Tuscany is better then anything you can imagine Past Review

By (Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Studies, Wellesley College) - abroad from 09/01/2014 to 12/19/2014 with

Siena School for Liberal Arts: Siena - Semester & Summer Programs

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned that I can travel alone. That being in a space where I do not know the language is difficult and beautiful at the same time. That friends can be found in wonderful spaces. Money is well spent on a good time and that being away from Wellesley was exactly what I needed in order to make it through. It was completely worth it and I cant wait to go on my next adventure.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academics were not as rigorous as at Wellesley but I enjoyed that immensely. The classes were interactive full of field trips, and included varying teachers and teaching methods. I loved being in a different setting and experiencing another way to learn about the environment, through food.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I absolutely adore Miriam. Her passion for the program is present and contagious. Her energy and love for an immersion with the community in Siena made the program very enjoyable.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was a major factor in why my time abroad was so enjoyable. I was welcomed into the family and given a beautiful room for my stay. The mom and I would sit at the dinner table and practice my italian and then on Wednesdays watch a spanish show in Italian. I loved staying with my family and would love to visit them when I return to Siena.

* Food:

My host mom was an amazing cook. We always had a two course meal with ample wine, water and bread. The food was simple, delicious fresh and prepared with love. We also always sat down to eat together for at least an hour. I may not of understood everything that my host family was saying but the language of food is truly universal.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I interned with a local contrada while in Siena. With my remedial Italian I was able to assist with cooking and other social events. I wish I would of spent more time with the contrada and in local events but my lack of confidence with the language was a social barrier.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

When my nebulizer broke and I ran out of medicine I was able to visit a doctor. The school student assistant went to the doctor with me to get my prescription. It all worked out in the end and it was a lot easier to buy my medication there than to have my parents ship it.

* Safety:

Sometimes I would walk back to my house at 4 in the morning. And I never felt unsafe. Siena is an incredibly safe city! I never heard of any crime while I was there and everyone knows one another and would step in to assist if anything went wrong. There was the occasional sexist remark but the mens friends would make sure the drunk guy would not harm us.

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)

My breakfast and dinner were already paid for through the program. But I had to worry about lunch and meals on the weekends. Being that I had never been abroad before and that Italy in on the euro, I found it difficult to keep costs down. You just forget that the euro is more then the dollar.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? depending on where I traveled that weekend it could be ~300 euro a week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? plan to bring an extra 1,000 because you will have unforseen expenses. Also if you use ryan air, make sure you print out your ticket and confirm your boarding ahead of time! If not they will charge you 70 euros for checking in at the airport.


* 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

They encouraged us to use it as much as possible. Because Siena is a smaller town everyone there speaks Italian and will speak to you in Italian vs in English. They also wanted us to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as possible. After all we were only there for 4 months.

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? I did not take an Italian course prior to my departure
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? Practice with your host family and find people your age to speak with.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • I loved learning about sustainable agriculture and what that means to Italians
  • I loved living in Siena, a smaller but immensely beautiful Tuscan city
  • I loved open liquor laws and how drinking in public is not big deal
* What could be improved?
  • The communication with parents and the school at the beginning of the program needs to be improved
  • I would like to have seen a school wide emphasis on sustainability during school wide field trips. I understand that art is important to Italian culture but so it food and agriculture.
  • the internship program in the sustainability program needs to be worked on.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew that the internship program was not as established as I thought it would be. I wish I would of planned my trips sooner to get better deals and save some money. And Italians really only eat italian food and not much else.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Anthropology of Food

Course Department: Sustainability
Instructor: Giovani
Instruction Language: English/Italian
Comments: I absolutely loved this course. We began with learning about the Italian sharecropping system, the Mezzadria system, and then moved throughout the regions of Italy. We discussed gender, the Slow Food Movement, and the mafia in the south. I came to Italy to learn about food, culture, and history and this class did not disappoint.
Credit Transfer Issues: I did not have an issue with credit transfer.
Course Name/Rating:


Course Department: School for Liberal Arts
Instructor: Jacky
Instruction Language: English/Italian
Comments: I had no prior knowledge of photography before coming to this course and I came out with so much appreciation for the art. I may not of had the most sophisticated camera but the professor taught me how to use what I had. We also learned about film cameras and how to use the dark room. I was able to see Tuscany through a different lens, literally, and have many wonderful memories that I was able to bring back with me.
Credit Transfer Issues: I did not have an issue with transfer credits.
Course Name/Rating:

Sustainability of Food

Course Department: Sustainability
Instructor: Daniella
Instruction Language: Italian/English
Comments: Coming to Italy as an ES major I already knew about the concepts of climate change, sustainable agriculture, water use and carbon footprints. I thought that portions of the class was review and would of liked more of a focus on Italy. My favorite parts of the class was when the professor honed in on specific case studies in Italy. I understand that sustainability is a global issue but I want to learn about Italy specifically.
Credit Transfer Issues: I did not have an issue with transfer credits.
Course Name/Rating:


Course Department: School for Liberal Arts
Instructor: Chiara/Roberto/Claudia
Instruction Language: Italian/English
Comments: I came to Italy without any knowledge of the Italian language. So the Italian class was of great importance. The three week intensive course, was just what, intensive. But I was able to learn a lot from my experience. I did not always like the teaching style of some of the professors but it helped me to practice my italian in a variety of ways.
Credit Transfer Issues: I did not have an issue with transfer credits.