At CET, our goal is to make study abroad accessible for all. We believe that learning happens best when your class reflects the world around us—complex and diverse. So we work hard to create and maintain programs that support students of all races, religions, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations. No matter where you are coming from, we want you to have a successful study abroad experience.
CET makes every effort to offer accommodations comparable to those of your home institution. Disclosing early helps us to make proper preparations and work with you to determine if a program will be a good fit. We recommend that you use the following details to inform your decisions and conversations with your Student Services Coordinator.
Race & Ethnicity
Generally speaking, Florence itself is a very open-minded city and students seldom report contradictory experiences. Due to the increase in the immigrant population in recent years, resentment against non-European communities within Italy has grown. As a result, students may hear some blunt opinions while out and about or on the news from outspoken far-right politicians. Students of color have reported that they are first considered American before their racial/ethnic identity comes into play, if it is considered at all. This can be a very different experience from the saliency students of color feel in respect to their racial/ethnic identities back in the US.
While it is always evolving, Italy on the whole can still be reluctant to fully embrace LGBTQ individuals and issues. However, Florence itself (and bigger Italian cities in general) is an open, international city where LGBTQ individuals are welcomed. Though same-sex civil unions are recognized by law as of May 2016, Italy still lags behind other countries on things like same-sex marriage, which is not yet officially recognized.There are several local LGBTQ community groups that students can reach out to, and on-site staff can provide more information upon request.
Generally speaking, Italian culture often reinforces traditional gender norms and roles. The local society is patriarchal, and the objectification of women by men is not an uncommon occurrence. This is sometimes apparent and reinforced by pop culture and advertising.
Italy is not yet fully accepting of gender diversity on the national scale, but gender diverse individuals are usually more accepted and comfortable in bigger cities like Florence.
Though Catholicism is the predominant religion in Italy, prejudice against other religions is often less prevalent than in the United States. Students that wish to practice their faiths abroad should have no issue in doing so. A list of religious services is made available to students during orientation. Excused absences can be granted from some activities or classes for religious purposes with advanced notice.
Cost of Living
As an international city famous for its art, culture, and beauty, Florence tends to attract many visitors and is at least on par with the cost of living in a major American city. Some things might be cheaper (e.g. groceries, coffee, bus tickets, etc.), but other things can be much more expensive than in the US (e.g. rent, utilities, high-end fashion retailers, and taxi rides.). Compared to the rest of Italy, Florence’s cost of living can be on the higher end. Past students have mentioned that establishing and adhering to a budget at the beginning of the term was a strategy that helped manage any financial stress.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS
Students typically attend classes for 4.5 to 6 hours a day, Monday through Thursday. Classes vary in size and can have fewer than 10 students, while others go up to a max of 25.
Services available for students with documented need: Low-distraction test environment; extra time on exams; modified deadlines and seating; note-taker; exam reader; audio recordings of lectures; a computer to take exams; syllabi/readings/assignments in advance; sighted companion.
Classes are held at the CET Center, conveniently located within the historical city center. The building has two floors; however, the first floor is completely accessible for those with mobility issues. This includes ample classroom space, an accessible bathroom, and a no-step entrance.
CET occasionally plans mandatory academic activities and optional trips to nearby sites and other cities after class and on weekends. Excursions may involve urban walking, rural hiking, use of public transportation, and/or going up and down stairs.
Itinerary modifications and accommodations can be made for students with documented need. Transportation can be arranged as necessary, and excused absences are provided for mandatory excursions that are inaccessible due to a disability.
ACCESS IN HOUSING
Your Home Abroad
Apartments are located in historic buildings, so they are simple and differ in layout and location. All apartments and most homestay locations are a 10- to 30-minute walk to the CET Center, where classes are held. Housing can be wheelchair accessible if requested in advance.
Students are typically assigned to apartments according to their housing preference form. Apartment configurations vary but can include mix-gender and same-gender setups. Rooms within the apartment are same-gender. The form also includes questions to help accommodate the needs of gender diverse students.
Rooms are typically shared, but a single room in a shared apartment, with a private shower or toilet, may be available for students with documented need if requested in advance. Homestay students are provided private rooms and share common spaces with their local host family.
Due to the architecture of the city itself, Florence is not easily navigable by individuals with disabilities. All public offices, restaurants, museums, and schools are required by law to be accessible to those with disabilities, but in practice, many private businesses are not. Curb cuts are common but not consistent throughout the city, and many streets and sidewalks are often uneven, causing inconvenience to students with mobility issues. Public transportation has designated areas for those with disabilities, and most buses have equipment for those that need assistance entering or exiting the vehicle.
Health & Medicine
Students are provided with a full list of health resources and services to which students have access in Florence. During orientation, on-site staff provide students with basic information and recommendations for seeing a doctor and buying medicine. On-site staff are also available to help advise students seeking health services throughout their time abroad.
Students should request enough prescription medication to last for the duration of their stay in Italy. Medications should be packed in their carry-on bag, in the original bottles, and accompanied by the doctor’s prescription. A copy of the prescription and list of medications should be left with a trusted family member or friend in the US. Some medication that is considered OTC in the US requires a prescription in Italy—students should do their research beforehand and bring the necessary amounts with them. Medication cannot be shipped to Italy.
Keeping Fit in Florence
There are many private gyms that students can join for varying fees, and in many cases, a doctor’s certificate may be required as well. On-site staff can assist students in this process. Those interested in running or soccer can take part in clubs that are organized by staff. During orientation, students are given a full list of sports facilities.
Managing Mental Health
During orientation, students are provided a list of health resources and services that includes several English-speaking options for mental health specialists. On-site staff are available to advise students seeking mental health services to the best of their abilities.
Specific dietary needs are easily accommodated in in Florence, and staff help students translate and explain any food allergies. Staff also ensure food allergies and vegetarian/vegan requirements are accounted for when organizing group activities that involve food.
Additionally, gluten intolerance has become increasingly common in Italy, and there is now even a gluten-free bakery in the city center.
These are alumni-written essays that reflect upon how their own identity affected their time abroad (both good and bad) and what it was like to navigate another culture in their position. We encourage you to read these to better understand what studying abroad in Italy could be like for you or your future peers.
ITALY Alumni Insight
In final evaluations, we ask students how their identities affected their experience abroad. The following are a few select quotes from recent program evaluations to help you understand what life in Italy may be like for you or your future peers.
TALK TO ALUMNI
Chat with alumni about their experiences abroad. Once you start an application, your online CET account will give you access to the following resources:
- Alumni Support List: A directory of students who have volunteered to chat about their experiences abroad in Italy.
- Identity Abroad Support Network: A group of students who have volunteered to discuss their identity-related experiences in Italy. This is a volunteer-based program that started in 2019. Volunteers can also opt to have their contact information kept privately by CET staff and only shared when certain lived experiences are asked about.
Don’t see anyone listed for the Identity Abroad Support Network? Call CET for more information and resources. Consider joining after your program to support other minority students abroad.