A Guide To Studying Abroad in Italy
The most difficult decisions students will make once they decide to study abroad in Italy is which delicious gelato flavors will complete their perfect afternoon of wandering through the nearest piazza. Dripping in culture, history, and delicious food, Italy provides a gorgeous backdrop for studying a vast array of topics, from history to world politics to Italian, and everything in between. Each Italian city has a little something different to offer, and we’re not just talking pasta noodles. No matter which idyllic (pinch-me-is-this-even-real) city you decide to call home during your semester studying in Italy, you can be sure it won’t take long before you fall in love.
Italy is home to some of the most beautiful and most visited cities in the world. From the ruins of Ancient Rome to the heart of the Renaissance in Florence and the fashion capital at Milan, Italy provides the perfect framework for your studies, regardless of your major.
Italy’s capital and largest city, Rome, is, in itself, a history lesson. Known as “The Eternal City,” Rome is one of the most well preserved ancient cities in the world. From the ruins of the Roman Forum to the floors of the Colosseum, there is so much to see and explore. Universities in Rome, such as John Cabot University and The American University of Rome, offer numerous full semester programs and, since they are accredited American universities, organizing credits is a breeze.
Florence is home of the Renaissance, Michelangelo’s statue of David, and the Uffizi Gallery. Many fall in love with Florence for its art, but certainly appreciate its accessibility. Much smaller than Rome, Florence’s streets are perfect for evening strolls and casual bike rides. For a truly unique experience, check out art history courses in Florence, which will allow you to compare your textbook to the real thing, just a stone’s throw away.
More interested in fashion than museums or ruins? Milan might be the perfect locale for you to study in Italy. Mosey right from your fashion design and merchandising class to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. And even if you aren’t in Milan for the history, be sure to check out da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” while in town.
What subjects can you study abroad in Italy? Depending on your university and program, your options may be endless. That being said, some courses just work better in a historic and picturesque environment like Italy.
Take history. What better way to study the Roman Empire than inside the Roman Forum? On-site history classes in Italy provide students with the opportunity to venture into Rome for a one-of-a-kind learning experience and really get to know and embrace the history of the city.
How photography? What better place to learn the ins and outs of aperture and white balance than a classroom situated down the block from il Duomo? Studying photography in Italy becomes that much more enjoyable when a short stroll through perfectly uneven cobblestone streets leads you to the most adorable, flower-lined alleyway where you can perfect your photo composition.
You certainly don't need to speak Italian to study in Italy, since most of the local universities offer courses in English, yet it certainly can’t hurt to pick up a few phrases. There's no better way to meaningfully communicate with locals than by embracing their language. Enroll in introductory Italian courses while studying in Italy and let the fun begin!
While you may be dreaming of spaghetti carbonara and tiramisu, funding your Italian ambitions might be a real hurdle, especially since some consider Italy to be one of the more costly places to study abroad in the world. Be cautious when researching universities and study abroad programs in Italy. Sometimes program costs only cover tuition; other times the costs may include accommodations in Italy as well as visa assistance, orientation, meals, and even excursions. If these items aren’t included, don’t worry, just don’t forget these expenses when budgeting for your time studying in Italy.
Additionally, Italy is a popular location for short-term study abroad programs. If a year or semester doesn't fit your budget, explore the variety of one- to three-week programs offered over winter break or the summer term (which are normally between one and two months long), which can be found in cities across Italy.
Studying in Italy can certainly be costly, yet there are ways to alleviate at least some of the financial burdens associated with study abroad. First off, look into your own university's funding opportunities for students who wish to study abroad; many schools have scholarships and grant opportunities to assist students financially. You can also check with community clubs, such as Rotary International and Key Club, to see if they have scholarship opportunities specifically for students interested in studying in Italy.
In addition, never underestimate the power of crowdsourcing. Sites such as FundMyTravel and Razoo can help you create funding pages where other people (i.e, friends, relatives, and even strangers!) can help you reach your financial goals. Lastly, be sure to check out GoAbroad’s scholarship directory to find scholarships for study abroad in Italy.
While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of studying in Italy, don’t forget the important steps you must take to ensure a successful (albeit temporary) move abroad. Applying for a visa and securing housing are two pre-departure “must-do’s” before you can truly begin to study in Italy.
A quick trip to will guide you in finding out if you need a visa to study abroad in Italy. If you choose to study in Italy through a program provider, there will be plenty of coordinators to assist you with the visa process and help you get the ball rolling well in advance of any deadlines. Study abroad program providers like these may also provide you with housing or assist you in your search.
Many study abroad programs in Italy take place in larger cities, meaning you will likely have access to a variety of amenities from banks to restaurants to parks, shopping, and more. Living in large cities also means that housing options usually consist of either shared apartments or homestays. If homestay is an option, take the chance; host families provide the most authentic experience for getting to know your new country of residence. Living with locals will help you learn the day-to-day customs of the Italian people while providing you a direct connection to explore the local culture and lifestyle.
If homestays aren’t an option, shared apartments can be great, giving you freedom and flexibility to explore your new city at your own pace. However, if you find yourself living with other students, be sure to branch out and explore! It’s easy to become comfortable and spend your time hanging out at home when living with friends. Challenge each other to step out of your comfort zones and really get to know each nook and cranny of your new home.
While Italy may “check all the boxes” on your study abroad wishlist, there are certainly challenges that come with living and studying in a foreign country. While it might sound like a no-brainer, people speak Italian in Italy. From your local grocer to policemen and everyone in between, you may find it more than a bit difficult to communicate, and find yourself wishing you’d signed up for that beginner Italian class. That being said, it’s certainly not impossible to communicate; you’d be surprised how far pointing and smiling can get you!
Despite the language barrier, as you explore your new home you will quickly discover there is so much to see and do in Italy. Forget the museums and cathedrals for a moment; between the ristoranti to discover, markets to shop, and festivals to enjoy, you will certainly find yourself occupied! If all that doesn’t satiate you, there’s also the rest of Europe to explore. Italy is centrally located and easy to travel in and out of via planes and trains, making it an accessible (and affordable) weekend trip to many of Europe’s top destinations. And don’t forget the gelato; you can eat your weight in gelato nightly. Isn’t that the best benefit of all?
Between tossing Euros into centuries-old marble fountains, visiting some of the world’s most awe-inspiring works of art, and meandering along violet covered hillsides, study abroad in Italy will leave anyone with an appreciation of culture and history that cannot be read in a book or understood with a picture. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind study abroad experience that will provide you with a greater understanding of the past while you study and begin to plan for your future, look no further than the cobblestone streets of Italy.
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