Academics at SYA Italy

Home to 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Italy is sure to stimulate your mind, whether interested in science, art, architecture, archaeology, history, modern languages, classical studies or contemporary global issues.

SYA Italy's curriculum seeks to capture this wide range with a multidisciplinary, dual-language approach, and provide students with an in-depth understanding of modern-day Italy by examining both the ancient cultures from which it sprang and the contemporary challenges and opportunities that being a small European Union member state entails.

All students are required to take six courses, including Italian language, English and SYA Practicum.

Full course descriptions for 2019-20 can be opened below. You will also note that many of our courses are denoted as "FW" which means that the course involves a fieldwork element designed to challenge students in the broader community.

Start your SYA Italy application today


Loading from Vimeo...

2019-2020 Courses at SYA Italy

English (H) - 1 Credit

SYA offers a well-defined and comprehensive English course that prepares students to return to their home school prepared for their next class in English or to enter a competitive university program. The SYA English program is distinctly geared towards the study abroad experience and works in tandem with the overall program’s mission to create globally aware, divergent thinkers prepared for a 21st-century reality. The SYA curriculum is structured to reflect the various stages of the study abroad experience and facilitates a cultural immersion experience with a series of assignments and readings created with this goal in mind.

SYA English provides a home base for student intellectual and intercultural growth abroad and is specifically designed to complement the immersion experience presented by the host country. Chosen texts challenge students to improve their critical reading and analytical writing skills and cover a variety of literary movements. The readings engage with themes of alienation, isolation, foreignness or self-discovery, as well as the notion of place and identity, both geographic and internal. Texts selected also support the students in contextualizing both their collective and individual experience throughout the program. In addition to working toward becoming closer readers and more successful writers, SYA English students also reflect on the study abroad experience in a more explicit and sophisticated way, through both informal and formal journaling and expository writing.

SYA Practicum (H) - .5 Credit

The SYA Practicum is a place-based and experiential course designed to provide an environment in which students work towards the SYA Core Competencies for Learning Abroad. This interdisciplinary course begins with an in-depth immersion into the host city and region, focusing on the use of the unique resources of each of our host countries and their unique and challenging learning environments. Because the objectives are skills-based, the content of the course is not limited to traditional disciplines and works in tandem with SYA fieldwork courses and activities throughout the year, including study travel.

The course culminates with the signature SYA Capstone experience. The SYA Capstone is designed to provide students with an opportunity to showcase their evolving skills through a comprehensive project pursuing a topic chosen by students and based on personal interest and self-motivation. Above all, these projects are crafted with the intentionality of embodying the SYA mission, highlighting the student’s experience and relying on, and engaging with, relevant local resources.

Students who excel in this course are provided extensive opportunities to drive their own learning.


Guided by its Mission, the SYA mathematics courses combine in-class and online learning activities in a hybrid learning environment, with a focus on helping students build their independent learning skills as an integral part of learning mathematics. Students are expected to complete preparatory online activities outside of and prior to class, in order to be prepared to actively engage in mathematical problem solving and collaboration in the classroom. This approach to learning mathematics is quite different from the traditional instructor-led, lecture-based approach to which many incoming SYA students are accustomed. Read more about SYA math course expectations here.

NOTE: All SYA math courses incorporate extensive use of technology, helping students develop graphical and numerical analysis techniques in addition to the traditional algebraic study of functions.

Advanced Algebra with Functions - 1 Credit

This course is intended for students who have had one full year of geometry and one full year of algebra. Successful completion of this course prepares students to enter a standard Precalculus course when they return to their home school. Concentration is on functions and their transformations; the standard parent functions are studied from the perspective of shifts, domain and range, as well as multiplication and division. Preliminary results from rational functions, inequalities, exponents and logarithms are explored.

Precalculus - 1 Credit

This course is intended for students who have successfully completed an Algebra II course and who plan to return to their home schools to take a non-AP calculus or other math course. It is also appropriate for students who have been less-than-successful in an earlier Precalculus course. The course will review and extend the concepts related to functions, including linear, quadratic, polynomial, rational, radical, logarithmic, exponential and trigonometric.

Advanced Precalculus (H) - 1 Credit

This course is intended for very able math students who have been highly successful in a strong Algebra II program. Success in this course should enable students to enter AP Calculus AB/BC the following year. It covers all of the topics of the regular Precalculus course, spending less time on review of typical 2nd-year algebra topics to facilitate both greater depth in certain areas, such as trigonometry, as well as coverage of more advanced topics.

The core content areas included in the scope of Advanced Precalculus are: mastery of the properties and graphs of basic functions (polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric), as well as work with parametric equations, polar coordinates, and sequences and series.

AP Calculus AB - 1 Credit

This course offers a rigorous introduction to differential and integral calculus, covering all topics included on the Calculus AB topic outline. The course aims to have the students understand the theory that underlies the various rules and applications of differentiation and integration treated in the course. All major theorems are proved and their derivations discussed in class. Students must explore the calculus concepts from multiple perspectives: algebraically, graphically and numerically, and in the context of a variety of applications. Students are expected to be able to offer clear justifications of their work that show a deep understanding of the fundamental ideas. Students take the AP Calculus AB exam in May.

AP Calculus BC - 1 Credit

In addition, the following course may be offered if there is sufficient enrollment. Even with insufficient enrollment, this course may be offered online through our partner, One Schoolhouse.

This course is roughly equivalent to both first- and second-semester college calculus courses and extends the content covered in Calculus AB to different types of equations and introduces the topic of sequences and series. The course covers topics in differential and integral calculus, including concepts and skills of limits, derivatives, definite integrals, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus and series. The course teaches students to approach calculus concepts and problems when they are represented graphically, numerically, analytically and verbally, and to make connections between these representations. Students take the AP Calculus BC exam in May.

Italian Language (H) - 1 Credit - FW

The goal of this course is for students to achieve a degree of fluency and spontaneity in Italian that enables them to have meaningful interactions with their host families and others in the community. In doing so, students come to know the Italian people and their culture.

The learning process consists of myriad activities both in and out of the classroom, including speaking with locals, writing in various genres, deciphering news from countless media and researching contemporary topics in order to debate political, ethical and economic topics. Through these experiences, students learn to express their opinions about cultural and social issues that matter to them.

Italian Language and Culture (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This is an elective course designed for students who wish to focus intently on language acquisition and delve more deeply into cultural aspects of Italy through the study of representative literature, important films, social and political issues, theater, key people past and present, music and food. When taken in addition to Italian Language (above), students enrolled in this course earn a double credit in Italian.

Latin Reading - 1 Credit - FW

Depending on enrollment, SYA will offer the following course or its equivalent.

This course is designed for students with a strong background in Latin grammar who have completed at least two years of Latin. It aims to facilitate reading skills to the point in which students can read primary texts in the original language. Emphasis will be placed on reading comprehension and deeper understanding of the texts rather than rote translation. The class affords an excellent opportunity to appreciate some of the classical masterpieces in the original language.

Advanced Topics in Latin (H) - 1 Credit - FW

Depending on enrollment, SYA will offer the following course or its equivalent.

This course is designed for students who are not quite ready to enroll in AP Latin. Prerequisites are a solid foundation in Latin grammar, syntax and vocabulary, some background in rhetorical and metrical analysis, some exposure to Roman political history and at least one year of experience reading authentic Latin texts.

In this course, students deepen their understanding of Roman history, culture, language and literature. They develop advanced Latin skills and build analytical and critical skills through close readings of primary sources in both English and Latin. Successful completion of the course enables students to enroll in Latin 4 or AP Latin the following year.


AP Latin - 1 Credit

The AP Latin course focuses on the in-depth study of selections from two of the greatest works in Latin literature: Virgil’s Aeneid and Caesar’s Gallic War. The course requires students to prepare and translate the readings and place these texts in a meaningful context, which helps develop critical, historical and literary sensitivities. Throughout the course, students consider themes in ancient literature and bring these works to life through classroom discussions, debates and presentations. The use of additional English readings from both of these works will complement the Latin readings.

Introductory Greek (H) - 1 Credit

Depending on enrollment, SYA will offer the following course as an Independent Study.

This course provides an introduction to Ancient Greek language, history and culture, using a combination of traditional and modern methods. The primary text, Athenaze, gradually introduces students to all the basic Ancient Greek grammar while reading and learning about the social and political context that led to the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Students also read and translate excerpts from Sappho, Herodotus, Sophocles, the New Testament, Homer and others.

Greek Reading (H) - 1 Credit

Depending on enrollment, SYA will offer the following course as an Independent Study.

This course begins with a review of topics from the Greek grammar text, Athenaze II, to ensure firm footing before reading Ancient Greek text selections. A thorough outline of Greek literature and mythology will accompany and complete the original texts. The aim of the course is to read, understand and translate a variety of texts, ranging from historians to tragedians to epic poetry. Readings are chosen to suit students’ initial skills and progress throughout the year. In addition, students are introduced to speaking Ancient Greek, using the Polis Method developed by professor Christophe Rico.

Ancient and Italian Art History (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course focuses on the evolution of Western art as it developed around the Mediterranean basin by examining painting, sculpture, architecture, decorative arts and mixed media from the Stone Age to today. Students engage in a number of topics including Italian masterworks from the Middle Ages and Ancient Roman monuments as the class explores many periods, stretching 3,200 years. By year’s end, students acquire an understanding of the objects and monuments they see daily and know how to unlock messages encoded in the world around them.

Excavating Ancient History (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course mainly focuses on three civilizations: the Greeks, the Etruscans and the Romans. Students read, analyze and comment on primary sources and archaeological remains in order to refine critical thinking skills. Topics covered are explored using the European tradition of building a solid chronology and content background combined with student-centered work and research. Students also learn to become more confident public speakers through activities such as performing re-enactments, presenting information and group activities, and interacting with Etruscan tombs, Greek theaters, Roman ruins and modern Italian culture.

Local Global Perspectives (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course introduces students to the most pressing challenges faced by Italy, Europe and the world: economic crisis; technological transformations; old and new wars; human rights and discrimination; migration; educational, health and political systems; environmental issues such as climate change, pollution and sustainable development; demographic change and an aging population. Students examine these topics through various lenses – local (Viterbo), national (Italy vs. United States) and global – and learn a valuable reality: different cultures view “problems” in very different ways. Coursework takes place both in and outside the classroom. Students have the opportunity to visit national institutions – in Rome and around Italy – as well as attend conferences outside of Italy.

Applied Agroecology (H) - 1 Credit - FW

This course combines such disciplines as biology, microbiology, ecology, chemistry and organic chemistry and takes full advantage of the rich agricultural traditions that make Italian food known the world over as delicious and healthy. With a focus on sustainability, students will experiment with real challenges facing our food and water supplies. Viterbo’s fertile soil, 12-month growing season and rich culinary customs will provide systematic comparisons between age-old practices and the applications of modern science in order to cultivate many of the local products Italy is known for, such as olive oil, wine, bread and cheese.

Students will ask research questions and employ laboratory methods in order to understand problems that present both local and global challenges. Planning and working our urban farm will provide laboratory activities as the primary focal point for class. The course methods will concentrate on inquiry, hands-on experimentation, observation, statistical analysis and discovery. Throughout the year, we will visit local farms to study the causes and effects of seasonal tasks such as harvesting, pruning and grafting.