are the scores for acceptance to the academic year 2020/2021:
- EU minimal score: 39.9 (20th ranking, March 2021)
- Non-EU minimal score: 28.5 (1st ranking)
In order to apply to Messina University, you need to take an additional step – “pre-application“. So far, only Messina and Turin require this step. It is done prior to visa application and pre-enrollment (a process, needed only for Non-Eu candidates), and before you register for the IMAT exam.
The pre-application in Messina is a quick and easy procedure, done online on the “UniMe Applicant Portal” on the University’s website.
The class size of the English taught course is 72 people, of which 38 Eu and 38 Non-Eu. This is a great deal of Non-Eu spots, which makes it an attractive option for Non-Eu candidates!
At least 75% of lecture attendance is required, and in Messina, it is strictly regulated. For comparison, some other universities do not follow attendance closely, even though it’s mandatory.
During the first semester, he was especially impressed by the high-level Anatomy and Histology teaching by a couple of excellent Professors.
Here comes one downside though: professors don’t share lecture materials (PowerPoint slides for example) with students after the lecture. So you’ll need to level up your note-taking in real-time. Furthermore, there is no clear syllabus of the material for the exam, nor suggested books to study from. All of this makes studying harder than it could be. In the end, Soheil concludes that “lectures are great for the low tuition you pay”.
Luckily, med students in Messina are a tight community where notes are readily shared between one another, so this makes things a little better.
Not sharing lectures, I’ve noticed, is a typical practice of Italian Professors in Italian-taught courses. This, however, is definitely not the case in English-taught courses. It seems like Italian universities put a great deal of effort into creating world-class medical courses in English. English med courses are built to Western standards and so Italian and English courses differ greatly in structure, even if within the same University!
I believe it’s only a matter of time until Messina’s English-taught med course moves away from Italian traditions and adopts a more modern approach to teaching.
Exams are mostly oral, followed by a multiple-choice test in some subjects.
In case you don’t pass all some exams from the year, you do NOT have to repeat the academic year and you can readily pass to the next one regardless. This is the case in most English-taught med schools in Italy but not all (eg. Pavia wants you to pass all exams to proceed to the following year).
Instead, in Messina there are progression requirements: to sit an exam, you need to have already passed a particular preceding subject.
Soheil says that the study material doesn’t seem to be as demanding as in Hungary, which possibly suggests that exams aren’t too difficult to pass either. I, personally, don’t know what it’s like to study in Hungary, but I can testify that exams in Pavia (a Northern city) can be extremely difficult sometimes. I don’t want to blindly generalize, but this makes me believe that there could indeed be some difference in academic requirements between the North and the South.
In conclusion, Soheil shares that he really likes the program, because you have the chance to get the professor’s grace during exams by participating in class discussions, which can be a great stimulation to strive to be a better student.
A great feature that only a few universities have, is the Skills lab where students can practice basic procedures and simulations to be better prepared before clinical traineeships begin.
You can apply for an Erasmus exchange and spend up to 24 months abroad in another university.
Messina’s students have the unique opportunity of spending 1 month of training in Mayo Clinic, USA. In 2007 one of Messina’s medical graduates began working in Mayo clinic and later on went on to establish а one of a kind collaboration between Messina and Mayo clinic.
However, you will be required to reach a B1 level of Italian language as the clinical years begin (years 3-6) to aid your patient communication and get the most out of your practical experience in the hospital. The university offers Italian courses for foreign students. The course is 3 semesters long and it costs 100 euros each semester.
Lectures are held in the Biological Tower in the University Hospital “G. Martino”, which is also where clinical rotations are done. Like every major hospital, it’s not located centrally. But Messina being relatively small, it takes no more than a 20 min bus or tram ride to get to lectures from the heart of the city.
The classroom stands on top of a hill with a mesmerizing view of the coast. Just imagine studying at a place like that!
The University of Messina offers a variety of accommodation services.
“Halls of residence” – You could opt out for the university dorms which provide students with a good base to settle down, so be close to other students, as well as being near the University. The average monthly rent is €170, including bed linen and blankets.
University Halls of Residence are located at:
- Annunziata Campus: V.le SS Annunziata
- Papardo Campus: Contrada Di Dio
- Casa dello studente : Via Cesare Battisti
- Guest House: Via Pietro Castelli
In case you’d like something a bit more independent, the university’s International Office offers assistance in the search of accommodation in private shared flats through contact with Erasmus Students Network (ESN), which provides regularly updated lists of private flats and houses and helps students in their search. Another way for finding a private accommodation is through directly logging into the ERSU website.
Students prefer either finding private housing in the center or closer to the hospital.
For those who prefer to live more central, the tramline is the base for looking for a house. Living anywhere near this line is great for reaching the hospital fast.
If however, you live a bit further from it, you’ll spend 10 min more on your commute by taking the bus to classes instead.
Rent in Messina is significantly lower than in the Northern and/or bigger cities.
A single room in a shared apartment can go a maximum of €250, but you’ll usually find it cheaper than this.
A fully equipped apartment with two double bedrooms is €500. This is 200 to 400€ cheaper than what you’d pay in Milan, for example for the same apartment.
TUITION FEES AND SCHOLARSHIP
Tuition fees range between €156 – €3500 per year, based on the student’s family income, which isn’t much different from the rest of Italy’s medical courses.
Apart from the unarguably manageable fees, the university provides a whole range of assistance to its students.
Scholarships can be assigned after applying through the regional agency ERSU “Ente Regionale per il Diritto allo Studio Universitario”, based on the student’s family income and academic merits.
* As a rule of thumb, If you’re planning on applying to any public Italian university, including this one, it’s a good option to be aware of the deadlines for scholarship application. It’s a bit of a catch, but in the majority of cases, you’d need to prepare your documents in advance since deadlines for application are often around August/ September (slightly differs between universities). This means that in case you want to compete for a scholarship, you might have to apply for it even before you got accepted to this university. So make sure you check up with the deadlines of the regional agencies of your preferred university.
Again through ERSU, you can apply for a card gaining you access to the university canteens. You may get a significant discount or a completely free (based on your income) three-course meal once per day in any of the following locations around the city:
- “Mensa Casa dello Studente”
- ”Mensa Policlinico”
- “Mensa Papardo”
- “Mensa Annunziata”
As in all southern cities, the cost of living in Messina is relatively low.
Here are some example prices of day-to-day products:
- Coffee € 0,80
- Beer in a pub € 3,00- 6,00
- Sandwich € 3,00
- Ticket for the cinema € 7,00
- Transportation: While in most cities, there’s a student discount on the transportation subscription, it’s completely free in Messina.
Monday through Saturday all local public transport is free of charge to foreign students enrolled at the University of Messina. Students have also free access to a shuttle bus to reach all the University Campus far from the city center.
Messina – situated at the eastern tip of lovely Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The city has a rich historical background and has been rebuild several times. It’s now a charming combination of ancient architectural treasures and a comfortable modern look.
The climate is mild, windy in the winter with an average temperature above 10°, and quite humid in the summer reaching 30-35°.
The city is easily reachable by plane to Palermo or Catania airport and a direct bus shuttle or train connection afterward. Should you want to cross over to the mainland, you can take a short 20-30min ferry trip to Reggio Calabria.
A new direct train line to Catania airport was just opened this month, which allows you to reach it for 1,5h, instead of the previous line taking 2,5h.
Finally, Soheil shares passionately:
“I just came back from a wonderful Sicilian trip. And after the
the craziest trip in my life, I have to say Sicilian people are the best I’ve ever met and Sicily is simply the whole package.
We broke the car and it was completely our fault but they helped us a lot and I really don’t know how we survived with paying the minimum and spending one night in a hotel in a red zone.*
It was an unbelievable experience!
Anybody choosing Sicily as a living place won’t regret their decision if they love naturally warm kind and helping people. I love Sicily by all means.”
*Due to Covid, zones are color-coded according to the spread of the virus.
(c) Featured images, thanks to Soheil’s personal archive
I am a 5th-year student in the Harvey course of Pavia. During my Italian journey and all these years spent in Pavia, I've gathered a valuable experience that I am happy to share with you.
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