Amazing artistic, cultural, and traveling experiences; easy semester September 19, 2022

By (Linguistics, Italian, Brandeis University) - abroad from 02/01/2022 to 05/01/2022 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I improved my understanding of art, and I learned how to make books and metal jewelry. I got really comfortable traveling alone in a foreign country. I experienced a lot of aspects of Italian culture. I also gained a lot of social confidence from learning to overcome the language barrier. These are all major benefits, however, I DO NOT think it would have been worthwhile if I hadn't gone out of my way to study and practice Italian on my own time, independent of my classes. My whole reason for studying abroad was to improve my Italian proficiency, and that goal was barely facilitated with this program. I could have learned more from staying at Brandeis and taking another advanced Italian class. I had to dedicate a lot of my time to reading in Italian, listening to Italian music, keeping an Italian journal, and talking to locals in Italian, just to feel like it was a productive semester. The overall experience and the opportunities it created were fantastic, but the education that I got was not worth a full semester of Brandeis tuition.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

It was my easiest college semester yet. I had a lot of really interesting hands-on, real-life experiences though. There was a lot of making and studying art (obviously) which I wouldn't really consider rigorous, but it was very informative.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My apartment was nice and in a great location. My host family was polite and welcoming but they didn't talk to me much so we never became close. I can communicate in Italian, so I'm not sure why they didn't talk to me more. I am also pretty shy so that definitely contributed to the closed off atmosphere.

* Food:

The Italian food was generally really good, but there weren't many options for non-Italian cuisine in Siena. There were a couple of good Asian restaurants, a burger restaurant, and a kebab place. I found a much better selection of restaurants in the bigger or more diverse cities in Italy that I visited. The Italian grocery stores had a different selection than a typical American one, but it wasn't hard to find everything I needed. The gelato, pastries, and cafes were good! The only bummer was that my host mom was not a good cook, so we ended up eating mediocre, bland pasta almost every night.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made some Italian friends, but I would have liked to have made more. I didn't realize beforehand that the program was mostly Americans who didn't know any Italian. I ended up spending most of the time speaking English which was not my goal.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Luckily I didn't really have any health issues during the program. I had to pay 20 euros for a covid test at one point, but they also had cheaper at-home tests available. I already had all of the required vaccines.

* Safety:

Siena seemed really safe, especially inside the main walled city. I never felt unsafe, even at night, but I'm also generally a bit less cautious than maybe I should be. I definitely needed to be a little more careful in bigger cities. I tried not to look too much like a tourist.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I thought that I really wanted to study in a smaller city so I could experience a more authentic Italian experience, but it wasn't worth losing the academic benefits of a more rigorous program in a bigger city. I thought that I would speak more Italian in a smaller city with fewer tourists, but the program was mostly in English and all of my classmates were Americans with limited or no Italian experience. I should have chosen a program that was much more language focused. What sort of made up for the lack of Italian language instruction was the uniqueness of my classes. I'm sure that I could have taken an art history class with a different program, but probably not a book arts or silversmithing class. Also, the fact that I didn't have much homework left me available to travel around Italy a lot which was amazing.


* 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)

I spent A LOT of money, almost $1000 a month, but a lot of that was money that I chose to spend on traveling around Italy (trains/busses, housing, dining out, tickets, and souvenirs, it adds up quickly). I traveled about every other weekend (sometimes the whole weekend, sometimes just one day)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? In total, I spent about $250/week, but only about $120/week was for "necessities" (food, drinks, clothes, gelato) The rest was for travel expenses
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Honestly, I shouldn't be giving advice. I spent too much money at the local market. XD


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Direct Enrollment

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* 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?
  • Traveling around Italy
  • Studying art history and then seeing the actual artworks in person
  • Unique classes
* What could be improved?
  • needs better Italian class(es)
  • needs more diverse perspectives (Especially from students. We were all upper-middle class, American, liberal, women)
  • could use more interaction with Italian people and culture
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew that there was only going to be one other student who knew Italian. I was told that classes were taught in a combination of Italian and English, but they were all 95% in English. Even my Italian class was about 40% in English. Also, I didn't realize that "liberal arts school" really just meant "art school" I love art, but maybe not enough to purposefully dedicate a whole semester to studio arts and art history which is basically what happened. Also, literally all of the other students in the program were pursuing art as a career path, so it didn't really make sense for me (a linguistics major) to be in that program.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Intermediate/Advanced Italian

Course Department: Italian
Instructor: Valeria Indice
Instruction Language: Italian, English
Comments: The class was not challenging at all. Valeria was really nice, but she was not a great teacher. We would go over a grammar concept only once and then when we had a quiz she would give us the answers that we would have gotten wrong. We didn't need to study to get an A, so we didn't really learn much. She also spoke English too often given that her students were fairly capable of communicating using just Italian.
Credit Transfer Issues: