Overseas university spotlight: John Cabot University (Italy)
If you're fascinated by ancient history, art, political science or language and are interested in applying for college or graduate school abroad, one university that immediately comes to mind as a great option is John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.
Here are a few highlights I learned during my visit to campus and meetings with staff in June 2021.
Founded in 1972, JCU is a private, independent liberal arts university.
Its degrees are accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, so American students interested in getting an international degree can be confident in the quality of education there.
Small, close-knit community
Although JCU is the largest English-speaking university in Italy, with around 1,200 total students, it's still small enough to where professors know students by name (15:1 student to professor ratio).
Half of the students are on study abroad programs from universities like Northeastern, Tulane, Delaware and USC, and about 110 students are completing their full degrees there, many of whom are transfers from community colleges in California.
JCU actually has three campuses (Critelli, Guarani and Tiber), which are located between the Colosseum and the Vatican.
It's a central, ideal location along the banks of the Tiber River in the popular neighborhood of Trastevere, which was historically an artists' corner.
Wandering along cobblestone streets, the campuses are just a stone's throw away from many small Italian eateries, gelato shops and cafes.
(Here's a picture of my dad eating gelato at a favorite gelateria nearby, Otaleg--gelato spelled backwards.)
The Critelli and Tiber campuses are actually located right next to each other on the same block, which is also where the cafeteria and student clubs are based.
And the Guarini campus happens to be quite historical; it's based in an old convent and is also where Galileo conducted his first experiment!
It can often be difficult to find universities in mainland Europe that offer on-campus housing; however, JCU does provide its own housing that is not outsourced.
The rooms are located in apartments and house between two to eight students at a time.
They're also fully furnished to even include towels and sheets, which seems like a small detail, but it's just one less thing to worry about buying upon arrival.
Not sure whether you want to have a meal plan, cook for yourself or indulge in delicious Italian cuisine at restaurants every day?
Students can actually test out what it would be like to have a meal plan on campus via the free meals during Orientation.
When it comes to choosing an undergraduate program, there are more than 40 majors within the 4-year liberal arts degree; however, the largest ones at JCU are Communications, Business and Political Science/International Affairs.
Just last year, JCU also started a Psychological Science degree, which quickly became the second most popular program after International Affairs.
Nevertheless, all students have to take another language during the degree, and it makes the most sense to learn Italian to be able to take full advantage of the local life and community.
MA in Art History
At the graduate level, JCU offers a Master of Arts in Art History, a 15-month program that is the first graduate degree in Art History accredited by a U.S. university and based in Rome.
Just imagine studying this subject and conducting first-hand research with all of the museums, monuments and archaeological sites of Rome at your doorstep.
In fact, one of my students is actually in this program right now!
Students making applications to study their complete degrees at JCU should know that the most important aspect of the application is how they present themselves.
Thus, the essay and interview are both key.
The good news is that there typically aren't any capped spaces; with an increase in acceptances of qualified students, JCU will simply hire more professors to meet the need.
Also note that if you've taken Advanced Placement exams or studied the International Baccalaureate, you can also get up to a year's worth of credit.
And with two intakes per year (September or January), JCU offers even more flexibility about when you can begin.
Support (financial, health & career)
The idea of studying away from your support network at home can be a daunting one; however, JCU offers a variety of assistance when it comes to student finances, health and future career prospects.
First, about 85 percent of students receive some kind of financial aid toward their studies.
It's also worth knowing that there are three hospitals nearby where students can be seen, and a member of JCU's staff accompanies students there in the event they need medical attention.
And when it comes to preparing for the workplace, JCU's Center for Career Services starts working with students from the first year, offers three career fairs per year and can help students find internships (some of which are paid).
Gap year program
For high school students who are not entirely sure what they want to study or do post-graduation (more and more common these days), JCU also offers a really interesting opportunity.
Students can enroll in their gap year study abroad program, in which they can take a full-time load the summer after high school graduation or a full academic year.
If they find they enjoyed it, they can then transfer these credits into a JCU degree or use them elsewhere.
The best part? There are no prerequisites for this program, so it's open to everyone as long as they meet the minimum GPA requirement.
John Cabot University: Summary
JCU can be a great option for someone wanting to study a flexible liberal arts degree in English in a foreign country or specialize in art history at the graduate level in the heart of it all.
With excellent academic and personal support and a small, international community of students, JCU offers one of the most unique study experiences in the world.
And at the end of the day, let's face it--who wouldn't love to live in Italy?