The Umbra Institute sits in the center of Perugia - a town that existed prior to the Roman Empire (it's more than 2,000 years old). However, this town is the capitol of the region of Umbria - so despite it's authentic ancient appearance, it has all the modernities that a city would have including an Italian University of 25,000 students. Perugia being a capital, its infrastructure has to move into the 21st century, but it has done so while retaining its history and culture and at the same time is cost-friendly to the college student, due to the majority of the daily money-spending population being college age. The town of Assisi just across the valley, a highly visited tourist site, draws all the western tourists. Leaving Perugia for the most part very Italian in local composition as well as in tourism. Then there's the Umbra Institute which draws somewhere around 100 english speaking students from America. Those 100 students are pretty much the only english speakers in town, which made it great for someone like me who went to Italy to learn the language and engage in their culture.
I lived in an Italian home with a family and could speak days and write maybe a book about it. There were great challenges to living in a homestay that improved not only my language competency and pronunciation, but really opened me up to the Italian culture as well as in the future, new cultures. I became less egocentric - a term used in political science to describe those who think how their country does things is the best. I learned about how Italians do family, how they serve the community, how they practice faith, how they engage in politics, how they fold bedsheets - just, everything! Just imagine life, but everything is written and spoken in Italian. And lest I forget the homemade food!
I was very surprised by how challenging the Umbra Institute's courses were. I just didn't expect to actually be academically challenged I guess. Then again, I took probably some of their more difficult courses, including one where with our three-student class we read Italian literature and discussed it and wrote reflections and at the end wrote a short story - 100% in Italian. T'was quite the challenge. But at the end of the course, I was glad I took it. I was exposed to words and sentence structures and nuances of the language I would have never seen if I had just taken the required language course. Fear not - if one is looking for a less intense academic experience, there are all kinds of courses for that.
The staff are too fun. Easily approachable. All very intelligent and at least when I was there, they truly cared about the students' experiences. I doubt that has changed much!
And lastly the volunteer opportunities abound; I think this is probably the most unique part of being at the Umbra Institute. A friend of mine taught english at a local grade school to some third graders. There's an online blog - if one is journalistically inclined. I personally worked with resettled refugees at a local aid organization. I made photographs for their website and wrote and personally taught english and Italian. Along the way, I made friendships with people from literally all over the world (the mid-east, Pakistan, Afghanistan, all over Africa, and even a few South Americans). That was certainly the highlight of my time there, maybe after living with the Italian family. Living with Rosy and Orfeo Ambrosi was just an unparalleled experience, rich in quality living. But I digress.
Congratulations at getting to the end of my comments! Feel free to reach out, I really would love to talk anytime even if you're SLIGHTLY interested in Umbra. Or just interested in living with a family. No matter where you go, LIVE WITH A FAMILY.
Email me at [email protected].