People walking around Padova's old town square in Italy

In-country learning online: Experiencing Italy from home

18 November 2020
Learn a new language with our overseas partners
From language workshops to cultural tours, two students share how they got a taste of Italy through our first-ever virtual OLE in-country unit.

Since 2018, our Open Learning Environment (OLE) in-country units allow undergraduate students across various faculties to study a new language and culture. Worth 6 credit points to your degree, you can immerse in a learning experience with our international partner universities. Yes, even in 2020 – and 2021.

How? Just ask Amelia and Rose-maree who, along with 51 other students, got to learn Italian and partake in cultural activities with the University of Padova last July.

Interactive language lessons with locals

What was it like learning a new language online with a partner university?

Italian irregular verbs written in a notebook

Peek into Amelia's notebook: Learning irregular Italian verbs with the University of Padvoa

Amelia: It was exciting to learn from teachers in Italy! The Italian language workshops taught me fundamentals that allowed me to chat with Italian locals. We got to speak to students in Italy after class everyday. They were also interested to hear about Australia. Chatting with them and learning about their lives was definitely a highlight.

Rose-maree: We got to hear other students speak during lessons and made friends on Facebook. It was structured like a normal language tutorial with group discussions and participation. We had lots of fun group activities in breakout rooms.

You get the taste of travel without the jetlag and damage to your bank account.
Amelia Byrne on the OLE in-country unit, Experience Italy (July 2020)

Cultural immersion and exploration

How did you experience the local culture?

Rose-maree: My most memorable experience is the city tour of Padova. One of our tutors walked around with her camera and showed us cultural sites in a very engaging way. She went into shops, cafes and markets, including landmarks and the everyday stuff we can’t just look up online. While she was walking through Padova's town square, the mayor actually walked right past her! She also showed us a mammoth bone hanging from an arch in Verona, sharing folktales about this attraction which is not very well-known except among the locals.

Amelia: I loved participating in the cooking class with an Italian chef. We got to learn how to make pasta from scratch with pesto sauce. It was surprisingly easy and fun! I also enjoyed the assigned content with topics like the Renaissance and The Grand Tour, a trip done by noblemen from the 1600s to early 1900s; many famous authors were Grand Tourists. We also had a lesson on Italian hand gestures – there are over 200 of them!

Homemade pasta dough and Amelia rolling out the dough with a pasta maker

Amelia's homemade pasta from the cook-along session with an Italian chef

Flexible learning beyond the classroom

How was it like doing an overseas unit online?

Rose-maree: I found it a lot better than I thought it was going to be. The tutors and the unit structure were great. They put in so much effort to connect with us.

When I went into it, I was expecting to just sit in front of the laptop and learn grammar and stuff, but they introduced so many more cultural and local elements. It was a wonderful experience!
Rose-maree Rodgers on the OLE in-country unit, Experience Italy (July 2020)


How was your virtual in-country unit scheduled?

Amelia at her #usydonline workspace

Rose-maree: We started in the afternoon at 4pm. We had three-hour sessions daily over two weeks. The hours attracted me to the unit, as it meant I still had the day free to work and do other things, and I could complete the unit in the afternoon which was really handy.

Amelia: I could run errands in the morning and go to the gym, then return to look at the day’s class content on the University of Padova’s version of Canvas.

Enrolling into an OLE in-country unit

Do you need to have any language experience?

Amelia: No – in fact, they don’t want you to know the language! The OLE in-country units are for beginners with little to no language experience.

How do you apply for the OLE in-country unit?

Rose-maree: I first applied through the Sydney Global Mobility database via the OLE In-Country Experience page and received further instructions on how to enrol through Sydney Student. It did have a couple more requirements than a normal unit, such as a monetary deposit that you get back at the end of the unit. The unit coordinator was super helpful in clearing up any enrolment issues.

What would you say to anyone thinking of doing a virtual overseas program?

Amelia: Do it! It's so much more rewarding being able to engage with content that’s real-life.  

Experience Germany (Humboldt University) and Italy (Ca' Foscari University of Venice) in 2021. Please refer to the OLE In-Country Experience page for important information on relevant disclaimers, application process and deadlines, departmental permission and associated fees.

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