I am an Italian university professor who had the opportunity to do research and teach in engineering several times for 3 to 6 months in USA universities (like Stanford and the MIT) in the last 15 years.
I have put this unofficial, informal, introductory information upon request from a talented USA teenager, interested to a study/work experience in Italy, so this can be seen as a summary of the Italian University system from a USA perspective. This same information put together having in mind law studies, applies for political sciences, business administration and similar.
I am gratified that such a good student is willing to study in Italy.
GETTING AN ITALIAN DEGREE IN LAW OR SIMILAR BY USA STUDENT
In Italy, right because we have a public system, university fees are low compared to the USA (1500€/y), and lower for low income students, also from abroad. Low-cost meal plans are also offered. For most programs like law, students get a bachelor degree in three years and most of current students proceed to get a master degree in two more (3+2 system).
No special performance are requested (no restricted number or admission tests), so everybody can attend!
As for housing a room in a shared apartment costs about 300€/mo in smaller cities and 500€/mo in bigger cities, probably like in the USA.
There is only one national university system and most reputed universities are located in the centre/north of the country, so she will have many good options and practically no admission problems. Just to mention some, she can study in Florence, Genoa, Venice, Turin, Naples etc.
All classes are given in Italian, but the student can also enroll after the year has begun (the deadline is beginning of november) and no attendance is required. To get a degree, students only need to take exams. So it is very much up to the student's responsibility.
There are also some reputed public or private universities with special rules. Like in the USA, some private universities will allow bad students getting their degree by paying high fees.
Up to now getting a degree is necessary for many public positions in Italy, with no reference to the quality of the university or the student's grade. So it really depends on what she will want to do with this degree.
If a student is very good or good, he will certainly get a good public or private position in Italy. I do not know how she will be able to do with an Italian degree in the USA or other countries. So this is one point to consider.
For law studies, a very good option is entering the public Scuola Sant'Anna in Pisa
but they only offer 5 positions/y in law and she will need to attend in person a test in Italian and on the Italian context (history, society, politics) on different topics. Students here are paid and do not pay fees. Considering the very low chances, housing and trip costs from USA seem excessive.
In this case she will attend the University of Pisa as a student, but she will be hosted in the school and, more important, she will be able to join the school alumni association, which includes many Italian government and company top managers.
The other reputed school is Bocconi in Milan (also well know for its MBA) costing between 4 and 10,000€/y depending on income. Living in Milan maybe exceeds the 500€/month for housing and is also very expensive and cahotic, although very modern and active city.
The good with this school is that she can apply remotely
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so I suggest that she gives a try.
Bocconi is very reputed internationally so she will have no problem with a 3+2 or a master degree.
Another option is Luiss in Rome, costing 7,000€/y. Rome is of course a very attractive city. I suggests that she applies to Luiss as well, considering that sitting is not required for most international students:
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Bocconi and Luiss also have very good alumni associations and connections with the job market.
Essentially all the necessary information (application, dates, fees etc.) are on the respective website.
WORKING IN ITALY
If her interest is to work in Italy, more than just studying, then it will not be necessary to do all her university career here. She will only need to attend a Master (we call it so, in Italian) or a graduate school.
As already explained, we have two university levels (before PhD):
- laurea (usually 3 y)
- laurea specialistica or laurea magistrale (usually 3+2)
So there are so-called Masters of 1st and 2nd level.
In addition to attending a one-year "master", the laurea specialistica (the "+2") is also an option.
Again, to be enrolled, no tests are required and she can apply after she gets her bachelor in the USA:
- in any public University or
- in any of the three Universities mentioned above, with procedures similar to the ones described.
Entering the Italian university system is easy and inexpensive, but there are several logistics aspects to face, which are not easy for someone coming from outside.
An Italian degree is a necessary but unfortunately not sufficient condition to find a job.
Some reputed schools offer better local and international perspectives, but with higher barriers (admission procedures and higher fees).