Not all just fun and games… Academic Excellence

So as my semester winds down, I have been able to reflect on many things, but one thing in particular has been about my classes here in Italy at the prestigious Universita’ Commerciale Luigi Bocconi… we can just call it Bocconi. Now just so you all know, Bocconi is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, schools in Italy and was recently ranked as the 7th best business school in Europe for its academic excellence, famous graduates, and links to success in future life. Some of the biggest companies in Italy were started by Bocconi graduates and a recent study showed that Bocconi grads make on average 90,000 euros a year, or roughly 120,000 dollars a year, in their first jobs after graduation; not to mention the fact that the former president of Bocconi, Mario Monti, was just named the new Prime Minister of Italy because of his knowledge and experience in economic matters. So in the words of Ron Burgundy, we’re kind of a big deal.

Now Richmond is very lucky to have an exchange program with such a prestigious university, and Bocconi’s reputation was one thing that immediately attracted me to this program, but like anything in life, there are tradeoffs. Part of having a reputation as one of the best business schools in Europe means that your classes are not always the easiest.

However while the classes were tough academically, the biggest difference for me was the organization of the classes. For instance at any time in the semester a student can decide he or she would like to be considered “non-attending.” Now this is basically exactly what it sounds. It means that you will not come to any classes all semester, but will be instead assigned a book to read and will be tested on the book  at the end of the semester. Your grade on the final test is your grade for the class, period, without ever having stepped foot in a classroom. Now for those students that decide to attend class, many of your classes depend fully on your final exam as well, however you may be given the option to complete a mid term exam or project as a way of spreading the grades out slightly so your final exam is not the holy grail of your academic success. But believe me, you better be self motivated if you intend to succeed. There is no homework… ever… so the risk of procrastinating and leaving all of your learning until the week before the final is very real, and has happened in some degree to almost everyone I have met here, including myself.  One friend even told me he plans to travel around Europe all semester and take classes at his home university in Paris next semester before returning to Italy to take finals for his next semester classes at Bocconi…. Verrryyyyy different.

As for my classes here, they have been very mixed. Some easy, some hard, some boring, some interesting, but all taught in English by professors for whom English is their second or sometimes third language.  My classes have been educational and a very good learning experience for a number of reasons. In my first class where I learned about Entrepreneurial Strategies for Small and Medium sized companies, I was able to see real life case studies of European companies and meet entrepreneurs from around the world as guest speakers who have had success in different industries throughout the world. In Innovation and Technology Management I learned about preparing for business of the future and even many differences in operating businesses in other countries compared to the United States. Finally, my favorite class was a Workshop on the Global Music Industry, how it has evolved over time, and strategies for changing it further in the future. For this class we were split into groups and asked to present a project to a music producer on plans that would help the music industry adapt to new trends and evolving markets, due to innovation and technology changing the industry.  Being able to work on a real project of this caliber was enlightening and a very valuable experience.

Overall my classes (being specifically for exchange and Italian students) allowed me to meet and work closely with students from around the world. It not only allowed me to see similar business problems and decisions in a new light, but also allowed me to see new strategies and develop new ways of interacting with my peers.

This experience has motivated me to continue learning about things on an international level. When I return to Richmond I will be enrolled in “Economics of the European Union” as well as pursuing a minor in Italian Studies.

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