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Siena Semester

Siena Semester Overview: Standard Academic and Service-Intensive

A semester in Siena is the best way to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and understand the true meaning of intercultural study abroad.  During a semester in Siena with SIS Intercultural Study Abroad, students expand their worldview and experience one of Europe’s most unique cultures.  Students can enroll full time (all SIS courses are accredited through Portland State University) for a once-in-a-lifetime immersion experience in a series of semester options. Students take a combination of Italian Language and content courses, as well as participate in service learning. All students live with local host families and enjoy a series of excursions and activities each term.

Program Dates

  • Spring 2023: Sunday, Jan. 8th – Sunday, April 30th
  • Fall 2023:  Sunday, Sept. 3rd – Sunday, Dec. 17th

Semester Track Options

SIS is able to accommodate a wide variety of student needs. For this reason we off a number of semester track options that allow students to choose how to structure their semester. Below is a list of ways you can spend a semester with SIS, but read on for details on the Standard Academic and Service-Intensive Semesters in Siena!

1. Standard Academic – See details

2. Service Intensive – See details

3. Gap – Learn more!

4. Scientific Track – Learn more!

5. Graduate and Continuing Education Opportunities –Learn more!

6. Multi-destination Internship program: Siena+Brussels  – Learn more!

7. Multi-destination Internship program: Siena+Cameroon – Learn more!

8. Multi-destination program: Siena+ Chiang Mai – Learn more!


Language immersion for everyone!

SIS programs, although language intensive and immersive, are open to students with any Italian language level, whether they be students who have years of Italian under their belt to students who don’t know any Italian other than the word pizza!  Everyone will come away from a semester in Siena with new language and intercultural skills as well as university credit.


After meeting the group on the arrival day at Florence International Airport (FLR), SIS staff will accompany the group to Siena and introduce them to their host families. Orientation activities take place in the three days that follow. 


During orientation, students get to know the city of Siena, each other, staff and are introduced to various aspects of the upcoming semester. They will start exploring the various intriguing, though sometimes contradictory, characteristics of Italy and Italians today. Orientation days also include a series of group activities, as well as a historical tour of the ancient city. 

Intensive Italian 3-Week Course

The Intensive Course is a 75-hour front-loaded language course that prepares students for daily life in Siena. These first three weeks of the semester are dedicated to learning Italian, exploring the territory, visiting service sites and getting to know the host families. Everyone coming to SIS, on any semester track with the exception of the Multi-destination Programs, will complete the intensive Italian Course.

Academic and Service-Intensive Semesters in Siena

Following the three-week intensive language course, the semester begins. Students are required to take Italian language and the Intercultural Dialogue and Reflections course, as well as 2-3 content courses depending on the chosen track. For example, in the Standard Academic track a student will typically take Italian language, the Intercultural Dialogue and Reflections course and choose 2-3 academic content courses from our official course list. Students in the Service-intensive track, on the other hand, will still take Italian Language and Intercultural Dialogue and Reflections, but will choose 1-2 academic content courses to allow for additional time during the week for service-learning.

Service is not only a pillar of SIS programs, but an enriching linguistic and cultural experience for students. All students, in any semester track, will participate in service learning throughout their time in Siena. 

Semester Course Descriptions

SIS Intercultural Study Abroad courses are divided in to five basic course categories. Please note that actual course offerings vary each semester based on student demand enrollment numbers.

All students are required to take Italian Language, the Intercultural Dialogue and Reflections course and 2-3 content courses depending on their chosen semester track.

Please feel free to inquire about course availability. All of our courses are accredited by Portland State University (PSU).



Service Opportunities

Service-Learning is an integral part of the intercultural  study abroad experience in Siena.  Participants in all SIS programs are encouraged to perform service in the community through SIS’ sister association Nuova Associazione Culturale Ulisse. This service can range from 1-5 hours a week and opportunities are in a variety of different service sites. Students might set tables at the city soup kitchen, visit with the elderly at a nursing home, teach English to local elementary school children or volunteer on the city ambulance. Volunteering in the community is an unparalleled way to improve language skills, get involved in the local social fabric and make a genuine contribution to the host community.



Activities and Excursions

Hands On Lessons

With SIS Intercultural Study Abroad, learning is not limited to the classroom. Whenever possible, we integrate field excursions and museum visits to enhance comprehension and provide students with a multifaceted experience.

  • Art History courses naturally include visits to museums, churches and sites of artistic relevance in Siena, Florence and other towns in the region so that students can see first-hand the masterpieces discussed in class.
  • Cultural Anthropology students may attend traditional local festivals and visit museums dedicated to aspects of Tuscan folk culture
  • Italian Costume brings students to visit museums dedicated to textiles, costumes and individual Italian designers in the Florence/Prato area
  • History of Italian Cuisine might visit a local cheese making farm and attend a hands-on cooking lesson
  • the list goes on…


Group Excursions

  • 3-day trip within Italy – destinations change every term. Past trips have taken students to: Bologna & Modena, Genova, Rome, Venice and Verona.
  • 3-day trip to Brussels, Belgium – with a visit to the European Parliament, meetings with EU NGO’s and other cultural activities.*

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the overnight trip to Brussels has been suspended until further notice, alternate activities will be provided.

More excursions

  • Visit to local farms for wine, oil, meat or cheese tastings
  • Relaxing afternoon at the host springs
  • Traditional Tuscan festivals (Carnevale)
  • Day trip to Florence (including museum visit)
  • Evening at the Opera

*Excursions vary from semester to semester and may be subject to change due to COVID-19; please contact us for current details.


Inquire at for price information!