Diana Righi and Luise Vorwerk treat themselves with Italian ice cream on the marketplace in Halle (Photo: Michael Deutsch)

Two universities, two countries, two degrees

Halle and Milan offer a special master’s program: “European Integration and Regional Development” is a master’s program whose students come from two universities, study in two countries – Germany and Italy – and receive two degrees: a master of science and the “laurea magistrale”. A cooperation between MLU and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan is making this possible. Two students report on the programme – from an Italian and a German perspective.

Diana Righi: I actually studied International Relations and German and English as Foreign Languages. But after graduating I didn’t want to work as a translator or language teacher. I wanted to expand my horizons which is why I enrolled in this political science master’s programme in Milan in 2011. At that point in time it wasn’t clear whether I would be able to go to Germany: only five students with excellent grades, who had successfully completed a German course, were allowed to study in Halle for two semesters. I was really excited when I found out that I had been picked!

When I arrived in Halle I had double “culture shock”. First the German culture and then my own first flat. The cost of living in Milan is so high that few students can afford to live away from home. Many, like me, still live with their families. In Halle it was completely different. I had my own flat and had to take care of everything myself. It was good that there were only nine of us in the programme – we were able to get to know each other very quickly and help one another out. On top of this, I’m living with a classmate from Italy which is making it a bit easier.

Studying in Germany is different than in Milan in more than just course content. In Italy it’s usually only the professor who talks in class while the students listen. We always have to read entire books for the courses. A professor here in Halle was completely thrown when I came to him after class and asked him which books I was to read. In addition to this, most of the exams in Italy are oral, but that doesn’t mean we have to memorize a lot. That’s more the case here in Germany. Some of the business exams were multiple choice so it was more about being able to come up with facts. While I was in Germany I had to do an internship. I did this at the International Office for Business Development in Magdeburg and worked on a lot of European projects like the Leonardo Project. That really opened my eyes to the possibilities and the different areas in which I can work when I’m done studying.

Luise Vorwerk: Before I decided to get my master’s degree I did Romance Studies and Economic Science in Halle. That was pretty nice, but when I was getting close to finishing my degree I started thinking about what I’d be able to do with a Romance Studies degree in the future. At the same time my perspective changed and I wanted to get a master’s degree in something which I could later use to make a change. That’s why I was attracted to this master’s programme.

It’s structured so that we concentrate on business and law for two semesters here in Halle. Added to this are individual project seminars, in other words seminars with discussions on European topics like European identity. These are particularly nice because they concretely go into the EU, something which is often lacking at the university.

A major difference between studying here in Halle and studying in Milan is the requirement to work independently on academic work. When we were doing our bachelor’s degrees we had a lot – maybe even too much – homework. Italy is different in that respect – we had to give our classmates a hand the first time we were assigned homework. It helps that we’re a small group and can help each other out. We are definitely very close-knit.

Starting next semester the plan is to study one year in Milan. Then we probably won’t have any courses with our previous Italian classmates and will get to know students from the new year. We went to Milan for a few days in February 2013. In Italy we are only required to take 30 credits, in other words, half the normal workload. But I want to try and get most of the credits out of the way in winter semester so that I have more time for my internship in semester four. I’d like to do a longer internship – but not necessarily directly in Milan.

Transcript by Tom Leonhardt

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