73 young people coming from 18 European countries at the “Erasmus Welcome Day”: «We have a unique opportunity to better understand Mediterranean culture, and the presence of the sea is also a plus point».

«I have already had the opportunity to make an exchange experience at a University situated in Northern Italy. However, your country boasts of very particular traditions varying from region to region. Now I am here mainly to improve my Italian, but I’m sure that Catania will prove to be the ideal place to better understand the Mediterranean culture too. I believe that this is precisely the true meaning of any Erasmus project».

Emiline is a French student studying foreign languages. We met her during the “Welcome Day” organized by the University of Catania for the students who have just arrived in Sicily with the Erasmus+ program. Together with her, 73 boys and girls from 18 European countries arrived a few days ago: added up to the 145 young people come in the first semester, they reach the total number of 219 student hosted by the University.

Those numbers show a positive trend in terms of the attractiveness of the University, but what is the reason why a foreign student chooses Catania? «I had the opportunity to study the history of Catania and I fell in love with it – explains Jada, a German student studying law. – I want to discover your ancient monuments and deepen my notions of law at the same time. Anyway, of course, even we lawyers love to have fun and choosing a place where there are beautiful beaches or where the weather is always nice is a plus point». In short, the “playful” side of the Erasmus project continues to play a significant role in the most famous exchange program of the old continent, also thanks to the many activities organized by student associations.

Giorgio Liotta, the head of ESN Catania, explains: «Our group organizes various events allowing foreign students to settle in while having fun». Once arrived, the first curiosity of any student concerns the symbol of Catania, which is why they go visit the “Liotru” straight away. After that, a succession of initiatives starts, from excursions to goliardic “beer pong tournaments”. On the other hand, an equally important goal of these associations consists of promoting integration between foreign and local students at the University of Catania. «Today the “Welcome week” begins –, says Francesco Di Prima, president of Aegee Catania – and events like the linguistic aperitif are going to start too. This will let Erasmus students practice their Italian and local students improve their English».

In other terms, after several years the “Erasmus machine” seems to work well even beyond the strictly academic aspects, about which, by the way, the Rector Francesco Basile and the Erasmus institutional coordinator, professor Adriana Di Stefano, expressed themselves in a positive way. The latter explained that «the data related to the internationalization of the University of Catania highlight a positive trend, both in terms of incoming and outgoing mobility. We can and must improve our results, especially for the purpose of making our University more and more attractive to foreign students».

Translated to English by Eva Luna Mascolino