The Top Ten Differences between an American university in the U.S. and an American university in Italy

Most high school seniors go through a similar internal debate while applying for college: stay local, or move away?

Well, for John Cabot University students, moving away takes on a whole new meaning.

Our students pack their bags and leave their country, their continent, and their culture for an entirely different place altogether.  While most college students adjust to living away from their parents for the first time, sharing a room with a complete stranger, and getting lost on the way to the dining hall, JCU students adjust to hearing a different language daily, overcoming cultural differences with their roommates, and getting lost in Rome’s historic cobblestoned neighborhoods.

Differences between an American university in the U.S. and an American university in Italy, study abroad in Rome, Trastevere,

Although JCU shares many similarities with U.S.-based liberal arts universities, here are the top ten differences between an undergraduate’s experience at John Cabot University versus an experience at an American liberal arts university.

1. Classroom diversity. Like many other small liberal arts universities our classes are small, but unlike many others our small classes consist of students and faculty from over 70 countries.  Our students and professors bring diverse, interesting perspectives to class discussions, allowing our students to learn from more than just the class’s material.

2. Living space. American students typically live in college dormitories, which consist of shared bedrooms, minifridges and microwaves for cooking, and communal bathrooms.  By contrast, JCU students live in apartment style housing, with full kitchens, bathrooms, and study spaces.  Plus, while most dorms in America are located next to other university buildings, our students live next door to Italian residents: making for a completely different type of college experience.

3. Lifestyle. While college dorms in America are infamous for their cleanliness (or lack thereof) on Sunday mornings, JCU students make international friends who prefer to spend weekends socializing in a different way.  As a result, our American students learn to socialize in a culture where drinking to excess is not the norm (plus they become far more capable than their U.S.-educated counterparts of recognizing a quality wine!).

4. Cafeteria. John Cabot University’s cafeteria is a traditional American cafeteria… in the sense that it exists.  Our daily buffet serves the traditional Italian courses: primi piatti, secondo piatti, contorni, insalati… etc.  Run by Italian chefs and complete with an Italian bar and buffet, our cafeteria is another reminder that ours students are not in America anymore.

5. Culture. While many universities offer Greek life, accapella groups, and football teams, John Cabot students take part in student service-sponsored cooking classes with Italian chefs, wine tasting classes with professional sommeliers, and compete with other Roman universities on our soccer team.

6. Trips and Activities.  While American students may travel to visit their friends in the next state, JCU students travel throughout Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East during their weekends.  And of course, our students travel throughout Italy, which is known as one of the most beautiful countries in the world for a reason.

7. Dressing for class.  Many typical American classrooms are filled of students who rolled out of bed and meandered to class without bothering to run a brush through their hair.  As John Cabot University is located in the middle of Rome, JCU students avoid glares and eye rolls from their Italian neighbors and classmates by putting more effort into their appearance before heading out for the day.

8. Activities between classes.  At a U.S. university, students will spend their time between class eating at the cafeteria, studying in the library, or returning home to sneak in a nap.  In Italy, students will stop for a cappuccino or gelato at a local bar, will go for a passeggiata through the historic center of Rome, or will take a socially acceptable mid-day nap, known as a siesta.

9. Sightseeing on the way to class. In America, you may pass by your school library, an academic building, or maybe the campus worship center on your way to class.  JCU students often choose to live off-campus throughout the city, and as a result will pass by the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and Vatican City daily.

10. Personal Growth. College is a time of personal growth for all students, whether they attend a community college or travel across the world.  However, by living in Italy as foreigners, our students overcome cultural barriers, learn to speak a new language, and become experts at solving the many problems that arise while living independently in a major European city.

Student Spotlight