Community Engagement


Community Engagement

At the Umbra Institute, building a meaningful connection with the local community, both as a student and an active participant in the Italian culture is an integral aspect of studying abroad. For this reason, Umbra offers students a diversified curriculum that incorporates the immense educational resources of Italy, particularly in the city of Perugia, through community engagement.

Community engagement at Umbra is the cornerstone of our educational philosophy and is the collaborative process of combining academic study and work with community partners through ongoing dialogue, planning, research, and action. As a result, students benefit from intercultural exchange, language acquisition, and a more global perspective.

Umbra actively maintains vibrant, well-established relationships with its partners in Perugia—local artisan and internationally recognized companies, schools, city and regional governments, fair trade cooperatives, museums, and Italian families. This reciprocal collaboration allows students to incorporate real-world practice with theoretical coursework.

  • Seminars and Practicum Courses

  • Community-Based Courses

  • Courses with Service-Learning

  • Volunteering Opportunities

Umbra students may choose from a variety of opportunities to interact with the local community, which becomes one of the most rewarding aspects of their time abroad. Offerings include community engagement seminars and practica, community-based courses, service-learning projects integrated into elective courses, summer internships, volunteering, independent research, extracurricular activities, and language exchanges. 

Students that participate in community engagement list those experiences as the most rewarding aspects of their time abroad.

EDUC-PSYC 355 – Critical Disabilities Studies Seminar and Practicum

In this seminar and practicum course students work closely with VIVA Sports Association, which is the first athletic program for children and young adults with motor and/or intellectual disabilities in Perugia. Students will assist the professional staff in managing the athletic activities, helping children and adults with a variety of disabilities play sports, including fencing, ping-pong, volleyball, and basketball in order to develop social and motor skills. In addition, students will also collaborate with VIVA staff in designing new activities for participants.


How Can You Participate

During the application process, students indicate the community engagement course(s) they wish to enroll in. Once Orientation Week in Perugia begins, students are invited to attend the Cultural Immersion Information Session, an overview of the semester’s community engagement offerings. This is a great time for general inquiries and to ask about specific opportunities. Students can also refer to individual course descriptions for more details and requirements to enroll. Opportunities include:


Those studying abroad at the Umbra Institute are not just students in Perugia, but also temporary citizens. More often than not, Umbra students come to think of their adopted city as a second home. An integral part of this process is building connections with the local community and Italians of all ages and walks of life – relationships that Umbra strives to foster every semester.

With this goal in mind, Umbra offers an array of volunteer opportunities during the fall and spring semesters to engage and challenge students of diverse interests and levels of Italian. By giving your time, you will find yourself to be a truly welcomed and valued part of a bustling volunteer community while creating some of the most memorable experiences of your study abroad. Opportunities include:

Seminar and Practicum Courses

Umbra Community Engagement Seminars and Practica are 3-credit elective courses divided into two parts – the seminar, or in-class lectures, and the practicum, or applied work experience with a local institution in Perugia. Both components complement one another to provide hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge in your chosen field of study.

Community-Based Courses

These courses utilize comparative readings and discussions, participatory field research, and exercises with the local community to understand the relationships between people, places, actions, and values.

Courses with Service-Learning

Service-learning abroad links classroom critical thinking, academic theory, and personal reflection with service in the host community. Many General Studies courses include a service-learning component that allows students to become active participants in community partner projects.

The benefits of integrating service-learning into the study abroad program are numerous. Students gain real-world experience in an international environment, innovative skills in problem-solving and intercultural communication, along with a sense of the purpose for learning and respect for others. For the most current service-learning projects, please visit the Fall or Spring semester Courses Offered pages.

If you would like to discuss specific academic requirements or interests, please send an email to [email protected].