By Kate Donati, College of William and Mary and Spring ’19 Umbra Rep
If you’re like most students who come to study here, you have never heard of our little city before. I bet you a Turan Café cappuccino that you couldn’t tell me what region Perugia is in without peeking at a map. You’re definitely not alone! I had no idea that this place, that I now call home, even existed before clicking ‘apply’ all those months ago. And this is secretly one of the most beautiful things about Perugia. It’s a town relatively untouched by the waves of tourism that (some claim) have taken over Florence and Rome. Perugia is a university town that is not only used to an influx of students but welcomes them with the all the warmth of an authentic Italian grandma.
There are so many reasons to choose Perugia I don’t even know where to start…
The classes and staff at Umbra!
Reasons to study abroad vary from student to student but even though you might think you want nothing more than an extended spring break, the academics of your program should be near the top of your list. Umbra offers a wide range of class subjects, from ceramics to international marketing to psychology to contemporary Italian culture. There is something here for every major — yes, even the bio majors can find time in their rigid scheduling to study abroad. There’s no better place to study Renaissance art, the fine art of cooking and sustainability, or European Union market regulations than in Italy, and the small class sizes at Umbra mean you can really delve into the subject with your professors and on field trips to every part of the peninsula. You can also be assured of your professor’s interest in not only their subject but in helping you to succeed, and you’ll definitely be on a first name basis with the entire staff. (This picture was taken on my class trip to Pisa and Siena — after you spend the night in Pisa, you wake up leaning like the tower.)
The authenticity of Perugia!
While studying in Florence or Rome can be comforting, knowing you’ll be surrounded by a buffer of other English-speaking foreign students. If you’re looking for the most authentic “Italian experience” you can find, it’s the smaller cities you’re looking for. You will not only be able to witness the Perugini going about their daily lives, you actually get to participate in their customs and interact with locals. In the fall, Perugia is host to a huge chocolate festival and you get to bask in the gorgeous Christmas decorations. Spring semester brings the festivities of Carnivale, Easter, and the International Journalism Festival. The summer brings Umbria Jazz and the best opportunities for people-watching. The Umbra Institute hosts plenty of cultural exchanges with Italian students who want to practice their English, but beyond the walls of school, you can’t help but interact with native Perugini. The cafés, bars, clubs, restaurants, and gelaterias are all locally-owned and just bursting with opportunities for you to practice your Italian.
The people you meet along the way!
You’ll probably hear an echo of this same sentiment from every study abroad program, and to a certain degree, it’s always true. No matter where you choose to study abroad, you will find your tribe of people that just get you. Your travel partners, going-out squad, classmates, and flat mates are the only people who truly understand how profound (in any sense of the word) of an impact your time studying abroad has on you. You will find these people wherever you go — I’ve found, however, that the bonds just feel even stronger in Perugia. Maybe it’s because it’s a smaller program, or maybe it’s the hills we have to climb together, or maybe it’s something else entirely — something about this program that attracts people that tend to just fit together.
Ultimately, you come to Perugia for the program, for the classes, and for the cultural immersion. You’ll come back for the people and the memories you make here. (And the chocolate.)