Students perspective: Learning Italian is one thing…

(Stephanie Brown Liberal Arts - Fall Semester 2014)

Learning Italian is one thing; learning how to use your Italian to initiate conversations with locals is another. But if studying abroad does anything for you, it gives you confidence to conquer foreign situations without ever breaking a sweat. It gives you the confidence to fully immerse yourself in a city that is not your own.


A couple of weeks ago, a few friends in my photography class and I passed a store with a man working on a loom inside. We all stopped in front of the store, mesmerized by his actions. In an effort to immerse myself in the Sienese culture, I told my friends I was going to go inside to ask the man if I could take a photo of him at work.


My friends followed me into the store and we began to photograph him and his store full of handmade scarves, jackets, and hats. We eventually started up a conversation with the man, Antonio, and his wife who both own the store. After talking with them a bit, he gestured at me to sit on the bench to work with the loom. I carefully slid onto the bench as he started to explain to me, in full Italian, how to use it. I understood enough to accomplish stringing together a few lines of the material. I now not only have more confidence to initiate conversations with Italians, but I learned a cool new skill! You may never know what Siena has to offer you without some confidence, a little Italian, and the willingness to fail, try again, and succeed.


Students perspective - Immersion: but in what exactly? Everything, so learn some Italian first

(Danielle Dustin Gagnon, Liberal Arts - Fall 2014)

The term full immersion is thrown around a lot in the preparation process to study abroad and it begins to take on a blurry all-encompassing form that loses meaning. Now, more than a month after arriving in Siena, it’s apparent we dove into a sea of art, food, and language. And for me, I was less equipped in terms of language skills than I might have hoped. Here are the top five phrases we use regularly and make all the difference.

1) Dove il bagno? Where is the restroom?

That’s the first. Just learn it, you’re going to ask for it a lot in bars and cafes. Public restrooms are rare and free ones are even harder to find.

2) Mi piace/ Vorrei I like/ I would like.

These are perfect beginnings to sentences and you instantly feel so proud of yourself when you can express to your host mother what kind of foods you like and what you would like for breakfast. On that note, look up how to say some of the foods you like. And don’t rely on other romance languages you know to carry all the weight or you’ll find out why you’ve been having so many beans when you learn legumes and legumi are not direct translations.

3) Che significa? Come sei dice? Non capito? What does this mean? How do you say this? I don’t understand. 

These also have made their way onto my most frequently used list. But that’s ok, and these phrases have been infinitely helpful and make me feel better than only being able to shrug my shoulder and look confusedly mute.

4) Parli inglese? Io parlo un po’ di italiano. Do you speak English? I speak Italian a little.
There are going to be times in a stores, particularly the phone stores where you know you aren’t going to be able to navigate your way through a conversation of cell phone plans. They probably guess that’s the case but you get brownie points for asking in Italian.

5) Il cibo è molto buono! This food is good!

This is a must know. At meals your host family will look at you expectantly, watching for your reactions as you try the food. I at least got self-conscious with that many eyes watching me, so having something to say really helped. Your host mother will love it.

So before you leave for Siena, grab a phrase book and teach yourself some of these helpful phrases. You’ll be able to skip some of the language shock and go right to enjoying everything around you!

Students perspective: Studying while Traveling

(Krista Menzel - Liberal Arts - Fall Semester 2014)

Traveling to different cities is one of the great things about studying in Italy, because each city is very unique. This past weekend the Art History 2 class got to visit Florence. Being in the presents of the art we are learning about makes this Art History class more memorable and enjoyable than any other Art History class I have taken before. It was amazing to be able to see two of the most famous “David” sculptures one by Michelangelo and the other by Donatello. There were many other fantastic works of art that we admired.


When in Florence we were able to learn about the masterpieces we were standing in front of. We also got to experience the city. We saw David and the Duomo, bought wine off of a cart pulled by oxen, walked across the Ponte Vecchio, and of course ate gelato.



Florence and the other cities we visit are always exciting, but at the end of the day, we are all glad to be living in beautiful Siena.

Students perspective: Top 5 things to bring with you in Siena

(Hannah Delphine Ayers - Liberal Arts - Fall Semester 2014)

I have only been in Siena, Italy for a short while, but I am already growing accustomed to the wonderfully slower pace of life. Time is different in Siena. The city itself has aged gracefully, and I can only assume that Siena will get even better with age. I have already learned more that I could have imagined about the rich Sienese lifestyle. The people, the food, and the surroundings are the greatest aspects of the city, and getting to discover all of these things is so exciting.


Whether you are planning a trip right now, or daydreaming about traveling to Siena in the future, there are a few important things that will make your time in this city a perfectly positive experience. These are things that I am quite pleased I brought with me, and my friends and I agree that every Sienese adventure should include:

Good walking shoes!

Every single shoe you bring should be a good walking shoe. Keep in mind that you will want a variety of footwear, but each shoe you pack has to be comfortable for at least a two mile walk.


A scarf is a good way to dress up an outfit among the stylish Italian crowd. Scarves are light items to pack, and a scarf is an easy layer to take on or off depending on how the weather changes during the day. You can also use scarves to cover up when you go into churches.


A water bottle!

Don’t forget your favorite water bottle! All of the walking and exploring you will be doing everyday will make you thirsty. Staying hydrated is healthy, plus you will save money on not buying drinks everyday.


Most people in Italy do not snack, but the one thing I have missed since moving here is snacking. Having a little something to eat between meals will help you transition to eating dinner at 8 o’clock. If you bring some small snacks with you, you can use it on your first few days in Siena while you pick your favorite place to grocery shop. Also it will make layovers in the airport more bearable!

A good backpack!

This is so important. Your backpack should be comfortable and big enough to fit your books, laptop, lunch, umbrella, jacket, etc. Usually, you will be carrying everything that you will need all day, with you all day. This bag is also quite useful to take on weekend trips. Another nice quality of backpacks is that they keep your hands free for taking photos and eating tons of gelato!


These are all smart decisions to make, but the best decision of all is deciding to study at the Siena School for Liberal Arts!  

Students perspective - Day one: Sweet satisfaction!

(Sophia Garcia Sustainability Track -  Fall Semester 2014)

I knew the word for pasta, pizza and the environment. That was it. All I knew about Italian culture was that their food is amazing, the people were loud and the country has more historical landmarks then they knew what to do with.


Coming to Italy I did not know what to expect. I had never been out of the Americas, I did not know the language and I was going to live in someones home. But when I sat down to dinner on my first night in Siena, I knew the Slow Food Movement was alive and well.


The mother gestured me to sit down at the table, which lay right in the middle of the kitchen. Wonderful smells radiated from the oven and on top of the kitchen counter. For dinner we had cabbage and potato soup with a dollop of chili, cracked black pepper and a thin layer of grated Parmesan cheese. Perfection. The soup was as thin as water but held the flavor of the simple ingredients.


Once I was finished my bowl was taken away and a plate lay underneath. Slices of pork wrapped in Sienese bread and bacon, roasted vegetables and cut tomatoes in olive oil and a pinch of salt were placed on my plate. A bread basket was passed my way and red wine was in my reach. I waited to see how my host family ate the food and dove right in after them.
I could not understand the mother but we had a common language, food. 
A wide smile gently humming and wide eyes could only mean one thing. Sweet satisfaction. And this was only day one.

Dreaming your study abroad in Siena, Italy? Meet us at your campus!

This Fall our program representative Anya Maslack is participating in several Study Abroad Fairs! Find the dates out here and make sure to come and meet us when we are at your campus!

Sept. 18th - from 11am to 2:30pm
Brandeis University - GO AWAY!
Levin Ballroom, -  Usdan Student Center.

Sept. 22nd -  from 4pm to 6pm
Amherst College - Study Abroad Fair
Keefe Campus Center

Sept. 23rd  -  from 6pm to 8pm 
Mount Holyoke College - College Study Abroad Fair
Chapin Auditorium 

Sept. 24th - from 11am to 3pm
Williams College - Study Abroad Fair 
Lasell Gymnasium

Oct. 2nd - from 4pm to 6:30pm
Oberlin’s College - Annual Study Away Fair
Lobby of Peters Hall

Oct. 8th -  from 1pm to 3pm
Clark University - Study Abroad Fair
Tilton Hall, Higgins University Center at Clark University

Nov. 4th -  from 10am to  2:30pm 
Swarthmore College - Study Abroad Fair
Upper Tarble, Clothier Hall Swarthmore College’s Off-Campus Study Office

(Photo: Kara Johnson, Spring Semester 2014 student)