May 8 - June 7, 2020
While the UWG Italy Study Abroad Program in Spoleto is housed in the Department of English, we are partnering with the Department of Psychology in 2020 to offer classes in both disciplines. You do not need to be an English major or even a Psychology major, though, to participate. In fact, students from all across the university come with us each year, and we strive to provide as much diverse content as possible. The Italy program offers a maximum of nine hours of instruction in upper-division coursework, as well as language training taught by native speakers at our sister school ArteLingua in Spoleto. Students enroll in a minimum of two three-credit courses may take up to three. Class sizes are very small (with a maximum of ten students per class), and professors spend a great deal of time outside of class with students in conversation and conferencing.
For 2020, Professors Chad Davidson, Jeff Reber, and Tobin Hart will offer the following courses:
ENGL 4210: Advanced Creative Writing: Travelogue
ENGL 4384: Travel and Travail
PSYC 4085: Travel and Travail
PSYC 4350: Culture and Psychology
Remember, too, that the classroom is just one part of the educational experience abroad. Much more learning takes place on the streets of Spoleto, on the train to Rome, in a café chatting with locals. In other words, try not to base the entire trip on how you will count the courses you will take there. Studying abroad is about more than the credit hours.
Each class meets three times per week. Additionally, we take field trips each week to destinations germane to classes and built in to the overall cost of the program. Field trips focus on sites in and around Spoleto itself, and points somewhat farther afield (Rome, Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto, etc.). Those destinations will be set early in the year of travel but will almost certainly include Rome, as well as important archeological and religious sites in Spoleto. Travel costs associated with class-based field trips are included in the program.
Total cost for the 2019 summer program (excluding tuition) is $3885. This figure includes all program travel (including round trip airfare to Rome, chartered bus to and from Spoleto, and some field trips and admission costs while in Italy), accommodations in private apartments in Spoleto, four dinners per week in family-run restaurants (as well as a few other special feasts), and twelve hours of Italian language training.
The payment schedule is as follows:
February 1, 2020: $1000 due
March 1, 2020: $2000 due
April 1, 2020: remainder due
The refund schedule is as follows:
Before February 1: full refund, less a $50 administrative cost
Before March 1: $500 refund
Before April 1: $1000 refund
After April 1: no refund
Payments may be made by check (made out to "UWG"), and payable in the Office of Education Abroad in Mandeville Hall, or online via Terra Dotta (where applications are housed): studyabroad.westga.edu.
Spoleto is located about eighty miles north of Rome, in the region of Umbria. Italy is comprised of twenty regions, much like our states (only much smaller and more densely populated, on average). Umbria is one of the smallest and least populous regions of Italy, which means the surrounding area is lush, verdant, and mountainous. Though less than two hours from bustling Rome, Spoleto literally feels like another world.
Italy is six hours ahead of Georgia (Eastern Standard Time).
Total flight time to Europe is usually about ten hours, sometimes with an added layover of a few hours in Europe or the States. Flights from anywhere in Europe to Rome are about two hours. Our final destination is the Fiumicino Airport in Rome.
Italians are quite comfortable having foreigners among them. Tourism is a major industry. Subsequently, the average Italian is usually at least somewhat knowledgeable in English, while anyone dealing with tourists on a regular basis will be quite adept. In places like Rome, Florence, Venice, and the like—cities that see a great deal of tourism—English is nearly a given. In Spoleto and the smaller towns, much less so. Still, chances are very high that the average Italian knows much more English than you do Italian, so don’t worry.
On the other hand, be respectful. Don’t just assume that everyone speaks English. You will get a lot further with Italians if you show interest in their language, and at least put forth an effort to try some Italian. You will be given some “survival” language training as part of your program fee. Before leaving, however, try doing some preliminary work either online or with a book. Learn how to say “please,” “thank you,” “do you speak English?” “I don’t understand,” etc., and memorize useful information, such as numbers, days of the week, and typical food items. Familiarize yourself with the various personal pronouns (“I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “we,” “you (plural),” and “they”), and perhaps even a few key verbs (“to be,” “to have,” “to go,” “to want,” etc.). Know, too, that even some city names have been anglicized. (Florence is not “Florence” in Italian but “Firenze,” and Venice is “Venezia.”) Build a modest base in the language before you depart, and your lessons with our colleagues there will offer you much more.
As of August 2019, the exchange rate is €1 to $1.11. By the time we depart in May, however, that rate may change drastically. Keep informed. A simple web search will give you the current exchange rate.
The best way to pay in Italy is with a credit card, but one with no international transaction fees. Most credit cards will charge you a percentage each time you use them abroad, which can quickly add up. Capital One, for instance, does not charge at all. Call your credit card company and ask about a plan that allows you to use the card in Italy without any international transaction fee. If you have to, apply for a Capital One card for the trip. It’s worth it.
Italy has become much better about accepting credit cards in grocery stores, hotels, train station kiosks, etc. Still, you can’t use your credit card all the time. (That guy selling you the piece of pizza wants cash and cash only.) Be fair, too. Each transaction with a credit card costs the retailer a small fee, so use credit cards only for purchases above €10, ask up front if they accept credit cards, and be prepared with cash if they don’t. (Just like in the States, most businesses display the Visa and Mastercard logos on their doors and windows.) American Express and Discover are not as prevalent. I would discourage your bringing them.
Italy is thoroughly modernized, which means banks and ATMs (called “Bancomat”) are everywhere. No need to bring traveler’s checks (a pain) or actual U.S. currency (also a pain). Also no need to grab early euros at the money-changing kiosks in the Atlanta airport (whose rates are horrible). A simple ATM card is all you need. Once in Spoleto, simply withdraw euros from one of the many ATMs. Check with your bank, however, before leaving. That way, you can let them know that you will be traveling to Italy (and anywhere else you think you might go), since they can and will block your card if they feel the location of the transaction is out of your normal pattern. Also ask if your bank has a partner institution in Italy or if you can avoid paying international withdrawal fees. If you simply use just any ATM you see in Italy, you will be charged about $5 per withdrawal plus some percentage from your bank. If your bank does not have a partner in Italy, the $5 fee is worth the convenience. Just withdraw the maximum (€400-500), and stash it in your room. Try never to carry more than €50 on you, particularly in major urban centers, most notably Rome.
Super savvy folks might want to consider opening a Charles Schwab checking account, if only for the trip. Those accounts offer worldwide free ATM withdrawals, with absolutely no fees whatsoever. They're free and very much worth the hassle, if you plan to shop and spend while in Italy.
For the most part, Italy feels (and is) a lot safer than the U.S. Particularly in Spoleto and the other smaller towns we will visit, crime rates are very low, and violent crime is extremely rare. In larger cities like Rome, violent crime is still rare, though petty crime—like pickpocketing and purse-snatching—does happen. I’ve never once had any problem, and I have spent a great deal of time in Rome, on crowded buses, in the metro, in packed piazzas, etc. Just be smart in the big cities, as you would in Atlanta or New York. Don’t look like a tourist, don’t carry lots of cash, keep your purses and cameras tight, and stay in groups.
In any case, even in Rome, only a few situations demand any sort of vigilance: crowded subways and buses, and the main piazzas at peak times. Other than that, Rome in particular and Italy in general pose no particular threat in terms of pickpocketing. Other “dangerous” cities (like Naples and Palermo) probably will not factor into your itineraries, and just about any city north of Rome is quite safe.
Many of the guide books to Italy caution women against traveling alone at night in big cities, and that’s good advice—no matter the sex of the person in question or the country. Again, none of this really pertains to Spoleto, since it’s more the size of Carrollton. In Rome, and particularly at night, however, you would always want to travel in groups, and never down dark, untraveled streets. Most of this is just common sense, and is the same advice whether you’re in Atlanta or Rome. There is nothing especially dangerous about Italy in general or Italian men in particular. If someone does, however, make unwanted advances, simply ignore him. If that doesn’t work, find an Italian woman close by, and ask her for help. That will usually put an end to it.
This all depends on how much you plan to do while in Italy. If you stay in Spoleto each weekend, don’t travel anywhere other than where we go for field trips, and don’t buy any goods or gifts, then you can plan to spend very little. The program covers all of your lodging in Spoleto, class field trips, and dinner four nights each week. You are on your own the other nights, since many of you will take the weekends to travel to other cities. The bare minimum you should bring, then, would have to cover your breakfast and lunch each day (about €6-10 for both if you eat out, €5 or less if you prepare your own food in your apartment), and then your dinners during the weekends. If you really wanted to do this on a shoestring budget, you could survive fairly well on $300-400 for the entire trip. You would not do much traveling on your own, though, and you would not come home with many purchases.
We encourage you, instead, to take advantage of the fact that you’re in Italy with weekends free. If you want to go, say, to Florence for the weekend, stay two nights, eat out, and go to a few museums, then you will obviously need more money. A typical hostel in Italy runs anywhere from €10 to €40 per night (with varying degrees of habitability), while cheap hotels usually start around €70 per night for a double occupancy room. Trains are not cheap anymore, so expect to pay probably around €30-40 round trip from Spoleto to Florence (about a three-hour trip each way). Best guess is to plan on bringing more like $1000-1500 (at least have that ready in your account). You have to be the judge, however, of how much you plan to do, how much you are liable to buy, how you would like to live. If you want some travel ideas and their relative costs, just post to our Facebook site.
Chances are, some well-meaning relative will get wind of your trip and buy you a special money pouch or belt. That’s fine. You don’t need one, however, and they’re usually a dead giveaway for tourists—that bulky pouch around the neck, under the shirt. Best advice is this: don’t do anything differently over there. If you carry your wallet or a purse here, carry it over there. (It’s not like you’re going to some remote village in the Amazon.) In terms of the passport, when I have to carry it, I simply keep it in my front pocket. Keep things simple. No need to buy all manner of new bags and carrying cases. Save your money for Italy.
Wifi is at least as prevalent in Italy as it is here. Just look for the signs in the windows of cafés and such, order a coffee or something small, and then ask an employee for the password. Because of the density of Italian city centers, wifi is nearly a constant. Some cities--Spoleto included--feature city-wide wifi, though the narrow streets pose obvious difficulties for coverage. Don't expect lightning fast internet service.
Most likely, the cheapest way is not to call at all but to use Skype or some other internet service. Some U.S. phone plans will allow you to receive and make calls from Europe on smart phones, but the rates are often sky high. It’s best to use the internet and perhaps have your phone to use only in emergency. Check with your carrier for deals.
In Italy, as in the States, pay phones and land lines are going the way of the dodo. Cell phones are king. They are also quite cheap, as are packages that allow you to use your own smart phones in Italy (with an Italian SIM card). A few students last year did just that, purchasing plans that allowed them to place an Italian SIM card in their phones. Other students simply used their own phones, paying for the charges (since they did not have to make many calls anyway). Chances are, most of you are much more attuned to phone technologies and options. Do your homework, and feel free to ask questions about particulars. Phone culture is changing very quickly, and I suspect before long you will simply use your own cell and number in Italy just as you would at home.
This is a hard question these days, with climate change. We just don’t know. Usually, the weather is quite lovely in May, though there can be heavy rains. Umbria is extremely verdant, and it receives a great deal of rain each year. Still, it can also be quite hot. We always hope to have perfect weather, and mostly it is quite good. You should plan for lows in the 40s and highs in the 80s, but also bring a sturdy umbrella and/or rain gear, a fleece, and a jacket. Nights are often chilly on the side of the mountain, particularly at the beginning of our trip. Anything you forget, however, is easily purchasable in Italy. Spoleto has a wide array of clothing shops, and Rome is not far away. For more info on what to bring in terms of clothing, read below. Also, post your questions to our FB site. Many former participants can answer your specific questions.
Best advice: assemble all the clothing you think you need to take, and cut it in half. Add up all the money you think you need, and double it. Though a slight exaggeration, this bit of wisdom can help you out. Don’t bring huge, unwieldy suitcases full of clothing you will only wear once (or not at all). Be picky in your clothing choices. Select clothing that won’t easily wrinkle or show stains. Bring enough clothing for about a week’s worth of wear, plus a few pairs of shoes, and specialized gear like a rain jacket and umbrella. Your apartments come with washers; you need not overpack. You will also probably want to purchase some clothing while there, so keep that in mind.
In terms of what kind of clothing you should bring, conservative choices are best. No loud t-shirts with silly slogans, baseball jerseys, concert shirts, sweatpants, holey jeans. Italy, for the most part, is a much more “dressed up” culture. That means you will see fewer shorts, flip-flops, and neon t-shirts. When you do see them, you’re usually looking at American tourists. If you want to stand out as a tourist and reaffirm stereotypes, then go right ahead. If you want to blend in a bit, then dress the part. That doesn’t mean women need heels and dresses, and guys need coats and ties. Just dress a notch or two above what you would usually wear at home. For guys, a simple collared shirt and a pair of jeans (without a bunch of holes) is fine. For women, simple dresses and skirts, slacks and jeans, etc. You don’t need to be fancy, just smart.
We will be doing a great deal of walking, probably more than you are used to. On top of that, Spoleto is a city built into the side of a sizable hill. Anywhere you go means a change of elevation (often a drastic one). Apartments and classrooms require stairs, often many of them. Basically, you do a lot of walking everyday. During our field trips, you’ll do even more, and most of it will be on slightly uneven cobblestones. No, you do not need to be a paragon of health to handle it, but it certainly helps if you are ready and conditioned to walk and be on your feet for hours.
What's more, Spoleto is a mecca for outdoor sports. Whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, even canyoneering and rappelling are affordable and easy to set up. These are by no means mandatory events. (Not everyone enjoys strapping on a harness and rappelling down ninety feet of waterfall.) Still, if you are interested in outdoor activities, Spoleto is a great place in which to spend the summer.