Italy, one of the most fascinating and charming countries of the world, the cradle of Roman civilization, the place where Dante composed his verses and Michelangelo painted the Sixtine Chapel, the nation where the Tiber flows, right next to the Colosseum, and the amazing fragrance of pizza can fill the heart of a Neapolitan ‘uaglio’ …Italia.
Just the way it sounds... “Italia”, is astonishing. Yet, not everything about Italy, as it is always in life, is so astonishing.
I will not talk about the stereotyped problems everybody thinks of when it comes to this country like mafia, corruption and North-South divide even if, to some extent, they are part of the issue I am about to address.
Young people in Italy feel more and more the need to leave their country and go abroad looking for a better job or simply a job and this phenomenon concerns the whole country, not only the South . This generates what has been defined as “brain drain” and it represents a big loss in terms of human capital for the sending country. According to an article by La Stampa , at the end of 2016 a 15.4% increase of emigration compared to 2015 was estimated and more than 39% of the emigrants (124,076 people in total) represents people who were between 18 and 34 years old.
Nevertheless, there is a phenomenon not entirely countering the brain drain, but for sure positive and bringing a lot of new energy and human capital to the country and it is the youth mobility into Italy.
According to the data , the number of participants to the Erasmus+ programme for higher education has increased in the last years and has reached the number of 21,564 students going to Italy in 2015, placing the country at the fifth position as Erasmus+ receiving country in the EU.
This information can be paired with the OECD data about the increasing number of international students coming to Italy and the fact that UNESCO has placed Italy at the tenth position in the rank of international students’ mobility .
The most important question now seems to be why Italy?
First of all, in the last years many Italian universities have gone through the internationalization process and more and more of them opened courses held in English language. In particular, as of January 2018, 56 Italian universities held courses in English with 339 programmes .
These universities are mainly located in Northern Italy (Bolzano, Trento, Udine, Turin, Bergamo, Milan, Verona, Padova, Venice, Ferrara, Parma, Bologna and Ravenna), but also in Central (Florence, Pisa, Siena, Ancona, Macerata, Perugia, Teramo and Rome) and in Southern Italy (Napoli, Salerno, Bari, Palermo and Catania) totalling 26 cities.
The university of Bologna (Alma Mater Studiorum) is the most active in this respect and the city is known for being the place where cultural exchanges between international students take place the most in Italy.
A second explanation to why Italy seems to be so attracting to international students is the reputation of its universities, Bologna, in particular, is one of the oldest universities in the world, and the University of Bocconi in Milan and Normale in Pisa are known to be very prestigious universities. Then, of course, there is the cultural aspect. Italy is known in the whole world for its cultural heritage (it is the country with most World Heritage sites), for its art and music, its food, its landscapes and its inexplicable beauty. This is important because Italy attracts many people studying arts and its multiple branches. Another explanation seems to be the economic factor since Italian university taxes are lower, if compared with the ones in the UK, Turkey and the US . Moreover, the Italian universities offer several scolarships, grants and tax exemptions to foreigners who cannot afford the university and bear the costs of living in another country and who are out of the Erasmus+ programme. For this reason, it is important for students who wish to go studying in Italy and receive a scolarship to check not only the websites of the universities they wish to attend, but also the MAECI (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) website that offers many study opportunities in Italy paired with grants or scolarships9.
There are also some programmes targeted at specific country nationals like the Turandot and Marco Polo Programmes, that are financed by the Italian government to increase the number of Chinese students enrolled in the Italian universities 10.
For those who are part of the Eurozone, Erasmus+ is not the only choice, they can look for many study, internship and job opportunities in the Eurodesk website 11, where some times posts about Italy are uploaded.
At last, it is important to mention that Italy is not only a beautiful touristic destination, but can be also a good departing place for those who wish to see more countries and travel throughout Europe.
Youth mobility into Italy is very important, it does not represent only an opportunity for foreigners to experience life abroad and study in a country with a high academic profile, but it’s also a key way to open the road to intercultural exchanges, to bring progress and new, open-minded ideas and make Italians learn how to be in contact with many different cultures and, maybe, try to understand and love them, in their own way.
At least this is what happened to me as Italian when I met people from all around the world.