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Erasmus Experience: Alessandra Palidda

Cardiff students may elect to take a period of their undergraduate or postgraduate study abroad at one of the European University Music Schools which we have links with. As part of this Socrates-Erasmus scheme, the School also enjoys welcoming international students to Cardiff for a portion of their studies. One such student, Alessandra Palidda, a postgraduate student from Milan, has just completed her Erasmus year here. She tells us her story…

My BA degree in Italy was in Cultural Heritage. This involved studying of range of artforms, such as music, theatre and cinema, for two years and then specialising for the third year. I chose Music as my specialty and continued on do postgraduate study in musicology. When I first considered a study abroad period, my choices were between Cardiff, Paris and Berlin. I chose Cardiff because it seemed to offer a good blend of practice and theory, whilst the other institutions seemed to concentrate entirely on theory.
Although I’m a postgraduate student, I decided to take a selection of undergraduate modules so that I could study areas that had not been available to me in Italy. My home university was very focused on theory so, for me, the balance here between practice and theory was brilliant. It meant that I was able to take modules looking at subjects such as harmony and music analysis. I also took modules in composition and orchestration which I enjoyed but found quite challenging!

When I first arrived in Cardiff, I stayed in University Hall up at Penylan. I found the distance between Halls and the School of Music a bit far so luckily the residences staff were extremely helpful and I had no problems moving to a shared student house in Colum Road within a month.

As I’m older than many of the undergraduates I was sharing classes with, it took me a little while to settle in and make new friends. However, I got to know lots of Music students really well through the BBC Choir. The BBC’s call for singers came through the School at the beginning of term, I auditioned and was accepted. It’s a fantastic opportunity. In Italy, it’s actually unlikely that someone would be accepted into a high-standard choir without a music degree but there are many more possibilities for performance here. Being part of the BBC choir has been very hard work but I’ve made lots of friends as a result and had the chance to perform at St David’s Hall, in London, and in Swansea. I’m also staying on in Cardiff over the summer months so that I can sing with the Choir at the BBC Proms. I never imagined any of this when I came to Cardiff but it’s been brilliant.

I’ve really enjoyed the atmosphere at the School of Music. I love how proactive the students are here when it comes to putting together their own choirs and ensembles. I remember attending the Operatic Society’s production of The Mikado and it was really moving to see the amount of work that students had put into it.

There’s a huge sense of community here that is lacking in so many faculties. It’s such a friendly department, people here actually get to know one another and you’re more than just a number to members of staff. I like the fact that professors were actually coming to the Concert Hall to see students performing music composed by fellow students.

The academics here are very knowledgeable in so many areas. In my first term, I was able to go from analysis lectures to philosophy to composition so I really appreciated having that range of staff expertise. Their use of Blackboard and handouts was really useful as well, they provide all the support needed for studies.

The dedicated Music Library is amazing. I just love all of the librarians! Again, we’re not just numbers to them. They take an interest in us and help us to make connections. For instance, another student was struggling with Italian in a particular manuscript so one of the librarians called me over to help him out with translations. And I’ve often heard them say, “Oh, you need help with this particular topic. You should really talk to this student as she’s done that before, I’ll just call her over now.” I also found the porters, Nick and Tony, always nice and helpful.

As well as the Music Library, the other facilities here are amazing. Especially the new IT suite, I have no words to describe it!

As a city, Cardiff is the perfect environment for students. It’s got everything on offer – the Students’ Union, societies, theatre, concerts, so many activities. I joined a number of societies, including the film society and the rambling & hiking society so that’s been another great way of meeting new people. I’ve been taking advantage of all the great offers for Music students as well, such as £3 concert tickets and free entry to Welsh National Opera dress rehearsals.

I’ve been trying to see as much as I can while I’m here and I’ve also been cycling quite a lot. I’ve been to London numerous times for concerts and across to Ireland twice. I’ve also been to lots of places with the rambling and hiking society, including Shropshire, the Gower, and the Forest of Dean.

Overall, I’ve had a brilliant time here and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the School of Music to prospective students, especially international students coming here on an exchange. It offers the complete undergraduate experience, my English has really improved, I’ve learned so much and had the sort of opportunities I might otherwise have missed out on.

I’ll miss Cardiff when I go back to Italy at the end of the summer but, who knows, maybe I’ll come back one day to do my PhD here…

*Alessandra did in fact return to Cardiff and started her PhD at the School of Music in 2013. She is currently our Erasmus-Socrates Co-ordinator.*