Truly Nothing Like It. Siena: Study Abroad + Service Learning in Italy Past Review

By (University of Colorado - Boulder) - abroad from 01/11/2010 to 05/05/2010 with

IPSL: Reviews from former Locations

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Italian language skills, friendships with local Italians and Americans, unique experiences that still are asked about in conversation, the opportunity to truly experience life as an Italian.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I arrived knowing almost no Italian and by the end of my semester was able to have conversations with locals about many topics including politics and religion. I was able to achieve this through my experience living with an Italian host family who spoke no English, and through the intensive Italian courses we were required to take. I learned so much about the culture and history of Italy as well through courses taught locally, excursions we took as a group, and my service learning experiences at the local hospital and volunteering on the ambulance.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Administration is present on-site and students have contact with them daily.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived with an elderly Italian couple in an apartment on the outskirts of Siena. They spoke no English and were so patient helping me learn the language. I felt as if I were part of their family as I attended birthday parties for their children and grandchildren, enjoyed holidays with them, and my host mother taught me how to cook traditional Italian meals from scratch.

* Food:

My host mother cooked an elaborate Italian dinner every single night. I literally gained 15 lbs during my semester there.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There are so many opportunities to become immersed in the local culture. These include living with a host family, volunteering to serve the local community, and also through the pairing of students with local Italians who are of similar age.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not access healthcare resources while I was abroad. Italy is similar to the US in terms of health concerns. I did not require any special vaccines nor was I required to take extra caution to prevent unusual diseases.

* Safety:

Overall, Siena is a very safe city. However, there are still people who will try to pick-pocket and take advantage of naive tourists. Be careful. Use common sense. And don't be out late at night or go to a secluded place by yourself.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Most of your needs are paid for with tuition including excursions which our whole group took together (Verona, wineries in Tuscany, ski trip, beach trip). Bus passes are included in that as well. I think my host family was not required to provide meals on weekends, however they still did. Most expenses come from traveling independently on the weekends. When I was there, internet was provided at the school but not at my host home. You pay by the amount of time you use. Things might be different now.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $25 average when I wasn't traveling
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Quick food is relatively inexpensive (1 euro for a piece of pizza, 1 euro for a cappuccino)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Learning the language is one of the main focuses of the program.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? No Italian
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Bring your English-Italian dictionary to the dinner table and make an effort to talk to your host family in Italian. Utilize your language partners. Watch Italian TV shows and movies with subtitles.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host family
  • Cultural immersion
  • Service learning
* What could be improved?
  • Host home internet?
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I would have made more effort to make friends with locals and keep in touch with them.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!