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Rewrite your high school experience while walking among ancient ruins and sampling the world’s best gelato. By going to a local high school in Italy, you’ll be totally immersed in Italian language and culture. At night you’ll go home to your host family and community, where you’ll discover the delights of Italian hospitality and home-cooked meals. Mealtimes are a social event, lasting for hours on weekends or holidays. Be prepared for generous portions, strong coffee, and tasty treats. Italians know their bread and cheese, so you’re bound to taste some incomparable pizza and pasta.

Each local chapter organizes activities for exchange students and host families throughout the year, like parties and trips to other cities in Italy. So, while you’ll be so much more than a tourist, you’ll still get to see the sights and savor la dolce vita (the sweet life)!

This is your chance to learn the ins and outs of Italian daily life and experience what it’s like to be an Italian teenager.  As a country known to excel in art, architecture, food, and culture, Italy is an ideal place to step outside of your comfort zone and engage in an exciting new adventure.

What's included in your experience

  • 70 Years Experience

Eligibility

Graduates Eligible? Yes, high school graduates are eligibile to participate.
Minimum GPA 2.5
Age Range 15 yrs, 3 months to
17 yrs, 9 months at start of program
COVID-19 Vaccine Strongly recommended, not required*
*AFS cannot predict and is not responsible for changes to host school or government health requirements which may change from the time of application and could impact program eligibility

Your journey to Italy

In the months before your departure, AFSers have the opportunity to participate in various preparatory activities, including an online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to learn how to develop essential global skills, intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact, maximizing the outcomes of the AFS learning experience. 

AFS-USA will coordinate and share your international travel with you. You will need to coordinate your own travel to the point of international departure. From there, your journey in Italy will begin when you land, where you’ll be met by staff, volunteers and meet your fellow AFSers from around the world. Shortly after arrival, you will attend an arrival orientation and get a crash course on Italian culture, living with a host family, safety, and support structures.

Along the way, you’re likely to pass remnants of the Roman Empire as well as modern architecture. You might also catch sight of the snow-capped Alps or drive through picturesque coastal towns nestled on the Adriatic Sea. No matter where you are though, you’re bound to come across street vendors offering creamy gelato or crispy fried pastries.

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Your Accommodations

AFSers have lived in communities all throughout Italy, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Most host families live in small communities, but you could also find yourself in a rural or urban area.

Families are the focal point for life in Italy. But like anywhere in the world, all families are different. It’s common, especially in the south, for many generations to live together under one roof. Young adults tend to stay at home until they get married, so you might have older host siblings living with you as well.

Italians take their time when eating, so get ready for long, filling meals. Conversations can be a full-body experience, complete with hand gestures and animated facial expressions. Expect to have plenty of lively conversations with loyal friends and family.

Local chapters also offer an Exchange Week opportunity: year program students can choose to visit another part of Italy for a week to expand their understanding of Italian culture!

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Your High School in Italy

You are encouraged to begin learning the Italian language on your own, prior to your participation. Additionally, once you arrive in Italy Italian language lessons will be organized by local volunteers for the first two or three months of your stay to really help you perfect your language skills.

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Italians are usually easy-going and friendly, but they still work hard at school. Students enrolled in high school in Italy attend classes Monday through Saturday, from about 8:30am to 1:30pm. Your academic experience will offer you an excellent opportunity to learn the language and integrate yourself into everyday Italian life. Plus, distinct types of Italian high schools allow students to focus more on subjects and disciplines that interest you. They are academic, technological, and professional*:

  • Liceo, the more academic type, which is further divided into schools that focus on different disciplines, like humanities, sciences, arts, and social sciences.
  • Istituto Tecnico, which is more oriented toward technological subjects, like aeronautics, business administration, computer science and chemistry.
  • Istituto Professionale, or vocational schools, where immediately finding a job after graduating is more the expectation than college (although anyone can take the entry tests for college).

We do everything we can to enroll you in your top choice of school type, but we can’t guarantee specific courses or specializations.

Available Scholarships

AFS-USA scholarships are made possible by the generosity of numerous donors who all have a deep connection with AFS and value intercultural exchanges as necessary for the promotion of peace and justice in the world. Upon submission, applications will be reviewed and matched with the most applicable scholarship, if available. All scholarships are partial, and scholarship award amounts will be determined based on program length. For additional funding resources, check out our Fundraising page. You can view all available national and local scholarships on our Scholarships page.

What's Included

  • 70+ years of experience delivering high-quality programs through a worldwide network of 50,000 dedicated volunteers
  • Accommodations with a vetted host family
  • Round-trip international airfare for the designated program dates
  • School enrollment fees
  • Worldwide, 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Access to an in-country support team and network, as well as our Participant Support Department based here in the U.S.
  • Free Language Proficiency Testing: after your immersive study abroad experience, take an AAPPL (ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages) language proficiency test to be able to add your language skills to your resume or possibly your high school transcript!
  • Orientations and intercultural education before and during your program
  • International secondary medical travel coverage
  • Visa support and guidance
  • Inclusion in a worldwide returnee and alumni network of over 1,000,000 people

Visa Info

Do I need a visa/residence permit for Italy? YES. Visa + Residence Permit
How do I apply for the visa? (By mail, In-person, In host country) In-person + In host country
Visa/Residence Permit Process Difficulty Level (Easy, Average, Complex) Complex
Estimated Visa/Residence Permit Expenses
($ – $$$)
$$
Frequently Asked Visa Questions Visit our general visa FAQ page for more information.
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Returning Home

“Life-changing” is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad. “Transformed” is another one.
When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and developed the confidence and resilience to accomplish anything you set out to do.
That transformation isn’t only visible to you, though – others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers. Second language fluency, intercultural competence, creativity, and critical reasoning will help you succeed, whatever path you take. “Life-changing” means it’s only the beginning.
It’s not just an adventure abroad; it’s a whole new reality. The perspectives and personal connections you gained will stay with you and likely draw you back to the second home you found in Italy.

In fact, our alumni reviews have made AFS one of the top-rated organizations in the study abroad industry.