Siena Summer Program

Summer Course Descriptions

As the summer is a shorter time period our available courses are fewer, but no less valuable. All Summer Program students are required to take Italian Language, the Intercultural Reflections Seminar and 1-2 content courses depending on the length of the program.

8- and 6-week students can choose two courses among the five content courses listed below.

4-week students can choose between Art History and Food as Medicine.

Please inquire as to your preferred course.  All of our classes are accredited by Portland State University (PSU).

  • Italian Language

    Students are placed in the most appropriate of our five language levels and study Italian language 5 days a week. During the week, students can expect activities linked to experiences in the city, student presentations and discussions, videos, quizzes, and writing assignments, as well as the study of Italian grammar. The intermediate and advanced levels provide a complete study of grammatical and communicative structures using materials that are varied in both content and type. The language is always presented in its context, so as to avoid falling into the typical classroom trap of detachment from reality. Two or three teachers alternate in the classes, giving students the greatest possible linguistic and methodological variety. Throughout the summer, students will complete mandatory community service hours that require them to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. The summer session curriculum also includes a series of required excursions and activities that will expose students to the artistic, historical and cultural bounty that represents Italy, both yesterday and today. Some of these visits include: various museum visits in Siena, Florence and surrounding cities, a Tuscan cooking lesson, activities associated with the Palio festival and horse race, exploring remnants of the Etruscan culture along the Tuscan coast, as well as many other activities and excursions. 8-Week course – 90 contact hours 6-Week course – 45 contact hours 4-Week course – 45 contact hours

  • Art History: Siena, from its beginnings through the Renaissance Period

    (40 total contact hours) This course offers the student a wide “panorama” of topics in Italian Art History. This course will appeal to students that are intrigued by the architectural layout of a typical medieval city or are curious about the creative environment that inspired some of the most important art historical works of the Renaissance period. We will analyze works by artists such as Duccio di Boninsegna, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Simone Martini, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Students will explore how Italian art is not simply a long list of beautiful masterpieces but that it explains, sometimes better than any other discipline, how Italian society has been formed, why Italy is referred to as the “Bel Paese”. An integral part of the course will include visits to museums in Siena and Florence, such as the Museo del Duomo, Santa Maria della Scala, the Pinacoteca di Siena and the Museo Civico di Siena, as well as the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia in Florence. Viewing these masterpieces first hand will allow students to appreciate and enjoy what is perhaps the best expression of Italian Culture and Art of any time period.

  • Sociolinguistic Studies

    (40 total contact hours) This course aims to introduce the students to the multifaceted aspects of contemporary Italian, namely through its various axes of variation which are: time, geographical space, communication context, social extraction of the speakers, means of communication. Further discussion will concern simplified varieties of Italian, especially baby talk, Italian spoken by foreign immigrants in Italy and Italian spoken by Italian emigrants abroad. Theoretic analysis and discussion will be supported by literary passages, written and oral samples of several varieties (excerpts from movies, TV programs, etc.), student’s independent research for information, fieldwork activities in the Sienese territory.

  • Italy - Land of Migrants: Emigration and Immigration through History

    (40 total contact hours) The phenomenon of Italian emigration, one of the most numerically significant in the history of world migrations with a number of Italian descendants outside of Italy equal to the number of Italian citizens in Italy today, represented for much time one of the forgotten chapters of Italian history. After World War II and during the period of the economic boom of the 1950s, Italy certainly didn’t want to remember the suffering of all those that had abandoned Italy and endured the difficulties that this entailed in order to improve their lives. But between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s Italy witnessed a radical transformation: the country, whose emigrant population could very well represent emblematically the migrant population of the last two centuries, transformed it from a country of emigration to a country of immigration. Italy is no longer a country from which droves had to flee but, on the contrary, a country that attracted migrants coming from many geographic areas: North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America. In this historic moment Italy finally grasped, in its collective consciousness, that which is meant by emigration. When Italy became a popular destination for migrants, a desire was awoken in Italians to remember whom they were as a people, attempting to understand the paths and journeys of many Italians throughout the world, to observe the suffering endured and the difficulties faced in the adaptation to new worlds and also the resulting successes. “The invasion” of our space finally gave relevance to the theme of emigration, putting it front and center, showing the infinite number facets that we needed and that we need today in order to open the door to integration, or at least render us conscious of the fact that integration is possible.

  • Medieval Italian History: Siena

    (40 total contact hours) This course aims to present the main historical events that defined Italian history from the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 BC) to the Peace of Lodi (1454) that, for Italy, signified the transformation from the Medieval Period to the Modern Period. The course outlines the study of the historic events linked to the political, religious and social context of the ever-changing Italian reality, without ignoring the essential European panorama in which Italian was located. Themes such as gender relationships and family structure, social class structures as well as the contrada, or neighborhood, system in Siena will all be explored. During the course, there will also be several excursions to relevant points of interest such as Mt. Oliveto Abbey, the Santa Maria della Scala Hospital, Contrada museums.

  • Food as Medicine: The Healthy Tuscan Diet explained through Traditional Uses and Science

    The course represents a journey through the main dietary habits of Tuscany analyzed through the basic principles of biochemistry and physiology. The nutritional and metabolic characteristics of the “Mediterranean diet” will be illustrated. The benefits and limitations of this popular diet will be analyzed through the most recent scientific discovery. A large part of the course will be dedicated to the use of natural substances and to the discussion of the therapeutic power of some traditional remedies used in Italy. Specific attention will be paid to plant derived drugs and their pharmacologically active compounds. The program will be complemented by excursions to relevant points of interest in Siena: Natural Science Museum Accademia dei Fisiocritici and the Botanical Garden of Siena.

  • Intercultural Reflections Seminar

    (1 hr/week) Structured and guided reflection is key to the Intercultural Reflections Seminar. Our students are stimulated to reflect on every single intercultural encounter they have, which can include but are not limited to reflections on: the surrounding environment, historic testimony, the host family, relationships between men/women, his/her peers, service.

    The objective is to create a reflective awareness that allows students to open themselves to the world without getting lost, to discover the confines of their own culture interacting with those of the host culture, to see reality from different perspectives and to feel common ties of humanity under the flow of apparent differences. Reflective writing is the student’s personal tool to create his/her own personal understanding and knowledge.

    All students enrolled at SIS take the Intercultural Reflections Seminar. The class meets once a week for 1 1/2 hours during which students submit weekly entries concerning their studies and their overall experience/service and share them with their peers. Class is led by the Intercultural Reflections Facilitator, who serves as a bridge between the two cultures by facilitating students’ process of decoding and encoding cultural signs.