So, you’ve decided to learn Italian and spend a semester or year abroad?
Congratulations! Learning Italian through an international experience like studying in Italy will not only be full of new adventures but also rich, intercultural experiences. Whether you’re striving to complete a linguistic apprenticeship, taking part in a work and travel program, have attained an internship, or simply want to study and live abroad – Italy is a perfect destination.
While there is much to be excited about, there is also a set amount of preparation that goes into moving abroad that you should be aware of. These tasks can include administrative formalities such as finding scholarships to fund your study or set obligations like finding a place to live and learning the language.
While moving abroad temporarily, or permanently, is not easy, here are a few tips that can make the transition easier.
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What Level of Italian Should an International Student or Professional Have?
Gauging the level of Italian you have is a vital first step. If you have decided to move to Italy, there is a large chance that you are already either passionate for the language or culture, which will only help you as you become fluent in Italian. It is necessary, however, to ask yourself what level of Italian you will need in an undergraduate course, for qualifying for a scholarship, to get into Italian universities, or simply to get around and work in Italy.
Before leaving for Italy, foreign students and professionals should understand their linguistic capacity in Italian. In order to do this, there is a large number of Italian universities and cultural institutions that organize language tests and advising, dedicated to foreigners.
While there is a wide diversity in the range of aptitude tests you can take, there are two language tests that are recognized throughout Italy.
Prepare for your exams by taking Italian language courses on this platform.
The Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera is a state diploma that is recognized by the Italian ministry and it gives people the chance to pass the basic level of Italian. CILS is recognized throughout Italy and is considered to be the best way to access universities and jobs in the country.
Divided into four levels, it is open to people without experience and does not have an age minimum. You can pass the CILS in some Italian cultural institutes throughout Europe, and also in certain Italian universities like Sienna or Perugia. It is one of the best ways to attest to your mastery in the language!
Make sure to pay attention to the deadline of this and other exams. The CILS tests are given two times per year throughout the world, in June and December, and will set you back about 105 and 160 euros.
The Certificato dell’Italiano Commerciale is recognized throughout the professional world. Delivered by the University of Perugia, it will also be accepted in any of Italy’s universities, internships and professional positions.
The CIC is composed of two levels: the intermediary level, composed of level B1, and the advanced level, which is equivalent to level C1. The latter is the more strategic option as the intermediary level is known to cause operational troubles with enterprises, whereas the C1 level is accepted everywhere.
It is worth noting that the language test will cost you between 140 and 160 euros.
This diploma will be received after a series of five exams, where the student will have to demonstrate their skill through comprehension, oral expression, vocabulary, some technical terms in Italian, and be able to express themselves in a concise manner.
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What Should You Know About Italian Culture?
Italy is a top destination of choice for Europea tourists, not only because of its proximity but also and because of its gentle lifestyle or the 'dolce vita'! Whether it is Lake Como, Veneto, the historic centre of Rome or Sardinia, Italy promises to be a perfect, rich and diverse destination for your holidays. Bt what about if you plan in actually staying there for more than a week? What do you need to know that a happy holiday goer might not need?
Family is Everything: It's quite common for family life to be important for many cultures but that doesn't usually spread farther than the "Nuclear family", i.e. Dad, Mum, and kids. However, in Italy, family is everything and younger generations are expected (and happy) to care for their elders, often living in one household. The extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews all mean a huge deal to each other in Italy. Children are taught from a young age to remain close to their extended family upon adulthood and keep this connection going even after they have married. Large gatherings with the entire family eating delicious food are the norm. We expect that are still some family fallouts but, on the whole, doesn't that sound really nice?
Italy is Art and Architecture: Italy has given rise to many architectural styles such as Classical Roman, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical, to name but a few. Some of the most renowned and visited structures are situated in Italy including the Roman Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Italy is also home to some of the best museums featuring the best works of art ever created in the cities of Venice, Florence, and Rome. For example, Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is an awe-inspiring sight that everyone needs to see before they die. Operas from famous composers like Verdi and Leoncavallo have been listened to for centuries in opera houses around the world. We could spend all day talking about Italy, but you get the point, Italy is a cultural feast!
The country has the best food, wine & coffee in the world: Some may argue against this, but I think a large majority would rule Italian cuisine as one of the best on the planet. Many Italians believe that work and life should be merely accompaniments to food and drink, and part of Italian culture sees locals stop working at lunchtime for a long meal and siesta (known as 'riposo' in Northern Italy and 'pennichella' or 'pisolino' in Southern Italy). Each region has its specialities, just like its accents and dialects, and food is considered by many to be an art rather than a necessity for life. Enjoying meaningful conversations with family and friends around a dinner table chomping down pasta and sipping wine are Italians favourite moments.
Did you know that the Italians have at least 10 names for their sensational coffee too?
The glory and culture of Italy cannot be described in mere words; the enduring ruins of Rome, the beautiful art in Florence, the romantic gondola rides in Venice and, of course, the amazing food need to be experienced first-hand to be believed.
Italy’s Top Student Cities
Spending some time out of your course or between programmes of study is a very wise, and also brave, move.
Regardless of whether you’re thinking about applying to university, choosing a destination for your year abroad or looking for a work placement over the Summer holiday, it’s highly likely that Italy will have something to offer you. There's no way you wouldn't benefit from some time in this beautiful country!
Every student is different and has their own ideas about what makes a good student city, however, some cities are renowned for being great places for international students.
What are your criteria? Students tend to look for cities that:
- Have the best universities
- Are culturally rich
- Have a low cost of living
- Have the best nightlife
Each major city has its own advantages when you think of the above criteria, for instance, Milan is the ideal destination for fans of both football and fashion, yet, from a cultural perspective, Florence is undoubtedly an Italian gem which is not to be missed.
Meanwhile, if saving money is a gamechanger for you then forget Milan straight away! Instead, think about Bologna or Palermo. Further away from Milan’s bustling tourist areas, these two towns offer more affordable living costs for students.
Bologna is also one of the top Erasmus student destinations with a reputation for excellent nightlife.
Here are three particularly student-friendly cities:
Milan boasts a large number of highly ranked universities and is in an ideal position for travelling students, allowing them to travel to almost anywhere in surrounding Europe in less than 2 hours via a range of budget airlines. What's more, internal transport is very reliable with trams and buses running until late at night and starting early in the morning.
Milan is home to some wonderful tourist sights like the Duomo, but it also has some fantastic shopping centres, museums, theatres, sports grounds, gyms and green areas.
People from Milan are seen by others across the country as quite serious and busy, but the Milanesi are just a bit introvert. Once you get talking to one of the locals, you will see that they are welcoming and willing to help outsiders integrate into their city.
The city of Florence has featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1982 and is, itself, a symbol of the Renaissance.
But what about the things that matter most to students?
Florence is an ancient city that has modernized and, despite retaining its historic charm, it has been titled one of the top fifty fashion capitals in the world. What's more, Florence is typically a lot cleaner than other big cities such as Rome.
Florence has quite a homely feel and doesn't have a metro system so you're encouraged to get around by foot. As it's not a huge city, it won't take more than a couple of weeks for you to know your way around the city.
Students seeking a truly authentic Italian learning experience will discover that colleges and unis in Florence are more intimate and focused and, because Florence is in the region of Tuscany, some establishments will offer wine and cooking courses.
Finally, for those of you who like to travel or frequently go home, Florence is an ideal departure point for travel throughout Italy and Europe. It’s located on the main north-south train line in Italy, and most major European cities are easily accessible.
Last but not least, let's consider Bologna and its own university, Universita di Bologna. Founded in 1088, this university is one of the oldest in the country (and the world), which is a draw in itself!
With its faculty for Latin history, which opened in 2015, studying here will give you the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Italian language and how Latin formed a basis for Italian grammar and vocabulary.
Universita di Bologna offers modules in literature, Italian art history and conversational Italian classes – these are just a few examples of the classes which will help you in your learning about the Italian language and culture.
Bologna may be one of the smaller Italian cities offering opportunities to study abroad, making it slightly different than Rome, Florence and Pisa. However, Bologna has one of the largest numbers of international students and therefore offers a variety of things for students to do, with nightlife at the very top of this list!
Information on the Italian Academic Year
Being part of a study abroad program or professional work environment in Italy is not just about learning the language, but also learning about the Italian system itself. It is natural to have questions about professional opportunities, what it’s like to study there, student life and even daily expenses. Getting into contact with alumni or taking part in online forums is a great way to start amassing information.
If you’re in your first year or at the end of your work term, a linguistic stay in Italy can be a great experience, and a great way to master some essential points in Italian life. Generally, whether you’re a recent graduate or looking for opportunities abroad, there are three common possibilities for living in Italy:
- Artistic or musical endeavours
- Professional formations
Following the same system as many countries around the world, Italy has three levels of higher education. Whether your purpose is to get a degree, or aren’t sure what to write as your educational qualifications for your CV, understanding this system is simple. The three levels of higher education in Italy are:
- Laurea Magistrale
University semesters normally begin between the months of September and November, so if you need to either apply or prepare for your travels, keep these months in mind.
The breakdown of the Italian university system is divided between 60 public universities and 17 private ones. Out of all the public universities, two of them are more equipped for international studies: Siena and Perugia.
For those looking for professional opportunities, every major Italian city offers artistic and musical formations, work in the public and private sector and more!
International Education: Italy’s Requirements for Foreigners
Whatever your reason to go abroad, be it an on an exchange program or to work in a private or public institution, there are a few formalities that you will have to consider before leaving your current country of residence.
Living in Italy
The first step is to decide on an apartment or other housing situation that suite your lifestyle in your weeks or years of living in Italy. Often, people think it’s easier to find lodging once you’ve arrived in Italy, however, keep in mind that this process takes time and it might be a good idea to check out some resources before leaving:
- University residences: this is most often reserved to only students and has a limited amount of spots open. Talk to an advisor working in your study abroad office as to how your education abroad can qualify you for housing
- Public lodgings: this can be part of a work and study program, or simply as an exchange for work. For example, working in a hostel and receiving free accommodation
- Shared apartment: this is a great option if you’re looking to keep it affordable, living with either 1 or more people and sharing a room or a flat.
Medical help in Italy
While understanding the intricacies of a foreign health insurance system can be daunting, you don’t necessarily have to become an expert in order to benefit from the system. The first step towards understanding the medical help system in Italy is to research and sign up for the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or SSN.
Get familiar with your rights as a foreigner in Italy by looking up the Azienda Sanitaria Locale closest to where you will be staying, as well as the services you will qualify for.
If you visit a doctor or a dentist, know that their services are free for foreign students as well as for locals, with the simple condition that you consult a general practitioner of the Unita Sanitaria Locale (USL).
It is worth noting that in any emergency, hospital services are free in public establishments. For all other complementary information, consult the website for the Italian Ministry of Public Health or Ministero della Salute.
Working in Italy:
Whatever your reason for searching for a job overseas, there are many professional opportunities in many Italian cities. Whether you’re going to be an intern abroad, are taking part in some of the exchange programs some international companies offer, or simply want to earn some extra cash outside the classroom – there are many different methods to find employment.
If you will be interning in Italy through some of the various abroad programs offered, be sure to check what kind of academic credit you can get from your work experience. If you are still looking for an internship abroad, check out the admission office of programs abroad. Remember that learning to speak this beautiful language can be possible simply by a professional opportunity abroad.
If you’re looking to gain some money on the side from things you might already own or have acquired during your stay, you can look at sites like Bakeca a Milano or Kijiji.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Italy also posts job offerings regularly, along with Informagiovani, which is a centre of information concerning international mobility.
It is also a good idea to know the regional help concerning job searches. For example, in Rome, Portaportese is a local job journal that posts announcements regularly.
Your CV should be either in Italian or English, depending on the job you will be applying to