Wednesday, June 22, 2011

studying abroad at the university of malta (semester two)

School's out for the summer!

To recount, I came to Malta to study art history at the University of Malta as a visiting transfer student for one academic year. Why Malta? If you follow our blog you know that we love this little island more than anywhere else in the world. But as an added bonus Malta is very central to the rest of Europe so that we could do some travelling while I was studying. Plus I found it endlessly frustrating to study the history of art in a country that was 'born' only 144 years ago and whose history of art (not including Aboriginal art) is only about three hundred years old. And in Canada all the art is kept locked away in museums. In Malta I am surrounded by it all of the time.

I think I've finally gotten used to the 100% exam system at UoM and I feel like my exams went fairly well this semester. And to my great relief my exam results last semester exceeded my expectations.  Reflecting on the past year I am pleased with the courses I took as well as the lecturers who delivered those courses. I learned so much here that I would not have had to opportunity to learn at my Canadian university. This time last year I was still getting over what had been a very stressful academic year but today I can look back at my year in Malta as a very pleasant, less frantic one. (Ah, island life.)

My verdict? I have really enjoyed studying abroad for a year and I think everyone should do it if they can. Switching schools was easy for me, I've done it about once a year since I started my undergraduate degree, so adjusting to a new place was a breeze. My biggest challenge was accepting and understanding the very different administration and assessment systems at UoM.

UoM attracts many international students and will continue to do so in the future with tuition costs rising all over the world and a growing desire to learn English. But my criticism of UoM is that it needs to come into the 21st century and its administrative and teaching staff need to become more knowledgeable about the needs and expectations of international students.

International students = big money. If the University of Malta wants to successfully attract international students in the future it needs to continue developing its academic programs but, equally important, it needs to begin to see itself as a business.

My advice to prospective students? The key to getting along well when moving to a new place (for university or otherwise) is to accept the differences as differences. Because something is different doesn't make it inferior to what you are used to. Differences are why we travel, and why we study abroad. Oh, and pack sunscreen.

Generally most international students would agree that the best part of studying in Malta is Malta itself. It is truly a beautiful country, and an art history student's heaven. My on-site lectures at the University of Malta consisted of touring Baroque churches, Roman villas and medieval towns. If I could (and it was free) I would happily study at the University of Malta for another year to learn about the prehistoric and modern history of this little island. Its culture and history are endlessly fascinating to me.

*side note - i just realized that i bought and read 42 books for my courses this year. if you're a prospective uom arts student - be warned!

And the coolest part? I can look off of the terrace of our flat and see the chapel that the 18th century architect I wrote a paper about is buried in. I went to the library and paged through three hundred year old architectural plans and engravings (By hand. Yes, I was terrified of ripping one.) I walked around Mdina, Birgu and Valletta and heard the histories of those cities while standing in the presence of that history. I visited churches undergoing restoration and saw centuries old frescoes from three inches away. Like I said at the close of last semester, that is what studying abroad is all about.

A big thank-you to Mike for allowing me to think big and helping to make all of this possible. And for putting up with me for the month of June while I was an exam writing monster machine. He is kind of the best that way.

University of Malta History of Art Graduating Class 2010-2011 (+ me)

jesuit church and college, valletta (picture 1 + 2), fresco restorations at our lady of victory church, valletta (3 + 4 + 5), main gate of mdina (6), university of malta coat-of-arms (7), roman mosaics, at the roman domus, mdina (8)

want to read more about my first semester?


  1. Looks like you guys have been having a pretty amazing adventure.

    I love that you decided to live halfway around the globe to surround yourself in what you're studying. Your passion is admirable.

  2. Hello!

    I just wanted to say you (to both of you) for the wonderful blog and great tips. I'm actually awaiting to be approved my the University of Malta for a full-time Classics and Archaeology course and crossing my fingers extremely tight.
    Do you have any tips for a prospective student?
    Oh an is it difficult to find student jobs, especially for foreign ones without the knowledge of Maltese? (I do have the advantage of being European (: )

    1. Hi Suzanne, if you want to shoot us off an email I'd be happy to give you some more information! mikejessblog (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. Hello, my name is Alexandra and I am in a similar boat as Suzanne. I too am awaiting approval from the University and since Malta is preferably unknown, I found it difficult to obtain useful information about the country and University itself. I hoped that since you attained the University, you could help clear up some of the questions I have. For instance, accommodation. I could not find anything on the website about the issue. And to top it off, I emailed the school about it 4 weeks ago and have not received a reply yet. So instead of waiting, I just decided to ask you. Any help will be deeply appreciated.
    PS. I saw you posted your email in the comment above but I did not want to come off as a creeper and email you when we have not even conversed yet.

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      Thanks for your comment! You are welcome to send me an email at mikejessblog (at) gmail (dot) com (our email address is listed on each page of the blog and I would never think you're a creeper for sending us a message!)

      Yes, sometimes communication from UoM can be slow. Keep in mind that August is a popular month for holidays in Malta, so UoM staff may be out of office at this time. September is also a very busy month for the International office, so replies may be slower than usual. My best piece of advice is to be persistent! In the mean time I am happy to help.

      Here are some links you may find useful: - Information for prospective and current international students from UoM - University of Malta Residence web site. I notice that this is not linked to on UoM's main page, so I'm not sure what the relationship between the residence and university currently is. I believe the residence is a separate business from the university. It is located off campus in the village of Lija. It's a great place to meet new people, although many students find that after a few weeks in residence they wish to rent a flat with new friends closer to the Msida campus or the bar/shopping district (Sliema & St. Julian's). To do this you contact a local real estate agent.

      If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to get in touch!


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