Now That’s Amore! The Who, What, When, Where, & Why of High School in Italy

by Published

Wheeeennnn thheeeee moon hits your eye, like a big pizza-pie, that’s… a sign you should study abroad in high school in Italy. Just think of the geotag filters! And the emojis! 🍕🛵🇮🇹🌻

Scenic view of Rome, Italy

You+Italy= one unforgettable high school experience. 🇮🇹

But really, if you’ve always felt a pull to the famous, boot-shaped peninsula—whether it be for its Roman history, its cuisine, its current role in global politics, or its beautiful language—then you should absolutely study abroad in Italy in high school. Italy is a diverse and colorful country, with endless sights, sounds, and tastes to explore! As a high school student abroad, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to live and learn in one of the world’s most influential (and pizza-filled) countries. So what are you waiting for? Here’s (literally) EVERYTHING you need to know before doing high school study abroad programs in Italy.

The Who

Who should attend high school abroad in Italy?

So, who exactly should be attending high school in Italy? Uh… you! Duh. Studying abroad in high school is not for the faint of heart—you have to be a pretty bada**, forward-thinking, adventurous teen to want to live in another country by yourself.

Students who can make the decision to leave their friends, family, school, and everything they know behind are students who understand the value of stepping beyond your comfort zone. They know that it’s sometimes our toughest decisions that are the most rewarding. High school students who decide to study abroad in Italy aren’t afraid to use hand gestures to communicate, love the idea of a completely different way of living, and aren’t afraid to jump on the back of a motorino (with helmets, of course). Students who should be studying abroad in Italy don’t want to only learn inside the classroom—they want to push themselves, learn new languages, make friends with strangers, see things they’ve never seen before. 

Sound like you? Well guess what—you’re the perfect match for Italy!

Pizza

<3 is shaped like pizza for a reason….🍕❤️

Who can help you?

Now that you’ve realized you’re destined to study abroad in Italy, who’s going to help you get there? Your first stop should obviously be your local high school guidance counselor. They’ll be able to tell you how your school handles students going abroad. For example, if you’ve decided to study abroad during the school year, how will you handle returning the following year? How does your school handle the transferring of class credits, so you make sure all your hard work shows up on your transcript? All questions that your guidance counselor can help you with! You might even find out that your high school offers its very own high school study abroad programs in Italy that you can go on.

Another great resource is the program providers themselves! By contacting the offices of programs such as Travel For Teens or SPI Study Abroad, which cater specifically to high school students looking to study abroad in countries such as Italy, you’ll be able to get an on-the-ground opinion on your options. 

Who will support you?

Obviously, you need to get your mom, dad, and/or legal guardian on board before you attend high school in Italy! Any kind of parent-figure is a great resource for advice, emotional support, and, more than likely, they’re going to be the ones to also provide financially support for this grand adventure. They’ll be great sources of emotional support (you might not believe it, but you WILL miss them! AND your annoying kid brother), and also there to help you cover the high school study abroad cost. Thanks Bank of Parents!

A little worried about how they’ll take it? No worries! We’ve even taken the liberty to write out a few template letters that you can use to convince your parents to let you study abroad.

The What

Different program emphases

There is an endless amount of programs to choose from, which is both good (so many options!) and bad (so hard to narrow it all down!). These programs can vary in length (how long do you want to be in Italy?), location (what’s your dream city throughout the boot?), and type/focus (what do you want to study or experience most?). 

Vespa on an Italian street

Ready to live out your Lizzie Mcguire dreams? You may even find your own Paolo (or Paola). 😉

The actual focus between high school study abroad programs Italy can be one of the most important parts of your decision, since you want to make sure you pick a program that fits your academic and personal goals. Here are just a few types of programs you can choose from:

1. Italian Language Immersion

Do you love learning other languages? Do you have a verve for communicating with people from other countries? Do you want to learn a language that will help you in a future life/career abroad? Then a language-centered Italian study abroad program might be just the right fit for you!

Many language programs are fully immersive programs. That means you will live, breathe, and sleep in the Italian language—sometimes literally! Students typically will live in a homestay and attend classes that are taught completely in Italian, so that all you’re hearing and speaking is the Italian language. This may seem intimidating and, indeed challenging, to those who have never been fully immersed in another language other than their own, or don’t have much Italian language experience. However, language immersion programs have proven to be the best way to fully and quickly learn a language, and they offer you plenty of opportunities to meet the locals! 

Recommended Italian language program for teens:

2. Community Service

Students who are interested in giving back to the communities they are living in can look into programs that are focused around volunteering and community service. There is no better way to learn about the culture and people you are living with than to help the land and people around you. 

Recommended community service program for teens in Italy:

  • Mediterranean Sea Turtle & Dolphin Studies. In a land of historic sites and culinary wonders, you might be surprised to find a program focused on scientific research and environmental conservation. However, Broadreach’s program brings students through the Mediterranean to various locations in Italy and Greece to study the area’s sea turtle and dolphin populations, as well as to ensure the protection of these species. 
  • See all teen service programs in Italy

3. Cultural Exploration

Learn what it really means to be Italian through their verve for life—whether it be in music, food, art, or conversation, cultural exploration programs focus on really teaching you about the people and place you are studying. Learning isn’t limited to the classroom, however! You’ll really get to experience Italy, oftentimes through experiential learning opportunities. 

Recommended cultural exploration program for high schoolers in Italy:

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Living in Italy will truly be a Pisa cake. 👌🍰

4. All of the Above

Yes, you really can have it all. If you simply can’t decide on focusing your experience of high school abroad in Italy on just one particular subject, then why not find a program that combines a little bit of everything? Yes, those programs are out there too! And they’ll give you ample opportunities to explore your new home country, learn the language, eat the food, and become a part of your local, Italian community. 

Recommended well-rounded high school in Italy program:

  • CIEE Language and Culture Program in Ferrara, Italy. Step off the beaten path of touristy hotspots and overpriced museums, and live and study in this hidden jewel of Italy: the city of Ferrara. CIEE’s Language and Culture Program ensures that students aren’t just learning in the classroom, but in real life as well, through visits to museums, group dinners, local festivals, and an immersive homestay. 

Browse all teen travel programs in Italy

Your program length options

Programs can be all different lengths of time, depending on how long you want to be abroad, and whether or not you’d like to go during the school year. 

Italy summer programs for high school students offer you the chance to experience Italy for a few weeks to a few months, in which you’ll get to learn about the country, culture, and language, but still make it home in time for the new school year to start. For students who aren’t ready to commit to a full academic year abroad, or who have difficult and rigid class schedules back home, this is the perfect option!

Full year exchanges are great programs for students who really want to dig their heels in and become a part of the community. Studying abroad in Italy for a full academic year will allow you to truly get a grasp of the culture you are living in, and you will forge relationships with local students, teachers, and friends that will last a lifetime. 

Unique housing/accommodation types

Housing for high school study abroad programs usually comes in two forms: student apartments or homestays. Student apartments are less common for high school abroad students, although they offer great opportunities for you to learn independence and bond with your fellow students. 

Homestays place you into the home of a local Italian family, where you’ll eat, sleep, and study. Although this may sound intimidating, it’s actually a wonderful way to be a part of the local Italian community, as well as really get a jumpstart on your Italian language skills. And the best part? Homemade Italian meals!

Rome

As they say—All roads (especially yours) lead to rome. 😉

The When

When should you study abroad during high school? This can be a difficult decision, as a lot of it depends on your school system and how they handle study abroad programs and students taking months or a year off to go abroad. Again: be sure to talk to your guidance counselor so you know what to do, but in the meantime, here are a few options of when you can go abroad. 

Freshman 

  • Pros: If you decide to go abroad during your actual, academic freshman year, you’ll be starting off your secondary education experience in an incredible, different, and challenging way. You’ll gain confidence and experiences that your fellow students simply will not have, as freshmen who are living at home. 
  • Cons: Freshman year is a very formative time as a high school student. It’s everyone’s first foray into high school, when you’re figuring out who you are as a student, and a person. It’s a year when you make friendships that will last your entire high school career, and to miss out on it might make it slightly more difficult to establish yourself when you come back from your (totally amazing) year abroad. 

Sophomore 

  • Pros: By sophomore year, you’ll have already established yourself as a student in your high school, both academically and personally, so you’ll have a strong foundation to come back to if you take a year off to study abroad. Sophomore year is also often a slightly less stressful year of high school, since you’ll have already figured out how to find your locker and how to study hard for class, making it a great year to push yourself beyond your boundaries and try something new. 
  • Cons: Although you’ll have had one full year of high school experience, you still might not yet know what it is exactly that you’re passionate about studying. Jumping into a study abroad experience before you really know what subjects and interests truly drive you. If you wait to study abroad once you know for sure what you’re passionate about, you’ll be able to choose a program that better-suits your interests and could contribute to helping you in the future, with college applications. 
Multiple gelato cones

Life truly is dolce. (Pro tip: According to many, the best gelato can be found in San Gimignano 😘)

Junior

  • Pros: Now that you’ve got a couple of high school years under your belt, you can confidently walk onto that plane and know that studying abroad in high school in Italy is something that you definitely want to do. You’re a slightly older, more mature student, and the stress of being away from home for a prolonged period of time in another country is a lot less intimidating, making it much easier for you to dive in headfirst and experience everything Italy has to offer!
  • Cons: More often than not, junior year is the most difficult academic year in high school. It could be challenging for you to miss taking some important, rigorous classes that are required for graduation, as you study abroad in Italy. 

Senior Year/After Graduation

  • Pros: The perfect way to cure your senioritis: tackle the new and exciting challenge of studying abroad in Italy! You’ll push yourself beyond your cultural boundaries, learn more inside and outside of the classroom, and you’ll be ready for the real world of college with all that international travel and new language skills you’ll learn while abroad. 
  • Cons: Missing out on senior year activities (your last homecoming, your last prom, your last spring play, etc) can be difficult, and the homesickness might be even stronger while you’re studying abroad as a senior. It can also be difficult do those typical college tours throughout the year if you’re busy exploring Roman ruins (but just imagine how great that would look on a college resume). 

On a gap year before college

If you’re not quite ready to commit to spending a full year of high school abroad and miss out on all that academic and extracurricular fun, never fear! There’s another option to consider: taking a Gap Year before college. 

Although gap years originally started as a year of travel in between high school and college, or between college and the real world, they have since evolved into something in which you can still educate yourself and participate in life-changing programs. Many gap year programs will offer classes, community service opportunities, or cultural immersion components that will make your year off before college a truly transformative experience. By the time you go to college a year later, you’ll have had a full year of travel and exploration in your pocket, and you’ll be even more ready for the real world! 

[See all gap year programs in Italy]

Multiple cannolis

Foodies have to head on over to the land of cannolis (aka Sicily).

The Where

Now comes the difficult part: where should you study abroad in Italy? And when we say difficult, we mean because there are so many wonderful options to choose from! Italy is full of incredible cities, each one of them different. From southern coastlines, to rolling Tuscan hills, to bustling northern cities, here are just a few options for where you can study abroad in Italy. 

1. Rome

Ah, the Eternal City. Home to Italy’s many historic Roman ruins, its government, and a unique food culture that is celebrated worldwide, Rome is a great city for students looking to live somewhere that has impacted history on a global scale. Although slightly touristy, there’s a reason as to why the city receives so many visitors each year—it’s brimming with culture! As a student living locally, you’ll be able to find all the local spots, where you can nom on the most delicious spaghetti alla carbonara and watch the sunset over the best vantage points of the Tiber River. 

Recommended program in Rome:

  • High School Exchange with Nacel Educational Travel. Offering high school exchange programs in Rome that last anywhere from one month to one year, Nacel Educational Travel encourages its students to be fully immersed in local Italian culture. That means that you won’t just have the opportunity to live with an Italian family in a homestay, you’ll also be directly enrolled in a local Italian high school, allowing you to truly do as the Romans do!
  • See all teen programs in Rome

2. Florence

For those students who want to live art as much as they’d like to study it, Florence is the place for you. The city of Florence has been a center of art, music, and beautiful architecture since the medieval ages, and students will feel like they’re walking through a living museum as they explore the city streets (it also happens to be one of the best cities for gelato).

Recommended program in Florence:

Scenic view on Il David, overlooking Florence

You can always expect fire views in Firenze. 🔥

3. Sicily

Sicily is not a city—it is an entire island, just off the coast of the Italian peninsula, which is technically still a part of the country of Italy. It’s an extremely unique island, with locals who are fiercely proud of their culture and cuisine. Sicily is known for its melding of various cultures and histories (Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, Germans, and Arabs have all called the place home), its sunshine-soaked coasts, and its rough-around-the-edges (but always charming) citizens. For those students looking for an experience that is truly off the beaten path, programs in Sicily are for you. 

Recommended program in Sicily: 

  • Travel For Teens—Sicily Discovery and Service. Travel for Teens’ Sicily program brings students to a number of Sicilian cities—the seaside Taormina, the historic Syracuse, and the rural communities beside Mount Etna. This program is great for students who want to do more than just learn and explore—they want to give back to the place they are traveling to. Service projects such as teaching English to school children, supporting women’s centers, and assisting in construction and gardening are all paired with fun day-trips and lots of delicious food! 
  • See all teen programs in Sicily

4. Siena

If the big city life isn’t for you, you might want to consider studying abroad in a city such as Siena. Perched on top of Tuscan hills and only a short, 30 minutes away from Florence, Siena is a charming medieval city that is small enough to feel like you can call it your own, but big enough where there’s plenty to explore. It is most famous for its Palio horse races each summer, where the 17 contrade (neighborhoods) of the city each race their horse around the main piazza of the city, in a fierce competition of pride that dates back to before the medieval ages. For those looking for a smaller city experience with plenty of unique traditions and culture, Siena is the place for you. 

Recommended program in Siena and Tuscany: 

  • SPI High School Language Immersion in Tuscany. As we mentioned, Siena is slightly off the beaten path of crazy museum lines and tourist gift shops, which makes it the perfect location for students hoping to learn the Italian language. In Siena, you’ll actually be challenged with speaking with locals in Italian, with no cheat sheets! SPI’s High School Language Immersion program encourages students to be completely surrounded by Italian, whether it be in the classroom or in your homestay. 
  • See all teen programs in Siena
View of buildings in Siena, Italy

Study abroad pro tip: Bring. A. Camera. (And a backup one too). 📷

The Why

So after trying to figure out all the details and logistics of how to study abroad in Italy in high school, you might now be wondering why should you go through all this effort?

You’ll grow & get to know more about yourself

When you study abroad, you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone. You’re leaving everything familiar behind—your friends, your family, your house, your school, your pets. It can be even more intimidating to realize that you’re putting yourself in another country that is completely different from your own. 

Sounds scary? Don’t let it be! This is actually an incredible opportunity for you to grow as a person. You’ll be challenging yourself in ways that your peers will never understand, and you’ll learn more about yourself and how you approach the world just by taking the leap. 

You’ll look GREAT on college / job apps

It’s no secret that you’re planning to go to college someday, and studying abroad will make you more appealing to college admissions offices. But studying abroad in Italy in high school isn’t just a simple resume booster! It shows to your future universities that you are an ambitious, curious student who is willing to explore other points of view and expand your knowledge through hands-on experiences. 

You’ll fall in love with learning

You’ll be able to learn so much while abroad in Italy—inside and outside of the classroom. From immersing yourself in the Italian language, to exploring ancient architecture, to delving into the local history, you’ll have a much better grasp of Italian culture after having actually lived it. 

You’ll expand your worldview

Speaking of other points of view, studying abroad will inevitably change you. While living in Italy, you’ll see how people on the other side of the world live, talk, celebrate and, yes, even eat. It will make you realize that how you live is not necessarily the only way to live, and that we can learn so much more from each other by traveling to new places and learning new things. You will become a citizen of the world, and you will be a better person for it. 

Of course, despite all of these wonderful reasons why you should study abroad in high school in Italy, there’s no doubt that making this decision can be scary. Leaving behind your friends, trying to make new friends, adjusting to new ways of life are all intimidating challenges and it’s normal to be a little nervous. But the positive experience you’ll get out of studying abroad far outweighs any nerves, and you’ll come back home wondering how you ever questioned yourself. 

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre is truly a 5 star experience. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Now what? Next steps to finding programs for high school in Italy

Okay, now that you’re convinced and ready to study abroad in Italy...how do you get there? That’s where we come in. Here are a few next steps to finding and jumping onto those high school study abroad programs in Italy. 

Deciding to study abroad, applying, and actually going through your summer or year abroad can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, and that’s why GoAbroad is here to the rescue! If you still feel like you need more information, check out these other High School Abroad and Teen Travel Articles. 

Life in Italy will truly be dolce! 🍦

Studying abroad in high school isn’t for everyone—it takes real guts, conviction, and a love of pasta to tackle the challenges of being a young student abroad in another country. However, you’ll emerge on the other side of your high school study abroad program as an improved student and—even more importantly—a changed person. So what are you waiting for?

Find high school in Italy programs now