Program alumni are the best resources for students interested in going abroad, and they are available to answer your questions. If you would like to talk to a recent student about their experience in Italy, get in touch with the advisor, Alessandra Capossela.
Ava Rigelhaupt, Sarah Lawrence College, Florence
Returning from studying in Florence for a semester, I can proudly say I can carry a conversation in Italian! It’s a huge accomplishment, seeing as I nervously flew to Italy knowing not a word. Upon arriving, many of my worries – including those about the Middlebury Language Pledge – were alleviated with the warmest welcome by staff and professors.
As a student on the beginner track, my Italian language class was the majority of my schedule, meeting four times a week. I always looked forward to Italian. I love learning languages, and I like to talk. I knew I couldn’t be silent for four months, so I thought, “guess I’m learning Italian!” My other classes were Art History and Contemporary Italian Society. From walking tours of the city, class trips to famous museums, and memorable gestures like having conferences at favorite local cafés, the interactions with my professors were integral parts of my time abroad. I felt very supported by my professors who really cared about my experience.
Exploring Italy was another integral part of my time abroad. I love that Middlebury offered educational excursions to places such as Ravenna to learn about Dante Alighieri and mosaics, Siena for Renaissance art history, and even Matera in the south for a unique weekend of exploring le grotte (grottos in English). These trips were some of my most exciting experiences abroad. For me, they were a chance to explore places and monuments that I might not easily see, or that are not as well known. Most trips were conducted completely in Italian. As a beginner, I slowly began challenging myself to participate in discussions. Middlebury does an amazing job creating an atmosphere where students are encouraged to speak with peers and natives, even if you make tons of mistakes – which I know I did!
I am so glad I chose to study in Florence through the unique Middlebury College program. During my four months abroad, I made new friends with international and American students, learned all about Renaissance art history through seeing the original artworks, experienced local culture while learning about how it was formed, and ho imparato una lingua nuova (I learned a new language). Which was one of my main goals for studying in Italy, along with eating tons of pasta!
Nick Wilbur, Wheaton College, Florence
The year I spent living in Florence was one of the best years of my life.
In addition to the obvious architectural and natural beauty of the city, the Middlebury Program in Florence also allowed me to experience countless aspects of life in Italy otherwise unavailable to American students. For instance, the program’s immersive approach of enrolling students directly at the University of Florence (where they take classes taught in Italian alongside Florentine peers) gave me the opportunity to experience an academic setting, style and structure completely different from that of my home institution, and thus allowed me to grow greatly as a student. Additionally, because students of the Middlebury Program have access to a wide variety of courses at the Italian university of their city, I was able to take classes in subjects as wide-ranging as literature, contemporary history, and advanced statistics. The courses at the Middlebury Center were also fantastic; the class sizes were small, the material highly engaging, and the professors kind and enthusiastic to the point that I look forward greatly to a continued correspondence with some far into the future.
Finally, the Middlebury Program also gave me the opportunity to improve both my resume and the strength of application for graduate programs. Unlike most students, I chose to study abroad for the entirety of my senior year while actively applying to law schools; during this process, not only was the staff of the Middlebury Center very helpful with any credit-related questions I might have had, but both the development of my complete fluency in the Italian language and the hands-on internship experience I gained in the office of an Italian criminal defense attorney I believe helped me stand out greatly as a law school candidate, and contributed to my acceptance at Southern Methodist University’s Law School for this fall.
For all of these reasons, and for countless others, I would recommend the Middlebury study abroad program to anybody with a desire to fully immerse themselves in a foreign culture, and to thus grow personally in innumerable ways.
Keaton Schrank, Wheaton College, Ferrara
Even though I was in my third year of studying the Italian language, I still felt incredibly nervous about going to Ferrara and taking classes at the university. At the beginning of the semester, I remember feeling like there was no way that I could pass my exams in Italian and that I would have to struggle through the entire semester. However, the Middlebury staff and my Italian friends assured me that I could pass my classes, and, after some hard work, I ended up passing all of my classes with flying colors. My academic work has always been extremely important to me so I did focus quite a bit on academics, but my semester in Ferrara was about so much more than grades.
Living in a city where English isn’t widely spoken was certainly a challenge, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. Though it could be frustrating at times, being immersed in the Italian culture and language allowed me to experience a whole new way of life and meet some truly extraordinary people. Not only did I improve upon my Italian language skills, but I also learned to see the world in a whole new way and experience a completely different way of life. From class field trips to Rome (no big deal, right?) and eating traditional homemade pasta to exploring a medieval castle and running a 5k through the historic part of the city, my semester in Italy was truly remarkable, and I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to experience life in Ferrara!
Kelsa Danforth, Sarah Lawrence College, Florence
Florence was a life changing experience which left me with the skills needed to not only live in, but to flourish in a foreign country. It was intimidating to arrive in a city where everything from the language to the process of ordering a coffee was new for me. However, with the one-on-one attention from professors and meeting like minded college students, learning Italian and acclimating to the culture became an exciting adventure.
My studies in art history and the Italian language were greatly expanded by living in a city with such a rich cultural foundation, architecture, and way of life. I found that I appreciated Botticelli’s Primavera, for instance, much more when I could take a short walk over to the Uffizi Gallery after class and see, first- hand, one of the most remarkable pieces to come out of the Italian Renaissance.
The Middlebury academic system was designed to be very supportive in learning to speak Italian. At first, I didn’t think I was capable of taking on the Language Pledge, a written agreement saying that I would have to speak and write in Italian during my time in Florence. However, it challenged me to interact and converse with more locals in their native language, consequently giving me greater insight into Italian culture. Florence was a fascinating city to study abroad in because it is a living testament to Italy’s golden age while also entertaining the political discourse of today’s social and economic issues. By the end of the semester, I would walk through the streets of Florence with the feeling that I had found a new home.