You can see the city of Bologna from miles away, not only because of its red and deep orange-hued buildings (for which it is famous), but also because of the infamous two towers piercing the city skyline at a precariously crooked angle. Noteworthy, full of color, and a little crooked, these are the perfect adjectives to describe Italy’s top university city. If you are interested in studying abroad in a city far from tourists that has a little edge, where Italian student culture dominates the medieval streets, and pasta-making is treated as an art form, then study abroad programs in Bologna are right for you.
Studying Abroad in Bologna
With its namesake university ranked second overall throughout Italy, those who study abroad in Bologna are provided with an endless amount of subjects and access to high-quality education. As tradition has it, the Università di Bologna (through which most study abroad programs in Bologna are organized or affiliated with) was founded in 1088, although sources point to a much earlier start-date. Regardless, the university heralds as the oldest university in the Western world and it has earned a well-deserved reputation as an impressive academic institution. Although students can find nearly any field of study in Bologna, there are a few subjects that are unbeatable for studying abroad in this red-hued city.
Political Science. Since its early, pre-Roman days, Bologna has been a hub of political power. Today, it is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Due to its pivotal role as a key center of the Italian resistance movement of WWII as well as widespread social activism and student protests in the 1970’s, Bologna has cultivated a culture of post-war political engagement. Known for its leanings toward communism, it is not uncommon to find town-hall style meetings passionately debated by citizens in the city’s piazzas. Bologna is one of Italy’s largest and leading economic cities, which are just two reasons that it is an ideal location to study political science in Italy.
Cinema. The city of Bologna and the surrounding area of Emilia-Romagna have been the springboard for the careers of many famous post-war Italian directors, including Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Roberto Rossellini. Bologna is also home to an incredible institution called Cineteca Bologna, which is a theater and museum dedicated solely to the preservation and discussion of cinema, with a particular concentration on Italian film. Each year, Cineteca Bologna hosts Il Cinema Ritrovato, an international film festival focusing on cinematic origins and the silent movie period. Along with its close ties to the Charlie Chaplin Association, Bologna’s long history as a cultural hub of postwar Italian film has cemented its position as one of the best cities to study cinema abroad.
Italian Language. Since Bologna does not see the large numbers of English-speaking tourists that other famous Italian cities do, it is a prime location to study the Italian language. Students must be able to communicate in Italian not only to attend and understand classes, but also to buy groceries, understand the bus system, or chat with classmates. For a city bursting with so many international students, your average Bolognese citizen does not (or will refuse to) speak English, which forces English-speaking students to truly learn the language. As such, most study abroad programs in Bologna encourage full immersion, both inside and outside the classroom, often requiring students to sign a “language pledge,” promising to only speak Italian unless it is absolutely necessary not to. The best way to learn a language is to dive in headfirst!
Italian course structure is somewhat different than many universities, as it is primarily lecture style with only one final exam. Course readings are often optional and classes typically end one month before the end of the semester, providing students ample time to study all the material before their oral exam. Most courses will be taught entirely in Italian, and therefore in order to study abroad in Bologna, most students will be required to have at least some Italian language proficiency.