Perugia, Florence, Italy

Program Description

Have you always wanted to visit Italy? You are not alone! Why is it that so many people throughout the world want to visit and live in this beautiful country? Maybe you need to go there to understand! Then, when you return, perhaps you can implement into your life ideas such as daily pauses, healthy eating (which includes pasta and gelato), and the Italian way of living each day fully with passion and purpose. Does that sound like it could be life-changing? This program - exploring the Italian culture, through examining the intersection of faith, family, history, and art- might be the one for you.
In this academic immersion course in Italy (open to ALL majors and academic levels), students study principles of cross-cultural psychology and examine comparisons between social institutions and behavior in America and in Italy. We will consider concepts such as: Why does a daily pause make life less stressful? How important are family dynamics? How do you find the foundations for meaning in your life? Do you want to live to work or work to live?  We will specifically examine the intersections of faith, family, history, and art.  This will be accomplished through extensive visits to:

  • Churches (the community, cultural, and faith centers of Italy)
  • Museums (showcasing what is important to Italians through Art)
  • Historic sites (addressing where they have been and what they still honor)
  • Family businesses (showcasing the importance of relationship and industry) 

The program begins with a second block class, held Friday afternoons during the spring semester.  The class is designed to prepare students for the travel abroad class. In this mandatory class, psychological theories will be presented, and students will read scholarly articles and two required textbooks. This is an academic class and students will be graded through active participation, quizzes, discussion board prompts, and scholarly essays.

The program will run twice this year. The session dates are:

  • Session I: May 23 to June 10
  • Session II: June 20 to July 8

While abroad, students will stay in Perugia, Italy, a beautiful university city in the picturesque Umbria region, considered the "heart" of Italy. Each day is a full day from morning until night with no days off. Students will be immersed in the Italian culture with the expectation of learning and practicing the Italian way of life. This requires a willingness to “put on hold” much of our cultural Americanness to be immersed while in the program. Please understand that this is a requirement of this program. This is an academic class and students will be graded through active participation, journal prompts, discussion board prompts, a presentation, and a final scholarly paper.

To understand the Italian culture, while based in Perugia, each day we will adventure out to well-known and little-known cities. For example, we will explore places known to Italians as the top producers of olive oil and ceramics. You will see beautiful vineyard-lined hillsides and picturesque Italian villages. We will also stay three nights in the beautiful Tuscan city of Florence. Here we will view magnificent art (including the timeless statue of David), and stunning churches, and experience phenomenal culture in the birthplace of the Renaissance!

This is a trip like no other that you will remember for a lifetime! Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Location Description

Where will we go? Believe it or not, we will visit over a dozen cities. There are no days off in this program and we will go to more than one location on many days. In past classes, we have explored cities such as Perugia, Assisi (home of St. Francis and the international peace movement), Pienza, Montepulciano, Rome, Siena, Pisa (yes, the leaning tower), Florence (birthplace of the Renaissance), Torgiano (Capital of Olive Oil), Deruta (Capital of Ceramics), Gubbio, Lake Trasimeno (4th largest lake in Italy), Cortona (location of "Under the Tuscan Sun"), Todi, and Orvieto.  Note: all locations are tentative and subject to change.

We will stay in the college town of Perugia for most of the trip. Perugia is a historic, cobblestone town in central Italy and the capital of the Umbria region. Our hotel is located in the historic center where churches, museums, cultural sights, gelato shops, authentic pizzerias, and shopping abound. Additionally, we will spend three nights in Florence. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and the capital of the Tuscany region. You will not find another class that will allow you to immerse yourself in Italian culture while learning and experiencing real Italians and Italy. 

Note: there are no ‘free’ days on this program however, students in past classes have stayed after the program (on their own, at their own expense) to explore other regions or places of more specific personal interest.


Bill Evans | evanswf@jmu.edu | Psychology

Cindy Evans | evans3cm@jmu.edu | Psychology


Accommodations (typically triples and quads) are provided at wonderful Italian family-owned hotels with amazing breakfast buffets and limited complimentary WI-fi internet access. The hotels are centrally located and public transportation is easily accessible.

All meals, all lodging, all admissions, and all in-country transportation are included in the program fee. The hotels provide a buffet breakfast, and lunches are covered through a weekly meal stipend from the program fee. Evening meals are experienced together as a class at an amazing 3-generation, family-run restaurant (with fresh homemade pasta) and are part of the daily required activities; these meals are also covered by the program fee.

Additional Items to Consider

A valid passport (expiring no earlier than 6 months after the end of the program) is required.

An active international cell phone plan with both data and text accessible 24 hours per day for the extent of the trip is required. Cell phone data plans in Europe can be expensive – check with your cell phone provider about the costs of international calling, data, and text plans before committing to this program.

This program is intended for all majors and all class levels (first-year-senior). Honors College students are also welcome.

No previous Italian language experience is needed. Some basic Italian for travelers will be covered in the Spring Prep class.

Contact the program director prior to the application deadline with any additional questions:

Academics: Dr. Bill Evans | evanswf@jmu.edu | Psychology | 1173 Miller Hall

Logistics: Dr. Cindy Evans | evans3cm@jmu.edu

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.5

During the Spring, students will take the 1-credit hour PSYC 202 class (by override only)

During the summer, students will take a 3-credit hour (PSYC 261 or PSYC 461, not both)

Prerequisites for PSYC 261: PSYC 101 or PSYC 160
Prerequisites for PSYC 461: PSYC Major with at least one PSYC Natural Science & one PSYC Social Science area class

Open to students in all majors and class levels

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short Essays
  • Interview with Program Director required (we will contact you to schedule after application has been completed and submitted)
  • Additional Application Questionnaire (sent to you after you submit the completed application)
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students; unofficial transcript required for JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


PSYC 261: Cross-Cultural Psychology in Italy (3 credits)

PSYC 461: Advanced Topics in Psychology: Cross-Cultural Psychology in Italy (3 credits)

PSYC 202: Readings in Cross-Cultural Psychology (1 credit - spring semester)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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