Classes are much easier than at home Past Review

By (International Relations and Affairs., The College of William and Mary) for

SAI Study Abroad: Rome - John Cabot University (JCU)

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Absolutely! I learned how to live in a foreign country on my own and I got to travel and explore Europe.

Personal Information

The term and year this program took place: Fall 2008

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

JCU has very low expectations of its students in most departments. My government class neither followed the syllabus nor expected you to purchase the books. A student who had been there for several semesters said he received a B+ the last semester without ever finishing his final paper. The teacher was often very late for class. The two departments that stand out at JCU are Art History and Business. These two departments have much higher expectations of their students and higher quality teachers. I highly recommend taking Art History here because there are classes taught on site and wonderful teachers. I did not take business, but I heard a lot about the classes from my roommates.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

SAI personnel are available all the time via phone and have an office less than a minute's walk from JCU. They can advise on any topic, and are especially helpful when planning short trips to other parts of Italy. They provide also provide you with a cellphone for the duration of the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

An apartment building on Viale di Trastevere that was about 75% JCU student housing and 25% Italian family housing. There were definitely problems between the landlords and some students who treated the apartment like a frat house, but generally not playing loud music after midnight, not throwing things off balconies, and not inviting non-residents to spend the night is all the landlords require. Generally, students were housed in 6-8 person apartments with single or double rooms. Each had a kitchen and bathroom. The rooms were cold by American standards, so bring extra blankets. Each had a wonderful balcony over the courtyard or the street. Porta Portese is on the street nearby every Sunday. The school is a half hour walk or 15 minute combined tram ride and walk. The tram stops right outside building.

* Food:

The university meal plan is expensive and does not include dinner or locations near the housing, so I didn't purchase it and neither did any of my roommates. JCU was talking about adding a dining hall while I was there, but I don't know if they did. There is an awesome Kabab (like a wrap) and Pizza place right near the apartment. There is also a questionable Chinese place near the apartment. Near campus, there are WONDERFUL walk away pizza and gelato places. There is a grocery behind the apartment complex, a cheap one to the left of the apartment place, and a third one further away to the right along Viale di Trastevere toward the school. The cheapest and highest quality one is behind the apartment complex.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I wish I had learned more Italian and spent more time with Italian people. I would highly recommend trying to find an internship or volunteer opportunity. Also, if you frequent the same gelato shop or cafe often, you can practice speaking to the owners.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I know a boy who got in a fight in Florence and had to go to the hospital. SAI and his international health insurance took care of him. Generally, Rome has very little violent crime but plenty of petty theft. I know some girls' purses were cut and a boy's wallet was almost stolen on public transportation. Just being vigilent and keeping your purse in front of you on public transport is usually enough.

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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Meat is very expensive in Rome unless you go to a butcher. Vegetables and pasta are cheap. Cheese is cheap considering how high quality it is. I was nearly vegetarian while I was there. There is no peanut butter except at international food stores, so bring it if you want it.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
Language acquisition improvement?

The majority of Romans in Rome speak some English, and in touristy areas they are usually very proficient. If they address you in Italian and you respond in heavily accented Italian, they will likely switch to English. Many students in my program took no Italian and simply used hand gestures when necessary. There are plenty of opportunities to speak Italian though, especially when shopping at markets or going out at night.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Be aware that the classes are much easier than WM and the majority of the school is American study abroad students. It's a fun time, but if you want to really get an Italian experience you should set up some volunteer or internship opportunity outside of class. Also this school is wonderful if you want to travel a lot while abroad, because you can miss a lot of class and not fall behind. (I generally skipped either Thursday or Monday classes when I took trips to other parts of Europe to get extra days there.)

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Italian High Renaissance Art History

Course Department: AH 296
Instructor: Can't remember
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Wonderful class, taught on site in Roman churches a few times during the semester and included a 3 day weekend trip to Florence to visit museums and churches.
Credit Transfer Issues: No, I did pre-approval.
Course Name/Rating:

Western European Politics

Course Department: PL 250
Instructor: Can't remember
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This class neither followed the syllabus nor expected you to purchase the books. A student who had been there for several semesters said he received a B+ the last semester without ever finishing his final paper. The teacher was often very late for class. Every single student in my class received an A- on the midterm, despite very different answers and qualities of work. (We discussed it one day when the teacher was half an hour late for class.) The teacher was the head of the Political Science department at JCU.
Credit Transfer Issues: No, I did pre-approval.
Course Name/Rating:

Intensive Italian

Course Department: Italian 103
Instructor: Elena Grillo
Instruction Language: English and Italian
Comments: Wonderful teacher, very energetic and friendly woman from Sicily. She is amazing at explaining grammar and tells funny stories. The only thing that annoyed me about this course that it was supposed to be intensive and cover a full year of Italian, but it moved very slowly and covered approximately one semester of W&M Italian. However, we did learn a lot more than the 101 class that only covered about half a semester of W&M Italian.
Credit Transfer Issues: No, I did pre-approval.
Course Name/Rating:

Rome Sketchbook

Course Department: Art 110
Instructor: Petit
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Fun class where you meet at a different location around Rome to sketch every week. The teacher is very artsy and an easy grader. He sees art in everyone's attempts and grades on improvement. For the more advanced artists in our group, he gave very constructive feedback but for beginners he also taught basic drawing skills.
Credit Transfer Issues: No, I did pre-approval. It does not count for GER 6 though.