"To gain experience of the world", shaping knowledge together

Pillars of Hercules with the motto
Pillars of Hercules with the motto "Plus ultra", Charles V emblem. Pic: Ignacio Gavira. Source: Wikimedia. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Claude Lorrain, Departure of Ulysses from the Land of the Feaci , Louvre. Source: Wikimedia
Claude Lorrain, Departure of Ulysses from the Land of the Feaci , Louvre. Source: Wikimedia
Pillars of Hercules with the motto
Pillars of Hercules with the motto "Plus ultra", Charles V emblem. Source Wikimedia

Institutional Communication Service

29 March 2021

Dante’s Ulysses, an iconic figure of the human being’s innate desire for knowledge, states that nothing could overcome his "longing" to "gain experience of the world" ("divenir del mondo esperto"). Crossing the Pillars of Hercules, discovering the world, getting to know other cultures and, above all, getting to know other ways of thinking is an enriching experience. At USI, it is possible to live it even... standing still. On the occasion of our 25th anniversary, we continue our journey through USI’s laboratory of knowledge, proposing a comment by our Pro-rector for Internationalisation, Prof. Cesare Alippi, on the value of internationality for our University and, more in general, for an institution devoted to knowledge.   

At the moment, 99 different countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, are represented in the USI community, including students, professors and researchers. Graduates of our University are professionally active in 117 countries. Taking into account scientific co-publications in recent years, the USI research network counts about 500 partners in 96 countries, from Vietnam to Albania.  

Let us concentrate for a moment on the field of education and let the numbers talk. USI’s 3,350 students comprise 93 different nationalities; hence around half of the world’s countries are represented. If we add up the population of these countries, we arrive at about 6,415,000,000 people, which means that at our University, we have at least one “ambassador” from 83.6% of the global population among our students. It is safe to say that the world is well represented within the walls of four campuses. 

USI has 100 partner universities in its student exchange programmes in Switzerland, Europe and worldwide. If we were to draw a virtual hexagonal perimeter as the crow flies between the partner universities located respectively further north (University of Jyväskylä, Finland), north-east (Kyoto Institute of Technology, Japan), south-east (University of Technology Sydney, Australia), south (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens), south-west (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru, Lima), and north-west (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA), we would reach slightly more than 55,000 km which is the length of the equator plus approximately another 15,000 km (more or less the distance between Lugano and Adelaide in Australia): a genuinely vast scope for enriching one’s studies.

These “peculiar” ways of describing our internationality help us understand its range and value, which are surprising for a university of USI’s proportions, and its worth for an institution whose “raison d'être” is the development transfer of knowledge.

A university with an international calling and committed to attracting talent from all over the world offers its students and researchers the opportunity to come into contact with an enriching plurality of cultures and perspectives starting from within their classroom or research group, in a cosmopolitan atmosphere that is at the same time familiar to USI, facilitating the exchange of ideas in a multicultural environment. Combined with the possibility of taking advantage of USI’s global network, whether for a mobility semester aimed at experiencing another environment, or getting in touch with specialists and research centres all over the world, it contributes to making our University a natural “hub” in which to launch into international careers and, more generally, to open up to unexpected encounters and horizons.  

It is not just a question of the field in which one specialises, or the career one will pursue. “To gain experience of the world”, earning knowledge and, above all, getting to know other ways of thinking, living, dreaming and interpreting the events of the world, makes it possible, above all, to grow as citizens and as people.  

It is why we will invest even more in enhancing our multicultural dimension. As Pro-rector for Internationalisation, my task will be, for example, to facilitate moments of mutual encounter and other initiatives, to make USI the place that helps to bring Southern Switzerland into the world and the world into Southern Switzerland. A laboratory of synthesis and creative osmosis that is part of its calling as a bridge between northern Europe and the Mediterranean, and more generally between different cultural worlds.


#USI25 #shapingknowledge #knowledgelab #sparks


Read also: