Beautiful Country, Less Than Charming Locals Past Review

By (Art History, Criticism and Conservation., University of Maine at Orono) - abroad from 08/29/2012 to 12/21/2012 with

USAC Italy: Viterbo - Intensive Italian Language, History, and the Arts

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so many things from my time abroad. I mostly learned to fine-tune my people skills and how to think on my feet and stay calm when running into difficulties when traveling.

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.

The classes sounded interesting on the syllabus, but most of them I found unchallenging and uninteresting. The two notable exceptions were the Italian Language class and the Italian Hill Towns: History Through Urban Form class.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff were usually friendly, but did not handle problems well. I had a miserable time with my roommates, who did not cooperate with the upkeep of the apartment we lived in and did not comply with simple requests. Naturally, I went to the administration twice to ask their help with them, and nothing was ever done.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

There was no special selection process for choosing roommates, and it was obvious with my specific group. They couldn't have picked three more different people to throw together, and we all had many problems with each other over the four months. The apartment we were put in was very nice, though.

* Food:

Food was not provided by the program at any time. We had to prepare our own in our apartments or go out to eat.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt hardly integrated with the Italian culture-perhaps it was a combination of my unwillingness to go out and party every night because I didn't have the money, the Italian men are predatory and made me feel super uncomfortable and being blonde and blue-eyed made me a target for stares even in broad daylight. After awhile, I felt unwilling to associate with most Italians because many of them were rude or unhelpful, so that was a big factor as well.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not approach the administration with my healthcare problems, but the people who did had almost no problems. Italy's healthcare system is very good.

* Safety:

There were several thefts, but all of them were due to the people being intoxicated and making stupid mistakes. It was usually pretty safe to walk around the streets at night if you avoided bars and nightclubs. Usually Italian men would go away after you told them to go away 2 or 3 times.

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


* 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)

If you managed your money correctly, you could have plenty food to eat. I knew people who were pawning jewelry to feed themselves, and I also knew people who had plenty of money left at the end of the semester, it just depended on how much people partied and how many trips they took to other countries.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent anywhere from 20 euros to 300 a week depending on where I was and what I was doing.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't go out for drinks constantly. If you feel the need to hang out with people at bars, just don't buy anything, they jack prices up for drinks.


* 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

This is one thing I think the program did pretty well. The administrators were always speaking to us in Italian and setting up events to meet Italian students.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I took 4 years of Spanish, 1 year of French, and one year of Latin in high school, which very much helped me learn 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? Find an inexpensive cafe and go every day. The barkeep will get to know you, and you'll start to recognize faces and possibly start conversations with other regulars. But always use the local language, even if people who work there speak English.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • It allowed for a lot of traveling to other countries.
  • I loved that they did group trips. It helped bond the group together and showed us the country from a local perspective rather than a touristy one.
* What could be improved?
  • The roommate selection process.
  • The difficulty of the courses.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How to be patient with traveling and just sit back and relax when there are strikes or unexpected difficulties-sometimes, it's fun to just goof off with friends instead of having everything planned out.

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!