Miguel Castillo, 80, will leave his native Spain on Monday to head to the University of Verona, where he won an Erasmus grant to pursue his studies in modern history.
“I opted for Verona in Italy because I was there 42 years ago to see Maria Callas perform,” the grandfather of six told Spanish newspaper Las Provincias.
Castillo returned to academia a few years ago after a career as a notary. He was a few years into a more typical retirement when he suffered a heart attack at the age of 75, prompting him to rethink how he wanted to spend the remainder of his days.
“On the road to recovery I told myself, 'I would like to do something beyond the classic napping’,” he explained.
So he enrolled for a degree in modern history at Valencia University and each day attends classes with students who are a quarter of his age.
El “abuelo” Miguel se va de Erasmus a los 80: “Mis compañeros me preguntan cómo se hace el testamento” https://t.co/mBrGfYKDjR
— El Español (@elespanolcom) February 14, 2018
Determined to make the most of his university years, Castillo applied for the EU's student exchange programme, which each year sends hundreds of thousands of students to other universities across Europe for anywhere between three months to a year at a time.
He hasn't signed up for the full student experience in Verona, though: he won't be staying in a college dorm.
“My wife is coming with me and we will stay in a hotel for a while and then move into an apartment,” he explained. “My wife says that she doesn’t see us at a pyjama party.”
With one of the world's oldest populations, Italy is becoming accustomed to seeing older faces in all walks of life, even those once reserved for youngsters.
In 2016, it sent one of its own senior citizens – Laura Peccara, 61 years old at the time – to Spain, for a six-month Erasmus exchange in Madrid.
“I was talking to my son about university and Erasmus when I had a lightbulb moment: wouldn't it be great to have an experience that didn't exist in my day,” Peccara told Italian magazine Donna Moderna upon her return.
As Peccara learned, there is no age limit to the Erasmus programme – so any mature students who are interested should apply. As Castillo says to others his age: “Don’t lock yourself up at home, open up to the world, because we can contribute so much and can also receive a lot from society.”