Student Activities & Travel
If anyone tells you study abroad is solely about your experience in the classroom, they could not be more wrong. That’s why at Umbra, we care a lot about your time outside of class as well. For study abroad to truly transform you, you must integrate your academic achievements with your cultural discoveries and personal development.
The Umbra Institute taps into the rich cultural resources of the Italian community, supplementing the academic program with an exciting list of activities and events. We’ve got the tandem language exchange, cooking lessons, aperitivo social mixers with international and Italian students, intramural soccer games, a night at the opera, local fairs, food tastings and cultural workshops, and so much more. Each semester the list expands as new activities are added based on what’s happening around town. Most events are optional but highly recommended—these are excellent opportunities to immerse yourself more fully in Italian life.
And that’s not all. The Institute offers many ongoing opportunities for volunteer work, service learning, and community-based experiences in Perugia. These projects give you hands-on experience and extraordinary exposure to the culture, language, and people of Italy. Umbra courses are experiential and rely on out-of-the-classroom learning in the form of field trips, excursions, workshops, practicums, internships, and service-learning and community-based activities and assignments. Additional immersion opportunities are offered in education, journalism, environmental care, museum studies, working with the disabled, and many other fields sure to inspire and fulfill you.
Finally, as great as Perugia is, we know you’ll also want to wander. That’s why you decided to study abroad in the first place – to see new sights and savor new delights. Good news: Perugia is a perfect staging point for weekend travel in Umbria and Tuscany, and the bus and rail system means you are only a couple hours away from popular destinations such as Rome and Florence. The newly renovated Sant’Egidio airport in Assisi now offers flights to London, Barcelona, Brussels, Monaco, Bucharest, and many more.
Presented here are just a few examples of activities offered each session:
Students at the Umbra Institute take part in Umbra Pizza Night, Umbra Gelato Night, sports events, and various other activities, connecting and engaging with their classmates and the Umbra staff and faculty. Each semester, students explore and create new social activities based on their interests and curiosity.
The Umbra Institute offers one weekend trip each semester, in addition to numerous co-curricular day trips. These longer trips may include destinations such as Capri, Sorrento, Venice, or Cinque Terre; they might also be closer to home, taking students to local treasures such as Cortona, Florence, or the nearby Perugina Chocolate factory. Weekend hiking and camping opportunities are also available in the verdant hills and mountains surrounding Perugia. The optional trips are offered at the most affordable prices possible.
Cuisine, Cooking and Culture
Cooking Class and Visit to San Gemini and Carsulae (Terni)
Students learn how to prepare traditional Italian dishes with fresh ingredients from local farmers in a beautiful 17th century palazzo. After the class and meal, students visit San Gemini, an Umbrian medieval village, and the Roman city of Carsuale, one of Italy’s most important archaeological sites.
Weekly Aperitivo at Local Winery
The aperitivo begins with a brief introduction to the winemaking process and a visit to the vinification and ageing area. Students then participate in a guided tasting of three wines, local Umbrian meats, and bruschette with extra virgin olive oil.
Bevagna and Montefalco
Tour and Tastings at Tenuta Castelbuono Winery and Lunch
The visit to Tenuta Castelbuono Winery is a journey into the world of art and wine. Its Carapace, the cellar designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro, is the first sculpture in the world in which one can live and work. After the tour, students enjoy a delicious aperitivo with a guided tasting of three wines and local Umbrian meats and cheeses.
Community engagement at the Umbra Institute has organically evolved into the guiding principle behind all academic initiatives. It informs and inspires our practicums, community-based research, service learning, and volunteer opportunities. Read more about community engagement during study abroad.
In recent years, the Umbra Institute has pursued various opportunities for interested students to serve the community. Current students give their time and energy in a variety of ways—at museums, churches, synagogues, schools, elder care facilities, centers for the developmentally disabled, and other nonprofits in and around Perugia. We’ve recently teamed up with UNICEF on a unique project. For two hours a week, Umbra students work alongside Italian volunteers and university students to sew Pigotta (Raggedy Ann) dolls, the symbol of UNICEF in Italy. Once the dolls are completed, they are “adopted” to raise funds for vaccinations that save mothers and children in developing countries—UNICEF provides these women with vaccination kits. Umbra students who have participated in this program have found the work to be incredibly meaningful: the fruits of their time in Italy now play out on the global stage.
Tandem Language Exchange
At the Umbra Institute, we are passionate about cultural immersion—so passionate that we offer a weekly language exchange called “Tandem.” This is an informal social gathering between Umbra students and local Italian students. The students serve as mutual language partners for one another in both English and Italian, meeting at pizzerias, bars, cinemas, and cafés to improve language skills and make lifelong friends.
Course Field Trips and Excursions
Nearly all courses at the Umbra Institute include excursions and “field trips” designed to enrich students’ appreciation for the material studied in the classroom. Students may visit churches and museums throughout Italy, explore ancient libraries and printing presses, work in vineyards and olive groves, visit small artisan companies, participate in Etruscan digs, and more.
Cultural and Practical Workshops
Students are offered a wide variety of cultural workshops to participate in each semester. Each workshop introduces a different aspect of Italian culture. Students are also invited to several practical workshops during the semester to help guide them with useful information on travel in Italy and Europe, presentation skills, reentry into the U.S., and more. Workshops include, but are not limited to:
Italians love their coffee! But each prefers it his or her own way, whether it be macchiato, corto, lungo, corretto, or al vetro. In this workshop, students learn about coffee’s history and domestication in Ethiopia and exportation from the Yemeni port of Mokha, then move on to processing coffee and how coffee-making is different in Italy. The workshop closes with a demonstration by an Umbra staff member of how to use the Italian moka coffeemaker, as well as tasting various kinds of Italian-style coffees. The best part of waking up…is this workshop in your cup.
This workshop is offered early in the semester and provides invaluable details on trains, budget airlines, youth hostels, avoiding pickpockets, and other essential elements of travel. Afterward, students are well equipped to travel independently throughout Italy and Europe.
How to make a Brick Oven Pizza
In this workshop, students are introduced to the history of pizza in Italy, starting with the introduction of each ingredient and ending with pizza’s privileged place in Italian culture. Students then make their own pizza in an authentic wood-fired oven, guided by an Italian pizzaiolo. Afterward, they all feast on the fruits of their efforts. Mamma mia, that’s good.
Re-entry and Dealing with Returning Home
Toward the end of the semester, Umbra hosts a “Preparing to Go Home Workshop” to help students plan for their return to the U.S. both mentally and physically (i.e., logistics, customs, preparing for “reverse culture shock”). Umbra staff explains some of the challenges and opportunities that await students back home after a semester abroad. Umbra also hosts an “Unpacking Your International Experience” workshop before students depart to provoke reflection and provide resources for the future. In this session, students start to articulate their new intercultural competence and skills to showcase on their résumés and in future job interviews.
Showcase Your Talents and Research
At the end of each semester, the Umbra Institute hosts a farewell festa and a week of special academic events including the student art show, community engagement presentations, research poster sessions, and a creative writing open-mic night. It’s a time of celebration to toast a semester of success—a triumphant way for students to say goodbye to Perugia, and hello to everything that comes next.