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Programs : Brochure

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Fact Sheet:
Area of Study: Honors College Minimum GPA Required: 3.0
Language of Instruction: English
Class Status:
Freshman, Junior, Senior, Sophomore
Program Description:
Italy: A Crossroads for Refugees and Global Leadership

3 credits for VCU Honors College 
Rome, Italy
21 May, 2017 - 3 June, 2017
$1,725 + airfare + VCU tuition

Program Director
Dr. Daniel M. Roberts
Registration deadline: 15 March 2017

The Virginias Collegiate Honors Council (VCHC) in collaboration with the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Honors College, and the VCU Global Education Office are pleased to offer a unique study experience in Rome, Italy. The program is designed for honors students interested to understand the complex problems surrounding the global refugee crisis, specifically in Italy. The course experience will allow students to interact and learn about the problem first-hand from representatives of multiple governmental organizations, international nongovernmental organizations, and current refugees. As the course will be based in Rome, it will allow students to begin to understand that city and its place as a historic crossroads.
Course and credit options
  • HONR 298
  • HONR 398
The Education Abroad office will enroll students in the course upon receipt of the registration.
Course descriptionvatican
The course will focus on the current refugee crisis in Italy and how different levels of global leadership have responded in concert and in conflict.  While the refugee crisis does not belong to Italy specifically, the country is situated at a key crossroads in the Mediterranean of both would be asylum seekers and multiple layers of global leadership. Refugee streams are crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy from Sub-Saharan Africa, strife torn North Africa, as wells as from conflict zones in Syria and further afield in Afghanistan.  The crisis is confronted in Italy by multiple layers of global leadership including but not limited to, the UN, the EU, NATO, the Holy See, and the Italian government.  

In preparation for the trip, students will examine historical issues related to refugee crises and different ways these have been addressed by global organizations and leaders.  students will also complete targeted readings associated with the current crisis.  This background will allow students, once in Italy to begin to meet various layers of global leadership addressing the current refugee crisis. It will also prepare them to meet various nonprofit organizations charged with addressing the immediate needs of refugees.  This combination of meetings and practical experiences are designed to allow students to appreciate the urgency and complexity of the refugee crises.  

Orientations to the program will take place both in April at the VCHC spring conference and upon arrival in Rome in June.  The former meeting will both be logistical and academic in focus as it is designed to prepare students for the experience in Italy.  The latter meeting will again be logistical and practical in focus.  Students will reside in private apartments in pairs or triples to ensure continued engagement with the program.  Students will reside in a traditional Roman neighborhood, within walking distance of Vatican City. These combined steps will ensure an authentic Italian experience while in Rome.  With a central Rome location, all meeting and organization visits will be accessible by public transportation.  This will ensure both an authentic experience and will continue to minimize the cost of participation. 
While no Italian language skills are required from participating students, pre- departure preparation will focus on ways to begin to prepare to enter the Italian speaking environment.  Daily briefings will include focused attention on how to daily embrace the language and culture, such that students will be able to progress from friendly greetings, to menu reading, and to communication with locals about directions during their time in the program.  Ideally, this experience prepares the groundwork for the student to study Italian more formally in the future, or alternatively another foreign language and culture. 

Local support for the program is nearly all bilingual, so students will never be far from someone to provide assistance in English.  As necessary, local assistants will provide interpretation assistance to the students as they meet with non-English speakers.

Students must be an Honors Program/ Honors College student in good standing. An academic letter of reference from the Director or Dean of the student's honors program/college is required.  This program is open to non-VCU students.
Accommodations and Meals
The program is intentional in housing and grounding students in a traditional neighborhood in Rome, and ensuring that students have daily communication with Italians and target audience representatives.  Specifically, the program will follow a routine of local breakfast, briefing, and then meetings with either political leaders with a connection to refugees, to nonprofit organizations focused on refugees, or specific centers where refugees are supported.  Students will be encouraged to complete a domestic trip during their mid-program weekend.  Itineraries supported will include Naples, Florence, and Venice -- all destinations of interest, but also with unique and important connections to the refugee crisis. 

Program director
Program Director, Dr. Daniel M. Roberts, has been involved in international education for more than 15 years and has led groups of students and faculty members to multiple countries with a variety of different program types and formats. He has managed international educational programs both at a university as well as from a global organization.  While the director is not fluent in Italian, he is very familiar with Rome and the relevant organizations where students will live and complete their professional visits and work. The director has organized both study programs as well as international education projects in Italy.  The second professor associated with this program, Rita Paolino, is a native Italian.  She has worked in international education for nearly 15 years, including with experience in leading US students on educational programs and exchanges in Italy.

Dr. Roberts has personal experience with crisis management as it relates to to students abroad, including issues involving natural disasters, financial challenges, sickness and death. 
A valid passport is required to leave the US. If a student does not already have a passport, they are advised to begin the application process as soon as they are accepted into the program. The processing time for new passport applicants can be as long as 8 weeks. For students who already have passports, they will need to verify that the passport’s validity dates extend 6 months past their return date. For more information about passports and the application/renewal process, please consult the State Department's website.
Payment of fees
In order to complete the application, students are required to submit a $250 registration fee and deposit. This $250 registration fee and deposit is refundable in two cases: if the program is cancelled, or if a student is rejected by the faculty member based on their qualifications to participate in the program. Reasons for rejection could include, but are not limited to, GPA, lack of a pre-requisite, unacceptable or inappropriate statement of interest, etc. and are at the discretion of the faculty program director. However, if a student pays the fee and is not given final acceptance to the program based on failing to complete application requirements, as determined by the Education Abroad office or faculty director, the $250 is non-refundable.
Students will receive two separate charges to their student accounts for this program: one charge will reflect the balance of the program fee (minus the $250 deposit and application fee) and the other charge is for VCU tuition costs (based on the number and type of credits being taken by the student). These bills will be charged through VCU Student Accounting and should appear by May 2017.
Please note: While these charges may post to the student’s account simultaneously or separately, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure the account balance is paid before the billing due date.
Withdrawal procedures and financial commitment policy
All withdrawals must be made formally in writing and submitted to the Director of Education Abroad. Otherwise, the program fee will not be refunded. After committing to the program, students deciding to withdraw will be held accountable for a portion of or the entire program fee based on the following schedule:
  • Formal withdrawal submitted later than 30 days before the first day of the program abroad: 100% of the program fee will be charged
  • Formal withdrawal submitted within 30-60 days before the first day of the program abroad: 75% of the program fee will be charged
  • Formal withdrawal submitted within 60-90 days before the first day of the program abroad: 50% of the program fee will be charged
In the event an unexpected emergency occurs within 30 days before the first day of the program abroad, students must provide a physician’s certification that his/her condition prohibits participation. In this case, refunds will be limited to only those funds VCU is able to recover or that have not already been spent on behalf of the student.
See above for refund policy on $250 registration fee and deposit.
Travel health
Students should schedule an appointment with their physician or at a travel clinic (such as VCU Student Health) at least 4 to 8 weeks before the program to inquire about recommended and/or required vaccines/immunizations. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all routine and travel immunizations are up-to-date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on recommended and required immunizations for travelers. To view the health risks and requirements for the country to which you will be traveling, please visit the CDC's website.
Health Alert:  Zika Virus
The CDC has issued a travel alert for countries where the Zika virus is prevalent.  Check the CDC’s travel notices regularly as new countries are being added to this list.  Check VCU Student Health to stay updated as well.

VCU Student Health offers in-depth pre-travel consultation with a health care provider as well as most of the vaccines recommended for safe travel. Prescriptions for recommended medicines are also available. Please visit their website for full details.


Every effort is made to provide updated and accurate information at the time of publication. The sponsors reserve the right to make necessary changes to the programs and costs. The university reserves the right to revise or alter all fees, regulations pertaining to student fees, and fee collection procedures at any time.

Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year Registration Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2017 03/15/2017 ** Rolling Admission 05/21/2017 06/03/2017

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.