AFS Year and Semester High School Abroad in Italy

Video and Photos

An AFS Exchange Students at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
An AFS Exchange Students at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
All students that studied in Sardinia together. Friends from all over the world.
Sebastian (left), Eduardo (right) and I were all exchange students living in Milan. We decided to go to Verona for the day to explore.
An AFS Exchange Students in Venice
An AFS Exchange Students in Venice
AFS Exchange Students in an Italian classroom
AFS Exchange Students in an Italian classroom
Dressed in the traditional Sardo costume with my host family.
This picture is of all the exchange students studying abroad for one semester in Italy in 2014. This was our first day in Rome together.
AFS Exchange Students in Italy making pasta
AFS Exchange Students in Italy making pasta

About

Rewrite your high school experience while walking among ancient ruins and sampling the world’s best gelato. By going to a local school, 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.
This is your chance to learn the ins and outs of Italian daily life. As a country known to excel in art, architecture, food, and culture, Italy is an ideal place to step outside of your comfort zone, become a cultural insider, and engage in an exciting new adventure.

Highlights
  • Immerse yourself in Italian language - the best way to become fluent.
  • Live with a host family to deepen your immersion and connection to Italian culture. If you’re like most AFSers, you won’t want to leave this second family and home.
  • Experience some of the world’s greatest works of art and architecture.
  • Make connections and memories you'll never forget with other AFS exchange students from all over the world.
  • Become a global citizen. Gain intercultural communication skills. Build your college and career resume. Help create a more peaceful, understanding world.

Scholarships

AFS-USA Scholarships
AFS-USA Grants & Scholarships

The opportunity to study abroad should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial means. Annually, we award scholarships to about half of our study abroad students.

Value
$1,000 - $5,000

Questions & Answers

Reviews

97%
based on 12 reviews
  • Growth 9.7
  • Support 7.8
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.2
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 12 of 12
Default avatar
Julia
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Transformative Year in Italy

I went to Italy as my junior year of high school, although I did not need an academic credit to transfer. I really wish I had had more time to study some Italian before I went, I only have about a month of prior notice before going. The best thing was there were a lot of opportunities to travel all over Italy with other students in the program. Studying abroad also made me realize that I wanted to go to college to study Anthropology (the study of human culture) after my intercultural experience.

What would you improve about this program?
Wish I had been confirmed to go much earlier. Also, the only school I could go to in my town was a scientific school, when I wanted to go to an art or language school
Default avatar
Makena
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Best Six Months of My Life

AFS gave me the opportunity of a life time to live and study abroad for six months in the center of Milan, Italy. I made friendships to last a life time with people from all over the world. I also have a second family just a plane ride away. I am so grateful and indebted to AFS. They started me on my dream to travel the world and for that I am forever thankful.

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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Swearing in Italian

The first day of high school was extremely stressful. I had a host sister and I was meant to be placed in her class. After about an hour of school I was told to go to the principal's office and speak to him with an English language teacher there to interpret. I had no idea what was happening but soon discovered I was being moved into the 4th year of high school. My host sister was in her 5th year and I was only a junior in the U.S. I was very upset but the English teacher said she knew which class I would fit in best. They had multiple students who were proficient in English and could help me learn Italian. I met my class and they were very excited to have an exchange student join them. I was the first exchange student this school had ever hosted. The same evening, I joined a few of the girls from my new class in a public square to chat and get to know them. We spoke mostly in English but soon they were teaching me my first Italian words. Puttana, which is bitch or whore in English, was their first choice and they told me to shout it as loud as I could. I am not a shy person, so I proceeded to shout, "PUTTANAAA!!!!" at the top of my lungs in a public location. Everyone around turned and looked at me like I was crazy. And the girls who were teaching me were laughing hysterically...doubled over, holding their sides laughing. We all became great friends and I realized that I was placed in the best class in that high school.

What would you improve about this program?
I had very little contact with a representative from Intercultura (AFS Italy) at the beginning of my stay. The closest rep was an hour away and I didn't hear from them for about a month when I arrived if I remember correctly. I was the only exchange student in my town and the first one ever to attend the high school. For the first month or so I constantly felt like no one new what I should be doing. Since returning, some of the girls that I became friends with became reps in the town I lived in. So I think it is slowly improving.
Default avatar
Max
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

9 Cities in 13 days

While I told the Intercultura staff that I would be staying in Venice with my friend Electra for a week or so, I secretly took the train in the opposite direction to begin my backpacking trip where I stayed in hostels or on trains for the night and walked around ancient cities sightseeing for the next two weeks during the last month of my exchange and finished it off with the world Expo in Milan with my fellow exchange students.

What would you improve about this program?
More scholarship options or lower tuition fees/extended payment plans. The price is the ONLY thing stopping high schoolers from this life changing experience
Default avatar
Maeve
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Il mio anno in Italia

My year abroad in Italy was amazing. I went abroad knowing almost no Italian and, as a 16 year old, terrified out of my mind. But I made it, thanks to AFS and the Intercultura Italian chapter. My AFS correspondent near my house treated me like a daughter, always available if I needed help. I got lucky, my family was so welcoming and helpful, and I am still friends with them to this day. I'm going back to visit this summer!

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change one thing, I'd change the cost of release. It costs a good deal of money (about $500) to get a release at the end of the year program. My parents and I wanted to travel around Italy after the program, but didn't have the money to pay for that.
Austyn
Austyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Most memorable time of my life

I never would have imagined when I boarded my plane to Italy that I would come back to the US a year later a totally new person. From day one, my host family took me in as one of their own. They were amazing. I really do feel like I have a second family that would be there for me at the drop of a dime. My experience was extremely interesting too because I was the first exchange student at my high school, ever. They did everything they could to help my immersion into the Italian culture and language as easy as possible. I had private language study time with teachers, I was able to jump around classes so the material would be easier to understand. By Christmas my Italian was better than I would have ever imagined. (It was 100x better than my French, which I had taken 3 years of between middle and high school). Come February, I was able to translate for a group of American students that were in my valley for a week exchange program. I would never trade this for anything. I grew so much as a person too, while I was there. I grew into someone I do not think I would have become without this experience.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I would change was being a little closer to my local chapter. I was about an hour and a half from the local city and that made for long commutes during meetings, meeting for orientations, and other events. It also made it a little harder to socialize with the other students on exchange in my area. But I loved where I lived!
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Tess
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Changing lives and sharing love

I can't imagine having not met all the people I did in Italy that are now integral members of my life. Living with a new family in a new place is the most refreshing sensation. Human kindness and restored faith in humanity are two of the biggest take-always from this semester abroad. I'm going to share a somewhat sad story but I think it is beautifu and rather emblematic of the kindness and love that can be found in a non-biological family.
At an AFS local chapeter event in the pugliese countryside, I was distraught with some personal issues going on. My host mother pulled me into a separate room and we had such a thoughtful and profound conversation, crying and so connected. After the party, my liaison took me to her home, where I took a shower and then we were sitting and she was brushing my hair, telling me how much she loves me I reciprocated the sentiment. There was so much love and connection. I felt like their daughter, and I still do, 4 years later, maybe even more so now. I can call them for anything, they are always there. Upon my departure, my host sister said to me "we will always come back to each other in this life". Her words have remained true. We are very much sisters. They are very much my other family. All of them; two mothers , a father , a grandmother, two sisters, and countless close friends who mean the world to me to this day.

What would you improve about this program?
I think the restrictions on travel when in the host country, although warranted to ensure safety, are a little too strict and inhibiting of student's possibilities to go and visit other AFS friends or to go visit Italian friends and/or family members. For me the travel restrictions only rendered the little trip I took within Italy more complicated with a lot of paperwork and a lot of correspondence. I just think it's a little bit excessive but understand it has a place.
Alayna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Not Only Finding Me

I was living a lie. I kept lying to myself that I was content going to a boarding school in a small town. I knew the desire to see the world was always present within me but I never knew that the opportunity would soon present itself. I have always been jealous of other girls my age that have a great relationship with their mothers. When they have boy troubles or are stressing out about something, they can always rely on their mothers to comfort them. Not only did I choose to find myself when I studied abroad but I was in need of a mother that could comfort me and show me how to be a mother someday.
The second my friend Paige and I landed in Sardinia, Italy, our palms started to sweat and I started to pick at my nails. The pressure of meeting your "new family" for the next five months is not something that most people will ever have to experience in their lifetime. This is not something that you can prepare yourself for. As I walked out of customs and saw my new family, my host mother immediately started bawling. My initial thought was that something was wrong and that I had already failed before my adventure had even started. The reality was that my mother was overjoyed that she had another daughter in her family. From the very beginning I was accepted for who I am and was encouraged every day to be who I want to be. Living with just a sister and a mother has helped me make an amazing connection with them that I would not be able to find back home in America. While I was there my "nonna" (italian for grandma) passed away and I was able to comfort and mourn with my family. Not one single moment passed by that I didn't feel like I belonged and wasn't loved. I was not only able to discover hidden things about myself, but I was able to find a family that will be forever in my heart.

What would you improve about this program?
Although studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and find yourself, the support is also needed. Whenever I needed help or was confused, the volunteers were often difficult to get hold of. Also, from living in Wisconsin with five months of Christmas, I thought that I would be well prepared to go to Sardinia, Italy, and that the cold would be a minor problem for me. Transitioning from a central heating system in my American house to a single fireplace to heat the entire house in Italy led to some difficulties. My first month I would usually wear two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, three sweatshirts, mittens and a hat to bed considering that it was 57 degrees in my room. Another thing that happened was that our flight from Switzerland to Italy got cancelled and we had to stay the night in Zurich. There were no volunteers to help us out and none of the kids had international calling on our phones so we were on our own. It was quite the adventure to start out one of the biggest of my lifetime.
Default avatar
Ashley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful Time in My Life

While I was abroad, I grew so much. I realized that I loved to travel and see places, meet new people, experience a new culture. I can still remember getting off the train my first day meeting my family. I was so nervous. I didn't speak Italian and I really hoped they would like me. As we pulled up to the train station, there was a huge American flag sign that said "Welcome Ashley". As I got up and grab my stuff, my knees were shaking. I walked down the steps through the door and I was greeted with a sea of people. There stood my soon to be friends and family. Everyone threw their arms around me and kissed me on the cheeks. I made my way through the crowd and there was my host family. They began telling me how excited they were and that they could not wait to begin this new adventure together, which was exactly how I felt. Throughout my stay there were ups and downs because naturally I became home sick at different time. However, they were completely understanding and helped the best they could. I was so fortunate to have such a great family and a wonderful school to attend. The friends I made there are some I still talk with and think about often. I know that when I get my next chance to return to Italy, I will have people to see, a place to stay, and wonderful memories to reminisce. The proof of this lies in last summer, when I returned to Italy for the first time since my program in 2010 and was greeted with open arms by my host sister in the new city she lived in. She took me around and treated me just like family. The connections that you make while on an AFS program are incredible and cannot be traded for anything. This was the best decision I have ever made.

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Emily
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thoughts about Italy

My experience in Italy was really a great one. Of course there were hard times, but also very many happy memories. I met a lot of people from all over the whole through AFS. I got to learn not just about Italy, but also about countries on every continent. One special memory I had was Thanksgiving in Italy. Even though they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Italy, my host family helped me make dinner. We went to the butcher and only managed to get a huge leg of the turkey, which barely fit in the oven! After that we all made mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn together. It was really special and I will never forget my host family!

What would you improve about this program?
One thing I had difficulty with was the lack of options to get around, we were always looking for a ride from a parent since you have to be 18 to get a drivers license. In addition, the AFS staff at the higher level were the most cooperative. However, I loved the local AFS volunteers!
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Shante
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience In Italy with AFS

My experience with AFS in Italy truly changed my life. The volunteer structure of the program was the most important aspect to me. I never felt as if someone was assisting me in order to get paid. Everyone involved with AFS, from the host family to to community liasons, are all doing this program out of passion. I will never forget it.

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Leah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience of my life!!

I studied abroad for a semester in Italy with AFS, and it was the best experience of my life. I was only 15 when I went, so it was really life-changing. Especially in high school, studying abroad gives you such an awesome advantage over your classmates in the USA. You'll return a completely new person, and having learned and experienced so much more than all of your friends at home. I lived with a fantastic host family in Gravina in Puglia, a teeny town in southern Italy, and I'm still in contact with them three years later. Italy is a really great country for study abroad, especially in high school, because Italians have such a warm and welcoming culture! They'll be just excited that you're there as you are.

Starting with a pre-departure orientation in the US, orientations in Italy, and usually the placement of multiple other exchange students in your Italian high school, you'll make the best friends you could wish for! I went to a regular Italian high school during the week, and made so many great friends. Because of the great public transportation system, you'll have a lot of opportunities to further explore both Italy as a whole and the region of Italy where you're living.

I had a full language immersion with AFS, and left Italy conversationally proficient in Italian. If you are able, study abroad in high school!!! It's such a great experience, and it really will change the way you see the world, especially at such a young age. I left Italy knowing so much more about myself than before I left, and am now studying linguistics and becoming certified to teach english abroad. Bottom line: STUDY ABROAD! If you can do it, DO IT!

What would you improve about this program?
More program support in-country! AFS-USA is awesome, but my personal AFS chapter in Italy was kind of lacking. My friends just an hour away had a super active chapter that hosted all sorts of events for their exchange students, probably at least 10 in the six months that we were abroad. My chapter only had one event the whole semester! This is, in part, because my chapter was much smaller, but it was still a bummer! Otherwise, AFS rules. GO AFS!

Location

Location:
Italy
Currency:
Euro
Weather:
Jan-Mar
59 F / 37 F
Apr-Jun
82 F / 46 F
Jul-Sep
88 F / 61 F
Oct-Dec
72 F / 41 F
Airports:
Rome Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino
( FCO )
Milan Malpensa
( MXP )
Venice Marco Polo
( VCE )

Italy has long been a bucket list item for people, and its no wonder with the ancient ruins, astounding scenery, and renowned museums; all accompanied by the beautiful Italian language. When visiting Italy, be prepared to see big differences in accents and food while moving between regions.

Interviews

Alumni Interviews

About AFS-USA

AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS...