Cultural Immersion: Italy
Siena, Italy: 14 weeks

Comparative Development: Italy | Cameroon
Siena, Italy: 6 weeks
Yaoundé, Cameroon: 8 weeks

Comparative Development: Italy | Belgium
Siena, Italy: 6 weeks
Brussels, Belgium: 8 weeks

Siena, a small medieval city in the center of Tuscany, is the cradle of the Italian language and the heartland of the Italian of Dante. Service-learning in Siena offers an ideal opportunity for you to learn the language through full immersion in Italian life. And did we mention the scenery is absolutely beautiful?

This program is designed to provide a rich and varied perspective on modern Italian society and social issues. For the first six weeks of the semester, you’ll engage in intensive language study at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. You’ll live with an Italian family; serving 12–18 hours a week in an Italian community organization or school; taking a course in socio-anthropology, and going on guided excursions.

For the final eight weeks of the semester, you’ll have the option to stay in Siena and continue your service learning with the Cultural Immersion Program, or pursue Comparative Development studies by volunteering full-time in Yaoundé, Cameroon or Brussels, Belgium.


In Italy, you’ll live with a local host family. This homestay is an integral part of the program, giving you the opportunity to make life-long friends, reinforce the language skills acquired during daily lessons, and experience modern culture from the inside. Host families are carefully selected, experienced with hosting students, and view the experience as a form of cultural exchange. Full board is included.

Program Director: Ms. Lavinia Bracci


The program welcomes students of any nation, with any level of Italian language skill.

College Participants


Courses are taught by the Siena Italian Studies faculty, who have developed an innovative approach to teaching language and culture, called FICCS (Full Immersion Culture, Content, and Service).

Below are the courses required for the three program options beginning in Siena, Italy.

Cultural Immersion: Italy

  • Community Organizing and Social Activism in Italy – 3 credits
  • Intensive Italian Language – 3 credits
  • Semester Italian Language – 6 credits
  • Reflections / SL Practicum Seminar – 3 credits
  • One elective – 3 credits

Comparative Development: Italy | Cameroon

  • Community Organizing and Social Activism in Italy – 3 credits
  • Intercultural Communication – 3 credits
  • Intensive French Language – 3 credits
  • Survival Italian Language – 1 credit
  • Seminar NEPAD - New Partnership for Africa's Development – 3 credits
  • Reflections / SL Practicum Seminar – 3 credits
  • On Site Volunteer Service – 2 credits

Comparative Development: Italy | Belgium

  • Community Organizing and Social Activism in Italy – 3 credits
  • Intercultural Communication – 3 credits
  • Intensive French Language – 3 credits
  • Survival Italian Language – 1 credit
  • European Development Policy – 3 credits
  • Reflections / SL Practicum Seminar – 3 credits
  • On Site Volunteer Service – 2 credits

All three program options require students to take the Community Organizing and Social Activism (COSA) Course in Italy, as well as the online Reflections/ Practicum Seminar.

COSA - Community Organizing and Social Activism

In this course, you'll learn practical skills to become an active agent of change and social justice. Your goal is to effectively translate the ideas and techniques you learn into concrete knowledge of social activism (including the development of a personal ethic of advocacy) that can be applied across cultures, countries, and efforts. As you delve deep into current and past advocacy efforts, you'll likely be empowered to create sustainable change in your own community.

COSA starts with an overview of social change institutions, explores the history and ethics of international service, and moves to the examination of past and current political and social movements in Italy. The course teaches the theories and practical realities of intercultural service-learning in an Italian context. Topics are examined through the prism of hands-on volunteering in Italian NGOs and other non-profits and include intercultural communication, the mechanics of Italian non-profits/NGOs, citizenship in Italy, local civic engagement/advocacy efforts, and the exploration of civil society.

Reflections/ SL Practicum Seminar

This course is delivered virtually; it begins before departure and completes after returning. The Reflections/ SL Practicum Seminar explores the theories and practical realities of intercultural service-learning to help you make sense of your international experience and develop intercultural competence. One credit will be awarded for 15 hours of academic reflections work and two credits for hands-on service-learning volunteer work.

Italian Street


Although my service experiences were not of my initial choice, I ended up loving the environments I was working in. I grew and learned not only more about the people I helped and worked with, but even more so about myself. I learned more through my experiences in the community and with my home stay family than I ever did with my Italian classes at my home university. "- Joshua, Siena Fall semester

Your volunteer placement is determined, in part, by your interests and skills (and, in some cases, language abilities), but primarily by community needs. Service areas include Education, Healthcare, and Immigrant and Refugee Assistance.

The following are examples of agencies where students have served in the past or may be able to serve. Other volunteer placements may also be available.

Cultural Immersion: Italy

Adults with Disabilities
Population Served: Adults with disabilities
Areas of Service: Disabilities

Association for Disabled Children
Population Served: Children with disabilities
Areas of Service: Disabilities / children & youth / administration / construction

Community development organization
Population Served: Marginalized and disenfranchised people in Le Piagge, near Florence
Areas of Service: Community development / job training / education

Cooperative agency
Population Served: Persons in need
Areas of Service: Food services / distribution / environment

Diabetes Association
Population Served: People with diabetes
Areas of Service: Administration / healthcare

Elderly residence
Population Served: Elderly people
Areas of Service: Elderly / recreation / companionship

The Bancarella Alimentare Food Bank
Population Served: Persons in need (primarily immigrants)
Areas of Service: Food services / distribution / immigrant / refugee issues & aid

Immigrant aid organization
Population Served: Immigrants
Areas of Service: Immigrant / refugee issues & aid / social services / healthcare / administration / research

Immigrant assistance organization
Population Served: Primarily immigrants in the city of Siena
Areas of Service: Food services / distribution / immigrant/refugee issues & aid

Organic farm and rural retreat for the urban poor
Population Served: Marginalized and disenfranchised people in Le Piagge, near Florence
Areas of Service: Construction / sustainability / organic farming

Public schools in Siena
Population Served: Public school children
Areas of Service: Education

After-school program for children and families in need
Population Served: Public elementary and middle school children
Areas of Service: Education/ESL (English as a second language) / teaching and tutoring

Siena Research Department of Virology and Molecular Biology
Population Served: University of Siena Research Department
Areas of Service: Research

Medical Outpatient Clinic
Population Served: General population in need of medical care
Areas of Service: Healthcare

Volunteer medical assistance association
Population Served: People in need of emergency care, emergency medical personnel
Areas of Service: Healthcare / ESL/EMT (Emergency Medical Technician)

Comparative Development: Italy | Cameroon

REPCAM - Relay Children - Parents of Cameroon

The primary mission of Relais Enfants-Parents of Cameroon is to strengthen the psycho-social development of the children of detainees by creating recreational and educational programs for the children, parents and families. REPCAM implements programs that work to maintain the parental bond by developing interactive family activities. In addition, the organization helps secure proper medical care, clothing, and nutrition for children in need.

Comparative Development: Italy | Belgium

ENAR - European Network Against Racism

ENAR describes itself as "the only pan-European anti-racism network that combines advocacy for racial equality and facilitating cooperation among civil society anti-racism actors in Europe." ENAR is very active in the fight against racism and in Brussels the organization is the headquarters of many "in loco" organizations that fight against xenophobia in its larger sense: islamophobia, afrophobia and discrimination against Roma communities. ENAR supervises the work of these smaller organizations, researches and prepares reports, takes part in discussions at the European Parliament for legal equality, and much more.

EPHA - European Public Health Association

EPHA works with issues that concern the wide spectrum of Public Health and Health Policies. With the goal of enhancing the efficiency and innovation of Public Health, it has a particular interest in shrinking the Health Inequality Gap among people in Europe and beyond. Volunteer work is primarily focused on policy.

UNRWA - United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

UNRWA is a division of the United Nations that since 1940 has responded to the needs of Palestinian refugees by providing them with assistance and protection as well as "supporting them to achieve their welfare and full potential in Human Development." UNRWA is directly active on site in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jordan, as well as outside of the Middle East. In Brussels, the UNRWA team handles the financing of projects in the organization’s five divisions: Health, People, Education, RSS and Microfinance. Some of their main activities are ensuring refugees legal protection and providing access to healthcare, loans, and emergency response in conflict areas.

IDF - International Diabetes Federation

IDF is the hub of over 230 smaller diabetes-related NGOs that are located in 170 countries. This organization works in close contact with the EU. They have three formal volunteer opportunities in the areas of Policy and Programs, Advocacy and Communications.


Things to do

Beginning with a 3-day orientation in Siena, each semester program includes several excursions designed to give you a varied and meaningful experience of Tuscany and other regions of Italy. For the half-day, full-day, and overnight excursions, you may walk through the Tuscan countryside from one unspoiled small town to the next, passing along ancient Roman byways and through woods where locals hunt for mushrooms and gather herbs; visit farms that produce wine, olive oil, and pecorino cheese; relax in one of the region's many natural hot springs; or experience traditional Tuscan festivals such as Carnevale in Foiano della Chiana. There is also a day trip to Florence to visit the museums.

There are numerous mandatory structured excursions that are integral to the academics. Every term also includes a 4 day group trip to a fascinating, often off-the-beaten path location, such as Bologna, an ancient city that moves to contemporary rhythms and is considered by many to be the Mecca of Italian cuisine; or Padova, site of Giotto's renowned Scrovegni Chapel; or the Maremma Tuscan coastal region, home to Italy's best-known "cowboys" and a lovely national park with unspoiled beaches. In the Spring semester there is often an excursion to the breathtaking Italian Alps. Excursions vary from semester to semester. A 10-day mid-term break gives you the chance to travel and explore on your own. There are two scheduled 3 day weekends per term that will also give time for short independent travel.

A variety of additional activities are offered to enrich the program experience. Students begin the semester with a series of complete cooking lessons on traditional Tuscan cuisine. Students will also participate in various seasonal activities. For example, in the fall, participants will help out with the grape and olive harvests, vital events in the traditional agricultural life of Tuscany. In the spring, a highlighted activity is the participation in the Carnevale celebration. And throughout the year, there are various cultural activities such as guided museum visits, concerts and opera performances in places such as Siena, Florence, Lucca, and Rome, as well as various other hands-on workshops and lessons.

Italian Street