Academic Program

Student Life in Florence

At work

Students in the beginner track (less than 4 courses in Italian language and grammar)

  • Students choosing to study in Florence must complete 4 units of credit per semester. These credits can be obtained by choosing from courses taught in English at the Università degli Studi di Firenze, visual arts courses, and courses offered at the Middlebury Sede  including one required course.

Students in the intermediate track (4 courses in Italian language and grammar)

  • Students choosing to study in Florence must complete 4 units of credit, including a required course organized by the School in Italy. Students enroll in classes at the Università degli Studi di Firenze, but Visual Art majors or minors may choose to enroll at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze.

N.B  Your workload must be approved by the director of the School in Italy.  Students are not permitted to take lighter loads, nor will they receive additional credit for heavier loads. Because your home institution determines the number of credits awarded for work abroad, you are urged to consult with your advisers well ahead of time. Middlebury College considers a semester/academic year abroad equivalent to a semester/academic year in the United States.

Italian-Style Education

Studying in an academic culture different from your own allows you to develop new skills and new work methods. “In my fourth-year seminars and courses, I can tell when students have studied in Europe,” a Middlebury College professor said. “The European system teaches them to become more independent and self-directed, and greatly improves their intellectual curiosity.”

Enrolling in courses at an Italian university alongside Italian students offers a unique opportunity for deepening your intellectual and linguistic growth as well as providing additional opportunities for social immersion. Students enrolled in “mainstream” courses (regular university courses) are subject to both the privileges and restrictions established by the university administration.

Course Format

It is important to note that a course in an Italian university is usually a series of lectures, presentations or seminars designed to guide students in their study and preparation for a final oral examination. Most courses meet 3 times a week for 2 hours. Lectures are meant to help students approach an immense body of knowledge from a more informed viewpoint. After taking detailed notes in class, it is up to the student to pursue their own further investigation of the subject matter.  Good note-taking is absolutely crucial in the Italian system. Certain courses may also require a paper or a written exam in addition. A typical university course is made up of academic sections called moduli.  Courses at the university entail classroom instruction and independent preparation by the student of critical readings, texts, etc. assigned by the docente, who plays a very important part in the final exam. Students strive to follow the professor who leads them, but does not necessarily tell them where they are going. This may explain why syllabi and assignments are not organized as they are in the U.S.


An integral part of your academic experience while in Italy will be seminars. Seminar sections are organized for each course that you enroll in at the local university and together with the exam for the course, constitute your final grade: the division is 30% seminar, 70% university exam. Attendance at seminars is required and repeated absence will reduce your overall grade. Therefore, we recommend you wait to receive your schedule before planning any travel.

The seminars will demand that you write about your course material on a regular basis, giving you the opportunity to practice your writing skills. Aside from being an instrument to measure progress throughout the semester, seminars are an additional resource that aids you in better acquiring the notions and theories presented in class and in the course bibliography. Seminars should be considered as only partial preparation for the exams at the university; students are expected to round out their preparation with autonomous study.


As a registered student at the university, you are required to take final exams during the official exam period and at the same place and time as the Italian students, even if students on other study abroad/exchange programs are allowed to opt out or rearrange exam schedules.

If you miss the final exam for a course, you risk failing!

Exam dates at the Sede will not be changed to accommodate students’ travel and/or summer job/internship plans, even if individual professors agree.


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