Italians know how to enjoy life, whether through exquisite art, music food, and architecture, or the company of friends and family on an after dinner passeggiata (a slow walk). Despite the abundance of history – Roman ruins, Renaissance art, medieval towns – Italy is also modern, taking part in the European Union, keeping up with modern technology, and, of course, always leading in style and fashion.
Live with a host family in Italy while attending high school for one full academic year or a semester (only offered in the spring). Learn Italian and explore a country extremely rich in history and culture.
Going to school in Italy, though often very demanding, can be a great place to meet friends. The typical school week runs 8:00am-2:00pm Monday through Saturday. Often, the students remain in the classroom and the teachers rotate.
Your local AFS chapter will organise activities throughout the year, which may include parties or excursions to other cities or regions in Italy. Also, over the course of your program, AFS staff and volunteers will meet with you at orientations to evaluate your experience and help with your cultural adjustment.
AFS in Italy
AFS in Italy is known as Intercultura and is the largest exchange organisation of its kind in Italy.
For over 50 years, through it’s almost 100 chapters, Intercultura’s main focus has been secondary school student exchanges, though programs for teachers and young workers also operate.
Intercultura is also a consultant to the Italian ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education and cooperates with the United Nations, the Council for Europe and the European Union, and is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award of Culture.
Intercultura is associated with EFIL (European Federation for Intercultural Learning).
Italian is the official language, although there are different dialects from city to city. There are significant French- and German-speaking minorities as well as Slovene speakers close to the Yugoslavian border.
Italian language lessons will be offered to AFS participants in order to aid your communication and adjustment. Lessons will be organised at the local level by the volunteers in your host community. Language lessons will be offered weekly during your first two to three months in Italy. These classes are covered by your tuition.
To help you with the language requirement, AFS Italy organises and monitors your participation in an online Rosetta Stone language course. You will study independently with the aid of this program prior to departure and while on program. Upon program acceptance, AFS Italy will email you the registration and login instructions.
Host Family & Community
You can be placed anywhere in Italy including the islands, Sicily or Sardinia. The majority of host families (about 70%) are located in small cities. Another 20% of placements are in rural areas, and the remaining 10% of students are placed in urban areas. You could be placed in a multi-lingual community in northern Italy: your host family could speak multiple languages due to their proximity to France, Switzerland or Austria.
Italians are often described as warm and friendly people. Strong traditional ties bind families together, although Italian family dynamics vary from zone to zone.
Italians are happy and easygoing, always ready to have fun or to laugh at a good joke. They place great importance on friendship and loyalty and are usually very willing to help others, even if this means going out of their way. Selfishness and strong individualism are frowned upon. Normally, northern Italians are a little more reserved than southern Italians.
Italians are passionate in the way they talk – loud and with lots of gesturing and emphatic facial expressions – but they are not arguing.
Because schools do not organise many extracurricular activities, students usually organise their own free time. Young people can generally stay out until late on Saturday night and, if the family is more liberal, perhaps one or two other nights during the week. Most parents want to know where their child is going when he/she leaves the house.
Young people tend to live at home until they get married. Teens do not usually have part-time jobs.
Italians love to eat. Be prepared for generous portions, strong coffee and tasty treats. Mealtime is usually a family affair; this is a great opportunity get to know your host family. Meals are usually a time when Italians are socialising and catching up.
Italians generally have a light breakfast of coffee with milk or tea. Cookies, crackers, bread with jam or honey, fruit, or cheese may be served.
Lunch, the biggest meal of day, is often a big plate of pasta followed by meat, fish, cheese, vegetables or salads. Lunch is generally eaten around 1:30 p.m. Afterward, there may be fruit and dessert.
Dinner is later, around 9:00 p.m. and a little smaller than lunch, but with bigger portions of meat, fish or vegetables together with cheese, ham and bread.
Vegetarians are difficult to place. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to place you (i.e. if you eat white meat and fish).
Italian schools are very demanding, so you will be expected to be highly motivated academically. Your host school is decided upon by AFS-Italy local volunteers. They take into consideration your host family’s location, the availability of the school to host, and what you studied before coming. The volunteers will find you the best host school according to your interests, curriculum and self presentation. Together with your host family, they will assist you during your adjustment in the new school and throughout the year.
It is very likely you will be placed in a state-run school. Italian high schools last five years, and you will be placed in the 3rd or 4th year. Students in Italy attend school Monday-Saturday, from about 8:30am to 1:30pm. There are about five classes per day, with one 15-30 minute break in the middle of the day. Students stay in the same classroom while teachers move from room to room.
Orientations & Activities
In addition to the orientations that you will participate in domestically, you and your fellow AFSers will have several orientations while abroad.
These required orientations are intended to help you maximise your AFS experience, prevent culture shock and to gain knowledge, skills and a global understanding.
In addition, many local chapters organise activities for students and host families throughout the year. These will vary from chapter to chapter but may include parties or excursions to other cities in Italy. Unlike the orientations, these activities are optional and are not included in the tuition.