Rome Study Program | Italian Language and Culture

NOTE: This site is no longer being updated.

Information on past programs is kept here for archival purposes.

For current information concerning the program,

please contact the Program Director, Antonella D. Olson
 2.106B, phone: 512-471-5706/5531 | email:

the Rome Study Program on the website of

View photographs: Summer 2013 | Summer 2012


from The Daily Texan, 2 April 2010

The Rome Study Program
by Sheri Alzeerah

Surrounded by shelves of Italian literature, walls plastered with theatrical production posters and an old black-and-white sketch of a Roman fountain, Antonella Del Fattore-Olson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the Department of French and Italian, sits in her office in Homer Rainey Hall.

Pointing at the fountain sketch signed by her first group of students she took to study in Rome more than 10 years ago, Olson smiled and said, "To me, that's a precious document."

Olson, a native of Rome, created the College of Liberal Arts' Rome Study Program in 1996.

"To look at Rome, something very familiar to me, through the eyes of the students is like seeing a new picture every summer I go there," Olson said.

Olson and Douglas Biow, director for the Center of European Studies, take about 32 students to Rome for the first six weeks of each summer session to take part in an intensive language and culture program situated in the historically rich hub of Italian civilization.

"In Rome, we only need the textbook as a guideline, everything else is real. It surrounds the students," Olson said. "They live what they learn."

The Rome program is open to all UT undergraduate students, as well as students from other universities, who are in good academic standing. The courses, each taught by Olson and Biow, include Second-year Italian; Rome, Eternal City: Myths and Realities; and Contemporary Italian Culture. Students can earn three to six UT credit hours. To boost the rate at which students pick up the language, they live with host families in Rome, said Thomas Garza, associate professor and director at the Texas Language Center.

"They're not just going to see Rome in a touristic sense," said Garza. "They're going to see it in a domestic sense."

John Pointer graduated from UT in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in music.

"There is nothing--absolutely nothing--that can compare with living with a Roman family and experiencing that city as a resident. It is beyond words," Pointer said.

Public relations junior Summer Moore found ways to prep for her Italian adventure beyond her two semesters of Italian.

"I was extremely nervous about speaking with my family," Moore said. "Honestly, I spent the whole nine-hour plane ride listening to Italian for Dummies on my iPod."

The host families often know each other and the students form a familial network within days of arrival.

"It's not just your family, but it's you connecting with another family through another student who is a friend of yours, or maybe you become friends with the student because the families are friends," Olson said.

In Italy, family and food are vital parts of the culture. Students are encouraged to join their families at dinnertime to simply eat and talk.

"Dinner is almost a ritual experience because the dinner is the moment in which the family gets together no matter how busy we are," Olson said. "Food--it's important.  It's something that talks to you, and you talk through it."

Memorable moments happen everywhere in Rome, Pointer said.

"I spent hours every night around dinner and on the balcony talking about everything from politics to religion to pronunciation to really flavorful insults," Pointer said. "Watching the sun set over the Gianicolo Hill, watching the sun come up over the forum, standing in the middle of Piazza Venezia at 4:45 a.m. and having 20 silent minutes between the late-night revelers and the early-morning delivery trucks, seeing the layers of Roman evolution in each building, twisting around in the Jewish ghetto, having lunch in Trastevere, standing where Caesar and senators stood--everything [is memorable]," Pointer said.

Students from a wide range of majors flock to Rome to study.

"We see the classics majors who are going for the archeology of it. We see the fine arts majors who are going for the art history museums," Colleen Boyle, International adviser at the study abroad office, said. "But we also see business students who are interested in Italian political and business affairs."

Olson recalled a comment made by one of her students that inspires her: "You have taken a group of kids and made them citizens of the world."

"To be citizens of the world--that is to respect other cultures, to respect other people," Olson said. "Well then, I win. It was all worth it."

Preliminary meetings about the Rome Study Program are held for students from October through May. The estimated 2010 cost is $4,000, which covers medical insurance, housing with three meals per day, transportation from the airport to Rome, bus tickets and guided visits. The fee does not include airfare, textbooks, or UT tuition and fees. Financial aid and scholarships are available. Interested students can visit for more information.

"I am very grateful to the College of Liberal Arts for the scholarships they generously have been giving to students participating in faculty-led programs and for their support and encouragement," Olson said.

Olson put a new twist on an old cliché when she said: "When in Rome, follow your heart because your heart is going to be full of so much."

Antonella Olson and Douglas Biow with students in Rome during the summer of 2009

| The Department of French and Italian at UT-Austin | UT Study Abroad Office |

U.S. Department of State Passport Services | Consulate General of Italy, Houston |

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