So I’m back in Italy. I spent the summer in Florence and it wasn’t quite enough. I decided to come back and spend a whole semester learning Italian. I’ve chosen to attend a program called Siena Italian Studies which is offered through Study Abroad Italy (check out the bottom of this page for links to both of the websites).
Today I want to explain the structure of the program I’m attending because it’s a bit different than other study abroad programs…
Siena Italian Studies uses an approach they call FICCS (full-immersion: culture, content and service). The program is an entry point for foreign students to immerse themselves in the culture of Siena.
We talked yesterday in class about culture – how personal it is to each country, region, city, community, etc. It encompasses food, style of dress, customs, beliefs, mode of communication, language, and much more. We all had trouble coming up with a precise definition and came to the conclusion that culture cannot be taught or made explicit – it can only be experienced.
Confronting culture is at the core of the FICCS approach. The staff’s goal is to create opportunities for students to touch and experience Sienese culture.
First: the homestay. Every student is placed into an Italian home. We sleep, eat, study, hang-out, and live there. Every night at dinner I take a crash course in Italian language. More than just learning the language, I’m learning bit by bit how to live like an Italian.
Second: content courses are taught in Italian – beginners and advanced students are mixed together and work collaboratively to grasp both the new information and the foreign language in which it’s taught. I’m considering taking History of Italian Immigration and Introduction to Sociolinguistics.
Third: perhaps the most distinctive or “strange” part of the FICCS approach is service. Siena Italian Studies provides ample opportunities for students to get involved. To see Siena. To perhaps see beyond “Tourist Siena.” In my opinion, it’s such a privilege to be allowed into the Sienese community.
We haven’t yet begun our service projects but for now I’ll just list a few of the options:
- teach English at local elementary schools
- volunteer at soup kitchen
- assisting with the ambulance service
- spending time with the elderly at an assisted living facility
I think I can safely speak for all of my peers when I say we are so excited to just dive in and take advantage of everything this program has to offer.
*Study Abroad Italy: saiprograms.com/siena
*Siena Italian Studies: sienaitalianstudies.com