Beatrice Villani: Italy, Scotland, top marks and everything in between

Thu, 15 Jul 2021 16:19:00 BST
Beatrice took the decision to leave Italy and is now excited for a future in Scotland
Beatrice took the decision to leave Italy and is now excited for a future in Scotland

A GCU student recently picked up a prestigious award just days after receiving the news she’d achieved a First Class Honours degree. 

This was the latest chapter in what has been an incredible journey for Cell and Molecular Biology student, Beatrice Villani. 

After making the, perhaps unusual, decision to move from Rome to Falkirk in 2017, Beatrice has quickly had to adapt to life away from homeLike other students, she’s also been forced to balance coursework with the challenge of a global pandemic. 

Her decision to swap The Colosseum for The Kelpies was rewarded earlier this month, with the news she had won the Royal Society of Biology Top Student Award 2021. 

We caught up with Beatrice to learn more about the award and to hear about her love for GCU and Scotland: 

Congratulations on winning the Royal Society of Biology Award, tell me a bit about it? 

Thank you! It was for gaining the highest percentage in bioscience degree programme across my institution. I was absolutely shocked because I wasn’t expecting it.  

I knew the hard work was going to pay off in some way because I’ve always put a lot of effort in with studying. It was just amazing and shows that if you really put everything into something then you can be the best. 

This came just a couple of days after finding out you’d achieved a First Class Honours Degree, it must have been quite the week? 

I was really proud but it’s not all my success. I received a lot of support from my family and also my lecturers. I really want to do a shout-out to them because they’ve been absolutely amazing! 

My family and friends are also really proud of me – especially in the current climate. It’s beenat best, a rocky year with all the uncertainty, because I didn’t even know when I would next be able to see them again due to the pandemic. I knew I had to put all my time and effort into something and University was what I chose because it’s really one of the only things I had to properly focus on. I’m just glad it worked!” 

Take us back to 2017, what made you want to come and study in Scotland? 

It sounds silly, but I fell in love with the country after just doing a quick Google search 

In Italy, high schools are divided into what you’re going to study in the future, so I went to a scientific lyceum. My background was physics, mathematics, biology and chemistry. I wanted a subject that joined all of them together and I found Cell and Molecular Biology at GCU! I thought it sounded really interesting and I did another search and found out that the University was on point for the equipment and facilities on offer – I knew it was the perfect fit!” 

What was the thinking behind moving from Rome to Falkirk? 

I’ve never really been interested in the partying student life, so I wasn’t too bothered about staying in Glasgow. I wanted to find a place that would give me quick access to the city but also keep me sane! It was nice, because Rome is enormous and there’s too many people! 

I would say that Scottish people in general are very welcoming and very friendly – which is also an Italian trait, so we have that in common! Scotland is also beautiful, I fell in love with it and have no intention of going back to Italy. I would recommend to anyone thinking of moving abroad to give Scotland a try – there are so many opportunities!" 

The last 18 months have been challenging for all students – how difficult has it been for yourself obviously having your family back in Italy? 
It has been really difficult in all honesty. It wasn’t so bad at the start because I was finishing third year during the first couple of months and was really focused on that. The beginning of fourth year was a bit overwhelming, there was a lot of coursework and it was difficult to keep yourself in a routine when you’re working within the same four walls. I live alone and it wasn’t great but I made sure I attended every tutorial just so I could see some people and get that opportunity to interact I was really missing that. 

My dad also got covid and it was really bad. It was a real struggle for me because that was constantly on my mind and I was trying to focus on completing my lab project. The last time I saw my parents was ten months ago and nobody was allowed in the hospitals in Italy. It was a really stressful period and I’m glad everything is starting to get a bit better. 

How much did you enjoy your time at GCU? 

“I absolutely loved it! if I could live in the Charles Oakley Building then I definitely would!  

Every lecturer I spoke to always made themselves available and they were always up for a chat, whether it was in person or, in more recent times, over Microsoft Teams. I’m not sure if everyone got the same support but that was exactly what students needed. I feel that support really kept everyone in my year on track because the final year in particular is a really stressful time.” 

You’re obviously about to graduate – what does the future hold? 

“I got granted limited leave to remain and in November I’ll be applying for unlimited leave to stay in Scotland. Two of my lecturers have also been a great support in helping me apply for PHDs and research masters – I’m really excited for my next steps. 

I’d just like to say that people should be grateful for what they have in Scotland, there really are so many great opportunities. The general vibe of the country is great and the possibilities are incredible.  

I wanted to be a researcher in Italy but the economy and financial situation there isn’t good. In Scotland there are people who are actually investing and putting money towards research, there’s a clear future for that. People should be more appreciative of what they have here, because this country is amazing!" 

By Ross Clark    
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