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Programs : Brochure

  • Locations: Siena, Italy
  • Program Terms: May Session
Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
May Session 2019 02/01/2019 02/14/2019 06/15/2019 07/06/2019
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
GPA: 2.5 Language of Instruction: English
Click here for a definition of this term Class Standing: 2-Sophomore, 3-Junior, 4-Senior Internships or Service Learning Available: No
Type of Program: Faculty Led
Program Description:


Italian Sign Language, Deaf Culture, & History 

Program Highlights

  • Live and learn in the heart of breath-taking Tuscany, Italy
  • Learn Italian Sign Language, spoken Italian, and Italian Deaf Culture
  • Take classes in a beautiful historical building that was formerly the Siena School for the Deaf
  • Participate in daily walking tours of the history and culture of Siena
  • Interact with local deaf communities in Siena and Arezzo
  • Visit historical and culturally significant locations in and around Siena

Program Overview

Cities Visited: Siena and a day trip to Arezzo (and you have the opportunity for independent excursions on weekends!)
2019 Estimated Program Fee: $5,970


Located in the heart of the Tuscany region in Italy, the Siena School for Liberal Arts will be our home base. The school is housed in a beautiful historic building that formerly housed the residential school for the deaf. History abounds in the hallways with historical photos and documents. In the lower level, the school has an educational museum reflecting the history of the deaf school at Siena, and is home to the Siena Deaf Club, providing robust opportunity to interact with Italian Deaf people. 

In the summertime, the scenery of Siena and the surrounding province come alive with colors, fragrances, and spectacular cultural events such as the world-famous Palio as well as many smaller Medieval festivals. This is a rare study abroad opportunity directly related to sign language and Deaf culture, providing ASL users a linguistic and cultural immersion into the transnational Deaf-World.

Classes will take place at Siena School, and there will be daily walking tours of Siena, providing information on the history and culture of the area. Stops may include sites such as the home of St. Catherine of Siena, the ancient aqueduct system, the Duomo di Siena, Siena Cathedral, and will include the cultural history of Siena, including the contrade system and the famous Palio horserace. The Piazza el Campo, a Unesco Heritage Site, will be a common place for gathering, dining, socializing and enjoying the Italian ambiance.

Language classes will meet for a total of three hours per day—sometimes in one session, sometimes broken up over more than one session. All LIS classes will be taught in Italian Sign Language, providing an exceptional immersion experience. Opportunities for practice will abound throughout the day and into evening events as well. Most Deaf Culture class meetings will occur in evenings and will highlight both historical and contemporary issues in the Italian Deaf world. Frequent guest speakers will join the class.

Through the course of the three-week program, you will be required to submit several videos demonstrating your proficiency in Italian Sign Language and prepare a report about a topic related to the Culture and History of Italian Deaf people.

At least one all-day school-sponsored field trip will occur. We'll travel by bus to the city of Arezzo, and will be greeted and hosted by the Arezzo Deaf Club. One of the Deaf leaders will act as our tour guide, providing historical and cultural information about the city, the Piazza Grande, their tradition of jousting through Italian Sign Language

On weekends, you typically will tour Italy independently…you can go with small groups to destinations such as Florence, Pisa, Rome, or to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea at Follonica! Bus and train travel is a convenient way to explore the country. 



  • Minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Sophomore, junior, or senior status (You may apply during freshman year to participate upon completion of freshman year)
  • Completion of ASL 3004 or equivalent
  • Must successfully pass an ASL interview assessment

Course Information:

Earn 6 credits in ASL 4295: Special Topics in Italian Sign Language (Deaf Culture & History in Italy, 2 credits; spoken Italian, 1 credit) which is approved for:
  • Deaf Studies minor
This course fulfills the Global Perspectives Liberal Education requirement.

Course Topics Include: 

  1. Learning Italian Sign Language (LIS) - 45 hours: Classes will be conducted in LIS and will focus on basic vocabulary and structure of LIS. You will learn how to introduce yourself, ask and respond to questions, how to describe things, and vocabulary for days, months, numbers, alphabet, foods, colors, time and more. You will be required to make weekly videos and will be expected to use LIS on tours and field trips to the best of your ability.  
  2. Learning Spoken Italian - 15 hours: Class will focus on basic spoken Italian vocabulary and structure. You will be able to carry on basic conversations with Italian native speakers with a particular focus on introductions, asking questions, shopping, restaurant, and travel vocabulary, expressing likes and dislikes, numbers, adjectives, adverbs and more. 
  3. Italian Deaf Culture  - 30 hours: This course examines the history, culture and education of the Italian Deaf Community from a multidisciplinary perspective.  Specific focus will be on the history surrounding Deaf Education in Siena, which is home to one of the oldest residential schools for the Deaf. Culture and education, pre- and post Milan 1880 will be discussed. Guest lecturers from all over Italy will provide insight on the multi-faceted and evolving deaf community in Italy.

These three courses will also be supplemented by daily field trips in and around Siena, highlighting the history and culture of the Tuscany region of Italy. 

Program Leader:

Nancy Diener, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies in the Department of Education. Her areas of focus are ASL Linguistics, Language Acquisition and Language Rights of Deaf children.

Dr. Nancy McFarlin Diener, Ed.D.
UMD College of Education & Human Services Professions
Department of Education
412 Library Drive, Duluth MN
Office: 115 EduE

Study Abroad Coordinator:

Lyndsey Andersen is the Associate Director of Study Abroad and coordinates all short-term faculty-led programs.

Program Costs

Preliminary Estimate | May Session 2019
Estimated Program Fee: $5,970
Estimated Out-of-Pocket Expenses: $2,365*
Estimated Total Cost: $8,335

Final cost estimates posted closer to program departure. Costs vary each year. 
*Estimated out-of-pocket costs are dependent on items such as current airfare costs and individual spending habits.

If you do not see a cost estimate for the semester/term you intend to go abroad, the cost has not yet been determined. Please note cost estimates and fees may change depending on international economic factors. UMD Study Abroad delays the posting of final fees until enrollments, inflation, and exchange rates are determined in order to provide students with the most accurate pricing. We strive to post final fees by October 1 for Spring programs, March 1 for May/Summer programs, and May 1 for Fall and Academic year programs.

What's included in the program fee?

  • Personalized advising
  • Pre-departure orientation
  • Tuition
  • Housing
  • Local transportation
  • CISI - international travel, health, and security coverage
  • Visa entry guidance (if applicable)
  • Faculty leader support
  • Re-entry support

View the breakdown of costs (available upon Board of Regents approval). These estimated costs do not include the $50 application fee. Financial aid only applies to students who take at least 6 credits total during May and Summer session combined. Credits taken on study abroad programs cannot be used in tuition banding. Scholarships are available!

Travel Documents

A passport valid for 6 months beyond the end of the program is required. 


Know the following program information to provide on the online application:

Center Name: UMD Study Abroad
Education Abroad Term: May Session
Country: Italy
Program Name: Short-term: Italian Sign Language & Deaf Culture

Apply early as space is limited and the program will fill first-come, first-serve. An essay and an unofficial transcript is required. A $50 non-refundable application fee will be billed to your One Stop account upon submission of an online application.

Apply Now - UMN Students
Apply Now Non-UMN

After you apply

  1. You'll get an email confirmation with a link to your application checklist
  2. Follow instructions to submit your application checklist items on time
  3. Your UMD study abroad program coordinator will review your app and monitor your checklist progress
  4. The program leader will confirm your acceptance
  5. Once accepted you must complete the confirmation checklist to confirm your participation
  6. Once we receive your confirmation, your account will be billed
If you decide you cannot participate, you must login to the online application system and submit a "Cancel Request."

UMD 138 Kirby Plaza, 1208 Kirby Drive, Duluth, MN 55812
Email | (218) 726 8764 or (877) 755-4200

Program health and safety information is available at GO SAFE: