Italian Language and Culture at the Umbra Institute
Learning the language and culture of the host country should be an integral part of every study abroad opportunity. For this reason, all semester students are enrolled in Italian as part of their curriculum. They are also encouraged to take advantage of Umbra’s many programs and activities, which are designed to quickly improve their proficiency in Italian and understanding of the culture. (Please note: Italian is not required for the summer General Studies and Archaeology programs.) Opportunities are available for students at every level of Italian proficiency; they include the following:
Italian Language During the Semester
- Welcome Week Italian Language Instruction
- Italian Language Courses
- Additional Immersion Opportunities
Italian Language During the Summer
Welcome Week Italian Language Instruction
Immediately after orientation, students begin a week-long welcome week program dedicated to familiarizing themselves with their new surroundings in Perugia and Italy. The program includes Italian language study in the classroom and workshops throughout the city that simulate real-life situations. This welcome week serves to allow students to get to know the city and its resources, make them feel comfortable using Italian daily, and feel more confident when confronting the challenges of everyday life in a foreign environment.
The welcome week Italian language program involves eight hours of in-class grammar, vocabulary, phrases and pronunciation studies on three mornings, followed by afternoon session during which students apply the language to “get around town” and engage in everyday life.
Italian Language Courses
Upon completion of the intensive week of Italian, the semester courses begin. Part of every Umbra student’s curriculum is a mandatory Italian language class. Students with advanced proficiency may instead take an elective course taught entirely in Italian to satisfy this language requirement. Umbra offers language courses across five levels, from beginner to intermediate and advanced, in both standard and intensive versions. Students will be placed in the most suitable course after a placement test.
Umbra’s language training emphasizes a communicative approach in the classroom, together with a strong cultural educational component, to encourage students to develop a more nuanced understanding of contemporary Italian society, both in general and in its local expression. To help make this possible, cultural activities outside the classroom are incorporated into each course’s mandatory curriculum. These include interviews with locals, visits to festivals and social events, sports games and biweekly language exchanges with Italian university students, an event known as “Tandem”.
Italian Language Course Offerings
All Italian Language, Culture and Reflection courses are 4 credits and meet for 60 contact hours a semester. The Italian language courses offered at Umbra are:
Italian 101 – Living Perugia: Elementary Language, Culture, and Reflection I
Italian 102 – Living Perugia: Elementary Language, Culture, and Reflection II
Italian 201 – Experiencing Perugia: Intermediate Language, Culture, and Reflection I
Italian 202 – Experiencing Perugia: Intermediate Language, Culture, and Reflection II
Italian 301 – Perugia and Beyond: Advanced Grammar, Conversation and Cultural Reflection
iCourses – An Umbra Exclusive
Although most students who study in Italy are beginners and have never taken a course in Italian before, many are at the intermediate or higher level when they arrive in Perugia. The intermediate level can sometimes be frustrating and awkward as students know the basic material but lack the venue or confidence to use it regularly. Many feel it would be useful to begin to use what they have learned in a classroom setting, but they are not fully prepared for a course taught entirely in Italian at the advanced level. For these students, Umbra has developed the “iCourse” where “i” stands for Italian.
For these students, Umbra has developed the Italian Language Lab or i-Course. This one-credit lab can be attached to any intermediate and advanced Italian language classes to add a content and conversation session in Italian. Thus, students enroll in the Ital 201, 202, or 301 add a 1-credit lab component, with one additional weekly class hour. The i-Course provides a bridge between intermediate proficiency and daily use of the language for increased and enhanced learning. The Italian portion is paced, carefully monitored and taught at the appropriate level for complete comprehension. It’s Umbra’s way to enrich and supplement the study abroad experience by adding a motivating Italian linguistic element to elective courses with a unique, tailored experience.
To learn more about iCourse offerings, click here.
Additional Immersion Opportunities
The Umbra Institute is passionate about cultural immersion and inspiring students to break out of the American “bubble” that study abroad often creates. To further the intercultural competence of its students, Umbra boasts a number of engagement initiatives to get our students out and about and connected with the local Italian community.
Perugia as a Classroom
Perugia is a mid-sized city with a strong tradition of hosting students from around the world who come to study the Italian language. Because of the authentic regional environment, Italian can and often must be used, setting the stage for a richer study abroad experience. Language classes at the Umbra Institute include a strong cultural component, frequently using the city as a living laboratory. Each semester begins with a week-long program of immersion: afternoons are dedicated to “getting around town” and include out-of-the-classroom exercises and excursions, all conducted in Italian.
Click here to learn more about life in Perugia.
Italian University Students at the Umbra Institute
One of the most attractive and unique aspects of the Umbra Institute is its relationship with the Università di Perugia and the Università per Stranieri di Perugia, which allows Italian university students to earn credit by enrolling in elective courses at Umbra. As a way to build further ties between American and Italian students, Umbra orchestrates various community engagement activities such as volunteer workshops, language tutoring, and organized social outings. Sharing both community activities and the classroom with Italian students stimulates discussion, broadens intercultural awareness, and deepens cross-cultural understanding.
Tandem Language Exchange Program
To further the intercultural competence of its students, Umbra offers its famous Tandem Night. Tandem Night is a bi-weekly event that brings approximately 100 Umbra Institute and local Italian university students together to practice their respective languages, compare cultural practices, and forge friendships in an informal setting. From the very beginner to the very advanced, foreign language ability varies for both Italian and American participants, making for an ideal exchange. During Tandem, Umbra students and Italian students find themselves acting as mutually beneficial language partners, tutors, cultural mentors, and life-long friends.
The SoloItaliano Challenge is an initiative unique to Umbra through which students embrace their opportunities for full linguistic immersion. This initiative inspires students to voluntarily put their newly-acquired Italian language skills into a competitive game setting outside of the classroom for two entire days. To begin the challenge, students of all language levels are invited to swear to speak only in Italian at home, at Umbra, and around Perugia. Participants are then monitored by their peers as they learn to live and think in Italian.
Focus on Community Engagement
True to the Umbra Institute’s mission of immersing students in the local culture and fostering strong linguistic skills, community engagement in Perugia offers a hands-on opportunity to develop interpersonal interests and deepen the overall cultural experience. Many courses within the general studies curriculum have a service learning or community outreach component that pulls students out of their comfort zone and challenges them to understand Italian culture and communicate with locals.
Click here to learn more about community engagement opportunities at Umbra.
Direct Enrollment Programs
For the academically and culturally ambitious, Umbra offers programs for students to enroll directly in a local Italian university for an authentic, immersive experience. Students will be assisted with every step of the direct enrollment process by experienced Umbra faculty and staff. They are welcome to participate in Italian university life as locals do, but with a support structure available to assist them any time they require it. Scheduled meetings include weekly tutorial sessions and special office hours, during which students can discuss their experiences or address any issues that may arise. They can also seek additional aid in the form of in-depth, personalized subject review, and with the development of specific linguistic skills.
Click the links below to learn about Umbra’s Direct Enrollment options at:
Università per Stranieri di Perugia, (Italian Language and Culture Program)
Università degli Studi di Perugia, (Elective courses from a variety of disciplines, taught in the Italian language)
Accademia di Belle Arti (Elective courses relative to the arts, taught in the Italian language)
The Summer Intensive Italian through Culture Program
The six-week Intensive Italian through Culture program (4 + 4 credits) takes place from late May to early July, allowing students to participate in a myriad of exciting, traditional summer events. The program is conducted entirely in Italian and is open to students of all levels of language proficiency. Students actively learn, both in class and during interactive co-curricular cultural activities. These activities include language exchanges, day and overnight trips, social events, sports games, museum visits, and guided tours conducted exclusively in Italian.
Click here to learn more about the Intensive Italian through Culture Summer Program.