Each year, Perugia becomes home to more than just Umbra students. Over 40,000 students attend the Università degli Studi di Perugia, one of the oldest universities in the world, and the Università per Stranieri, a school that boasts a large number of international students. The result is a city rich in cultural flavor, one that is constantly injected with new life and vigor from its diverse student population.
Since 2006, The Umbra Institute has opened its doors to Italian students from these local universities who want to ‘study abroad’ without leaving the city center. Each semester, 10 to 15 Italian students apply and are selected to immerse themselves in the American education system, taking one to two Umbra courses taught in English in exchange for 25 service hours. These hours are spent assisting Umbra Italian professors with classroom activities; attending TANDEM language exchanges and the UNICEF Pigotta doll volunteer opportunity; and organizing cultural events for Umbra students such as an outing to the Italian university cafeteria or observing a festa di laurea (graduation ceremony).
These service hours are designed to integrate American and Italian university students together and create an international learning environment where ideas and languages can be exchanged daily. More than internationalizing the classroom and building intercultural skills, the cooperation encourages friendships and long-lasting memories during their shared semester ‘abroad’.
Francesca Frittelle, a Spring 2014 Italian student, spoke about her motivations for applying to Umbra. “Besides having the chance to improve my English, I have found a place where I can get to know people my age from another country without leaving Perugia. The lessons are very interesting and different from my Italian ones. I get to interact constantly with the American students thanks to the stimulating environment and professors. I couldn’t be happier here and love Umbra for this opportunity!”