Interview: why I extended my stay at USI

Kathrin Hartmann during her hike to the Cadlimo Cabin in the Leventina Valley.
Kathrin Hartmann during her hike to the Cadlimo Cabin in the Leventina Valley.

Servizio relazioni internazionali e mobilità

8 Aprile 2019

A total of six exchange students have decided to prolong their stay at USI over the Spring Semester. We interviewed three of them from the Faculty of Informatics to learn more about their experience at USI and their life in Lugano.     

Kathrin Hartmann, bachelor student at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München; Beatrice Nale, master student at Università degli Studi Modena e Reggio Emilia; Ole Jacobsen, master student at Université de Fribourg, thank you for sharing your experience with our readers.

Beatrice, Kathrin, Ole, please tell us something about yourself and your educational background.

Kathrin: “My name is Kathrin, I am a 20-year old Informatics student in my last year of Bachelor. I am from Munich, Germany. My home university is the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich where I study Informatics with optional subject Media and Human-Computer-Interaction. At the moment I am in the middle of my exchange year here at USI.”

Beatrice: “I am a 25 years old computer engineer. I decided to study engineering because I have grown up surrounded by it, I could feel it in my veins, and I thought I could build a better place for society with it. I feel I am a creative, open-minded person and I always look forward to make new experiences and meet new people. I have done my bachelor in Modena and I decided to do my last year of my master program in Lugano.”

Ole: “I grew up in the up the northern part of Germany. Before moving to Switzerland, I already studied Business Administration in Hamburg. At the moment I am obtaining my master’s degree in Accounting & Finance at the University of Fribourg.”


Why did you choose USI for your semester abroad?

Kathrin: “From reports of other exchange students, I have heard about USI and how beautiful the city Lugano with all the nature around is. I really like being outside in the nature for doing sports, so that is one of the reasons why I applied for an exchange semester at USI.

Besides, I considered studying at USI as a good possibility to attend a wide variety of subjects. USI offers many very interesting subjects for Informatics students, which I could not attend at my home university in that way.

Apart from that, I studied the Italian language for three years when I was at high school. Living in an Italian-speaking region would therefore give me the opportunity to refresh my language skills.

Beatrice: “I have chosen to study at USI for my semester abroad because I knew was a good choice to implement my CV and my study path before the end of the studies. Moreover, I have always been attracted by Switzerland and coming to USI was also an opportunity to get to know this country.”

Ole: “My main reason was that I wanted to improve my Italian. I started studying the language years ago and I was convinced that an exchange at USI would help me. Furthermore, the Canton Ticino was the only part of Switzerland that I did not know very well before. Therefore, I was curious to get to know this part of the country better.”


What are the main reasons behind your decision to extend your stay at USI?

Kathrin: “I like the way of hands-on studying here at USI. I think I am learning a lot from it, and that will help me regarding future work in the Informatics sector. Another semester at USI will definitely be useful for me to strengthen my practical Informatics skills.

Moreover, I feel very good with living and studying here in Lugano. I have become friends with so many people from all over the world at USI. The city is very beautiful, and I think it will be even more splendid in the summer. It would have been a pity to quit the exchange already after one semester.”

Beatrice: “I have appreciate so much my fall semester here that I have decided to extend it. Furthermore, at USI I have found a challenging master thesis and I could not say no to this opportunity.”

Ole: “After my first Semester at USI I was very convinced about the quality of the Italian language courses. Currently, I finished all my master courses in the first semester at USI and I am writing my thesis. I wanted to continue attending the Italian courses while finishing my master.”


In which way has this period abroad enriched you, academically, professionally and personally?

Kathrin: “Already the fact that subjects at USI are taught in English (and not in German like in my home university) has taught me a lot. However, the biggest academic enrichment for me is the hands-on way of studying: The practical approaches with a lot of projects and homework help me to develop my teamwork skills and teach me how to design programs that are applicable in real world.

Personally, the time abroad has enriched me a lot. It is my first time abroad and my first time longer away from home. It has taught me how to live independently and to be open for people from other countries.”

Beatrice: “This period at USI has offered me many opportunities. For example opportunity to meet new people from other countries, understand other cultures and new way of thinking. In addition to that, because of its way of teaching very similar to the US one, I have learned how to create a better project and I had the opportunity to do many group projects, assignment. This has help me understand how to collaborate with others which is very important for my future work.”

Ole: “Studying Accounting & Finance, the program of the Banking & Finance Master, offered me an interesting opportunity to enrich my curriculum. In addition, I think that the foreign language studies, which I took during the semester, will support my professional carrier. Personally, one of the most important things is the progress that I am doing during my year at USI. Mastering the daily routine in a foreign environment and foreign languages had challenged me and I could therefore benefit from this a lot.”


Which are the main differences between your home university and USI?

Katrin: “USI is a much smaller university compared to my home university, the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. In my home university we are up to 300 students in one class, whereas at USI I have some classes with only 8 other students together. The study atmosphere at USI is much more individual than at LMU. Regarding the way of teaching in Informatics, USI is more practically oriented and LMU more theoretically.”

Beatrice: “The main difference is that USI is a very small university, this allows to have “private” classes and create a sort of friendly environment between students and professors. Also, all the classes I took at USI were in English and the class was a melting pot of students from different countries. Modena Enzo Ferrari instead is much bigger, and the majority of the students are Italian and all classes are given in Italian.”

Ole: “Usually there are some organizational and administrative differences which are quite important for an exchange student. Courses finish or start sometimes at different dates and there are midterm examinations for some but not for all the courses which you can choose. Instead, at the university of Fribourg, courses usually start and finish at the fixed semester dates with an final exam. Another point is the grading system, which is completely different compared to other Swiss or European universities.

Another big difference due to the size of USI is the familiar atmosphere. When I had some questions or issues, the International Relations and Study Abroad Services knows me personally and helps me out directly. Therefore I am feeling very well during my stay at USI.”


What is the place in Ticino that you have liked most, and why?

Kathrin: “This is difficult to decide! I have seen so many beautiful places in Ticino so far. One of my favourite places is for sure in the middle of the nature around Airolo, where I went on a two days hike to Capanna Cadlimo. The views and the nature there are so amazing. But I enjoy every moment at the lake of Lugano as well, either while swimming in it or while looking down on it from San Salvatore or Monte Boglia.”

Beatrice: “Lugano and its lake are like a portrait. You cannot get bored by looking at them and they let me feel more relaxed, it is always satisfying to have a run on the lake. Gandria is also a nice place to see. I cannot forget to mention San Gottardo Fondue, so tasty!”

Ole: “The Village of Meride, located at the Monte San Giorgio near Mendrisio. In my opinion it represents the authentic part of Ticino while, at the same time, being a very touristic spot. The nature lies direct in front of the village and therefore offers many activities for the free time. Seasons are felt more intensely there compared to larger cities in Ticino."