Updated: Mar 31
One of the most asked questions I get whenever people learn I study in Southampton is: how did you end up in the UK? Most of the times I give the short answer: I wanted to study Neuroscience, which is not available as undergraduate course in Italy – at least to my knowledge – and so I moved to England. In fact, the real answer is much longer than this.
I always loved the thought of living in the UK someday. In the beginning, it was mainly due to my obsession with boybands, but if you had asked me face to face, I would have said that I knew my chances of success were going to be higher if I attended a university course abroad. My original idea was to complete high school, enrol at Uni in Italy and then further my studies somewhere else. At that point, I was still confused about the route I was going to follow. For a time I went back and forth between zoology and psychology. I loved how romantic it sounded to be around animals all day long – I thought that every zoologist worked in rescue centres – but I also liked to analyse people’s emotions and feelings. I don’t remember exactly when I started thinking about Neuroscience, but I have been fascinated by the human brain since I was a child. People closer to my family might know or guess why.
When I was attending my last year of high school, and hence looking around for the perfect university, I continued to entertain the possibility of moving to the UK. I even ended up asking one of my teachers if they thought it was a good idea. The answer may surprise you, knowing exactly where I am right now, but I was told that no, it was best to stay in Italy and maybe consider it for the future. That I was not prepared. That it was, I quote, “best to study here, even though labs are generally not well equipped, as people learn how to work without resources”. To me, this didn’t make sense at all, and it still doesn’t. In any case, I took the advice – don’t ask me why, I thought I had to eat whatever I was told by teachers – and I abandoned the intent. I don’t want to be rude to anyone, but in hindsight I don’t think I was given terrific guidance.
I ended up enrolling at Trento University, way up in the North. The course that interested me the most was Biotechnologies, which would have allowed me to later study neurodegenerative diseases. The only issue? I had to first pass an entry exam, for which I wasn’t ready. I studied during the whole summer, but to be honest I struggled with the Chemistry section. I don’t think we were prepared for this kind of selection enough in high school. On the other hand, I like to make things more complicated than they actually are and decided to try to get into one of the most competitive universities. Aim high or don’t aim at all, right? Needless to say, I didn’t get in. My score was a little bit above average, but not nearly enough to enter. What next?
I spent a whole day crying and regretting every decision I had made that far. I was lucky to have the support of my parents, who encouraged me to take the matter in my own hands, or else I would still be sitting on the desk chair in my bedroom. The day after the results came back, we started looking for options. Waiting until the following year wasn’t one. And then it hit us. England. What if this was a sign? I signed up for an English course in Bournemouth, Dorset, where I was going to get my IELTS certificate. From there, I could get an insight on how universities worked and what they required. I applied to five different universities, got accepted by two, and decided to attend the University of Southampton. Accepted, pending the results of the IELTS test. There was some drama in between, but I will spare you the details.
At this point, I think you all get the idea. I have been attending the integrated master Neuroscience course for two years now, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with how it’s going. I just got back the marks for my January exams, which went exactly as I planned. Every experience that I’m living here tells me that I’m in the right place. Of course, there are ups and downs – like everything in life – but this is the topic for another blog. To whoever finds themselves in a situation similar to what I experienced in high school, I want to say: jump. Even though it’s scary and difficult at times, follow your instincts and your dreams. Even if you’re older, but still feel there’s something else you want to try. And most of all, learn how to filter what people tell you, before you let their opinions hold you down.