There are an estimated 2,00,000 Indians in Italy, which is the largest Indian diaspora in Continental Europe. While there were around 1,500 Indian students in Italy in March last year, the external affairs ministry has confirmed.
Indian students very often choose Italy for super-specialised fashion and design-focused postgraduate courses and luxury brand management courses. This is mainly because the European country houses many famous designer houses. Students get exposure to such brands and designers through summer jobs as well as internships.
Many prominent universities in Italy offer courses in architecture and design, UI/UX design, new technologies, agriculture, conservation and restoration of cultural assets, cinema, dance, drama and advanced musical studies. The government of Italy also provides a lot of financial support, stipends and scholarships to international students. While tuition fees in public universities are between €900 to €4,000 per year, living expenses are somewhere between €800 and €1,500 with shared accommodation, food, and transportation.
However, as the pandemic hit Italy around April 2020, it witnessed a significant drop in the number of Indian students. The numbers are likely to remain very small this year since there is a strict travel ban in place and the non-recognition of the Indian vaccines in the country.
Phaniram Varma finished his postgraduate degree in industrial automation engineering from the University of Pavia near Milan in October last year, now works as a project manager in Piacenza in northern Italy. After the pandemic hit Italy last year, the Indian government evacuated hundreds of Indian students from the country, but Varma decided not to return to India. Now, he does not regret his decision.
“Since the second wave of Covid-19 in India, there’s a travel ban and Indian students who can’t return to Italy are missing classes and losing out on work opportunities. The situation here in Italy, on the other hand, is coming back to normal,” he told TIMESOFINDIA.com. “Universities are now having on-campus classes and the Italian government is providing free vaccination to everyone including students.”
For a number of students who had rushed back to India from Italy amid the pandemic, the situation is tough. Sanjay Mishra, who was selected for a master’s program in forestry and natural resources management at the University of Padua in 2020, says, “Italy’s travel ban for India has not been lifted and students like me in north India are not even able to submit our visa applications to VFS, the agency which handles the processing of documents.”
Mishara is worried about being able to get back there before his classes begin in September.
“After submitting all the papers, the process of being granted a student visa could take up to three weeks,” he said.
The ministry of health in Italy on June 18 extended its restrictions on travellers who have stayed or transited via India in the past 14 days till today, July 30. Upon arriving in Italy, even those exempt from the restrictions have to get tested for Coronavirus and isolated at designated hotels mandatorily.
On July 26, Italy permitted its residents to travel to the country from India; As of now, there is no official update on the expected timeline of easing the travel ban.