The idea of studying abroad in Italy usually evokes images or Rome, Florence, or Venice – but what about Ferrara? Located in the northeast region of Italy, Ferrara is often described as a ‘charming, small fortress.’ This small city is full of art, history, and authentic Italian culture.
We asked alumni from the CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara program to explain why they chose to spend their study abroad in Ferrara:
I can summarize my Ferrara experience in three words: food, family, community
I chose the Ferrara program because it was among the smallest and most intimate cultural immersion experiences I could find. Once there, I found myself in a thousand-year-old city surrounded by a medieval wall and boasting a Mario Brothers-looking castle with a moat at its center. Every day I rode my bike from my apartment in Piazza Sacrati, past the Castello Estense, and on to Universita di Ferrara, where my classes were conducted. I studied art history and the Italian language. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like studying a Botticelli painting and then hopping on a train to Bologna or Firenze to go see the actual work. Even the pinacoteca in Ferrara boasts impressive medieval works from some of the Italian Renaissance masters.
I can summarize my Ferrara experience in three words: food, family, community. Even though I didn't have a home stay, I befriended another student's home stay host family and they became an essential part of my experience. The extent to which the Italians as a culture are open to meeting new people and welcoming you into their home for a meal cannot be understated. Italians are lovers of humanity and of the human condition, and so whomever among us strives always to be in a locale of authenticity, you will find ample such places in a certain sunny southern European peninsula.
- Nate, CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara, Spring 2006
I really wanted to be immersed in the real Italian culture
Check out this video response from CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara 2014-15 alum May Kim – including insights from other CIEE alumni, and interviews with CIEE staff.
Coming back to Ferrara always felt like coming home
Photo credit: Steven Walter
I chose to study in Ferrara because I knew next to nothing about it before I left. I wanted an adventure, an experience, and the program delivered in so many different ways. I felt a connection to this town that I doubt I would have gotten had I chosen to go to a bigger city like Rome or Florence. Ferrara was perfect for visiting those cities, and indeed, my friends and I traveled frequently. But coming back to Ferrara always felt like coming home. The time I had there was unforgettable, and I wouldn't change a single thing about it.
- Steven, CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara, Spring 2007
The environment in Ferrara was perfect for developing my language proficiency
My decision to study abroad with the CIEE Ferrara program was not an easy one. I studied Italian for two years prior to embarking on my journey. Both years, I listened to the recruiters come into the classroom and give their spiel about why everyone should do it while displaying inspirational pictures from past students' experiences. I never bothered to take a flyer though, because I knew that I would never have the money to do anything like that. I was a first-gen. college student and my parents would never support me studying abroad because it was hard enough to convince them that I needed to go to a university rather than a community college.
Photo credit: Cassie Messerle
I had made a lot of friends in my university's Italian program, and by the beginning of our second year of language study, they were interested in going abroad. My friends and the instructors were very supportive and pushed me to stay positive and just go for it knowing that everything would fall into place so that I could go. So I filled out the application and submitted it to the international affairs department!
“I want to become an EFL teacher and CIEE Ferrara has played a major role in making this a more attainable career for me.”
I was really worried about money and my grades weren't as great as they could be, but as everyone said, I stayed positive and dealt with everything one at a time. My parents were very unsure about my decision at first, but my mom came around and helped me find a private loan to cover the expenses. As time went on, my study abroad advisor informed me that everyone in the program would be getting a $1000 scholarship just for participating, and they even gave me a travel loan within a few weeks of applying so that I could purchase my flight ticket before the prices went up.
Photo credit: Cassie Messerle
Just as they'd said, everything worked out so that I could go and I'm so, so glad. The resident staff, Patti, Richard, and Riccardo, were all great. They really did everything they could to make sure we had the best experience possible. They took us all over Italy and organized or informed us about several events in Ferrara as well. They even treated us to an absolutely grand Thanksgiving feast! The environment in Ferrara was perfect for developing my language proficiency, as it is a small city and not many people speak English. Everyone is so friendly too! If I went into a bar to get some food or a coffee, the employees were always very patient with me and helped me learn to properly order and learn the Italian words for various ingredients and foods.
I want to become an EFL teacher and CIEE Ferrara has played a major role in making this a more attainable career for me. My time studying in Ferrara left me feeling so confident, not only in my language skills, but also in my ability to overcome roadblocks that before would have stopped me in my tracks. I love trying new things now, and I have definitely been bit by the notorious "travel bug." I made so many connections through this experience that I now have places to stay all around Europe, and I have been back twice now in the two years that have passed!
- Cassie, CIEE Study Abroad in Ferrara, Fall 2013
Want to learn more about studying abroad in Ferrara? Read the student blog.