Sunday, September 25, 2011

Model Minded

Last week I came across the issue of economic modelling. Me and my fellow masterstudents come from very diverse backgrounds. Although most of us can officially call themselves BSc in Economics (I still have to get used to the fact that I actually have and can make use of that title) there's also people that studied anthropology, history or political sciences.

When discussing an acticle about behavioral economics, which made a distinction between econs (homo economicus) that behave rational and humans where this rationality assumption is dropped, I realized how much of a brain-washed economist I am. Cause my first thought was, actual human behavior with all its exceptions? Can't model that! Where some sciences want to look at every detail and every exception, cause this comes most close to reality, economics is all about the modelling, baby. Set some assumptions, leave out some thing 'for the sake of simplicity' and there is your model. And although I found the huge amounts of abstraction very frustrating in the beginning of my studies, now I can't get around without it anymore. During my semester in the US where is took courses in political sciences, I even missed models!

Coming back to the humans and the econs, in the discussion I'd noticed that the economist were mostly in favor of studying econs, where the others where in favor of studying humans, since that's how people really behave. I like how the diversity of students makes me realize that there is more besides modeling, although to get through all the courses this year I will probably need them anyway. Especially if I look at all the chapters I've read and exercises I've made so far. No paragraph that didn't mention it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

EILCs (Erasmus Intensive Language Course) Perugia

In my first LUISS semester I counted as an Erasmus student and not as an exchange student. Hence, during this time we received a small Erasmus grant and we had the chance to take part in a four week Erasmus Intensive Language Course. The EILCs is held every semester in three different Italian cities: Siena, Perugia and Venice. It is not compulsory to do the course, but since I only studied Spanish in school I thought it might be helpful to learn some Italian.

For this reason, most of the USE-LUISS students applied in October 2010 for doing the language course in February 2011 (before going to LUISS). Unfortunately, only one person from the USE was accepted for the language course so that most of us went to Rome without any Italian language knowledge.

In the course of time I realized that it is possible to survive without Italian. However, it is helpful to know Italian especially when it comes to communicating in the supermarket or in the restaurant. In addition, Italians are very happy if they hear that you put effort in getting to know the language and their culture. Even though we had a 32-hour Italian crash course at LUISS, my Italian did not go further than small talk. Hence, Romy my Dutch flat mate and I decided to use the summer to do the EILCs at the “Universit√° per Stranieri” in Perugia. Andrea Naylor, one of the USE coordinators for the LUISS program helped us with the application procedure and in the end we got into the program.

The EILCs in Perugia

At the 1st of August 2011 we had a welcome meeting at the Universit√° per Stranieri. The teachers explained us the program for the upcoming four weeks and during this meeting and the next day, we had a written and an oral entry-level test. The test was quite hard and based on this test we were distributed in different levels (A1, A2, B1). I did level A2 and Romy could already go a level higher. Classes took place from Monday to Friday. All classes were multicultural and it was quite easy to make friends, as everyone started off from the same level.

We had four different courses at the Universit√° per Stranieri: Italian Language, Practice Conversation, Civilization and Language Laboratory. The teachers all only spoke Italian, which rose our listening comprehension immensely. In “Civilization” we did trips to famous Umbrian places such as the Perugina Chocolate Fabric and Bevagna. After the four weeks of language classes, we had to do a three-hour written and an oral exam to test our Italian knowledge. At the last day, the 26th of August, we received our certificate in a final ceremony and we had to say goodbye to most of the people who we met during the course.

What did we do besides the language course?

From the above it looks like we did not do anything than studying. But there is a lot to see in the region of Umbria and most of us used the weekends to travel to near by cities. During my time in Perugia, I went to Firenze, which is up north and to Assisi, which is only 20 minutes away from Perugia. We even went to the beach close to Ravenna at the Mediterranean Sea. It is definitely worth it to do some trips, but there are a lot of parties and events in Perugia as well. I hope that I will be able to visit some of my friends from the language course during this semester.

To sum, it is definitely worth it to do the language course. First of all, because you can improve your Italian language skills very quickly. Second of all, because you meet great people from different nationalities, who most probably even go and study in the same city that you do afterwards.

Here are some info’s for all USE students who will go to study at LUISS next semester and who are interested in doing the EILCs:

It is very important to also contact the LUISS coordinator at the USE. They most of the time have more information about the language course.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How it all began...

Hi There!

For the next semester you can accompany me here and get to know some interesting facts about the USE selective minor exchange program and Italy. But before I start telling you some story’s about living and studying in Rome, you should first get to know me.

My name is Judith Arnold, I am 22 years old and I am a third year „Economics and Business Economics“ student at the USE. Originally, I am from a very small village close to the Lake of Constance in the very southern part of Germany.

Before I started studying in Utrecht, I have been to New Zealand for one year as a Gap-Student. During my time in New Zealand I decided to stay in an international environment for my future studies. That’s how I ended up in Utrecht. So far it has been great and I will never regret to have chosen to study here.

Last year, I was one of the lucky persons who got the chance to be part of the selective minor in “Strategic Management”. This is a special minor which is done at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome. LUISS Guido Carli or simply abbreviated “LUISS” is a private university with approximately 5000 students. The university consists of three different faculties: Economics, Law and Political Science and is ranked as one of the best universities in Italy.

Thinking of Italy, the first things which probably come into your mind are: pizza, pasta, gelato, amore, mafia, chaos and crazy car drivers. That is at least what came into my mind when I received the acceptance letter for LUISS. In February 2011 I and around 14 other USE students started their Italian adventure. Since then we are busy studying at LUISS and experiencing the Italian culture not as a tourist, but as a Roman.

Let’s go some month back in time

Given that I already studied in Rome last semester (February 2011-July 2011), I would first like to start in December 2010 when we were all still in Utrecht and had to find a place to live in Rome.

Usually, the university agency “Casa LUISS” organizes all houses for foreign students, but previous students told us that the agency is very expensive and that most houses are quite far away. That is why Adrian, Romy, Martine and I started looking for houses ourselves. We got in touch with students from the USE who studied at LUISS before us and after a few Emails we already found the perfect apartment to live in. That sounds very easy, but we were only very lucky! Normally, searching for an apartment in Rome is far more difficult and drives a lot of people mad.

In a country such as Germany or Holland, the normal procedure of renting an apartment is as follows:

  • The landlord gives the contract to the tenant and the tenant transfers the deposit after each party has signed the contract.

That is not the case in Italy, which gave us a big shock at first sight, but this is what we have learned about housing in Italy:

  • Most landlords do not even give you a housing contract. Do not worry, that is normal.
  • Very often, you have to transfer the deposit before you sign (if it exists) a contract and before you have even see the house. That was the case with us and it went all fine. But you should be cautious all times!
  • It is totally normal that your landlord comes every month to pick up your rent in cash.
  • Always be careful of scammers who pretend to offer rooms or apartments which do not exist and everything should go fine!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On options and choosing...

This weekend I had my first weekend full of studying since at least half a year, I can't say it went as easy as I wanted to, but I do feel like I'm in the right place choosing this Master programme.
Already during the introductory meeting last Wednesday when we went through the programme of the courses in this Master, I felt that way. In fact I think I might even missed the 'academic' challenge.. Let me tell you a little bit about how I chose to enroll in the Master Economics of Public Policy and Management.

In the first place I really like the subjects teached in this specific master. During my bachelors I chose to do a minor in social sciences as well as political sciences and followed a track in Economics and Politics. In specifying myself in this field a little bit I found that subjects of public policy interested me the most. I find it challenging to look at problems at the public economy level, where it is interesting that there are several stakeholders to consider when thinking of a solution. And where the issue of politics and political views, who ofcourse all offer their own solution to the problem, adds another dimension. The Netherlands does not have a lot of options for studying these subjects, USE does offer this opportunity.

The masters at USE might be more theoretical than programmes at other universities, but I like that fact. It gives me a solid basis to build on and the practical issues of work I can learn while actually working. I'm not studying here to learn how to write a policy nota, I'm studying here to learn where to base a policy nota on.

As you might have guessed from my earlier post, I liked studying in Utrecht and at the Utrecht University School of Economics the years before. I know most of the teachers in my masters and I know the way they teach. I know that they have a great knowledge of different subjects and that a lot of them are more than eager to help you get you through their courses and make sure you write good papers. All of this makes that I become even more enthousiastic about the subjects they teach, which makes it way easier to put effort in my studies. I think the teachers that will teach my courses coming year are the major reason for choosing this master.

Next to this, I like the fact that the Master at USE is kind of specific but not too much. It specifies in public economics and public policy, but it goes over different subjects in this field. I believe this still leaves me a range of options at jobs next year, where I hope the different labour market oriented activities of the studyassociation ECU'92, the university and other parties will show me my range of options.