This Dialogue will explore Rome as a social laboratory to explore major urban, national, and global social and environmental issues in and around Italy's capital -- e.g., from the preservation of historical heritage to economic development, from dictatorship to democracy, from environmental degradation to urban renewal, from organized crime to social mobilization, from immigration to gentrification, from climate change to sustainability initiatives, from poverty to sexual discrimination, etc. We will analyze Rome as a key repository of Western Civilization, the capital city of Italy, a major urban crossroad of the European Union, and a major gateway between Europe and North Africa. Through explorations within the city and other key sites close by -- including Florence to the north, and Napoli/Herculaneum to the south -- students will learn about social and environmental justice issues in both historical and contemporary Italy. The course will use a combination of lectures, targeted reading assignments, guest speakers, films, and guided site visits to develop a deeper understanding of Rome's -- and Italy's -- exceptional historical heritage and daunting contemporary challenges in ways that would not otherwise be possible in a traditional classroom setting.

One of the more distinctive experiences of the Dialogue involves our trip to Ercolano near Naples. This area is a Mafia stronghold. We will meet with young people running farming cooperatives on land that was seized by the Mafia, and are attempting to practice new forms of sustainable agriculture that provide healthy food and good paying jobs to area residents. We also meet with activists, merchants and shopkeepers, and residents in the town of Ercolano, and discuss their efforts to recover control of their community away from the Mafia. Their stories of their efforts to build democratic institutions at the community level in the face of Mafia intimidation and assassinations are heroic, and deeply inspiring and insightful for the students. All throughout Italy, the state is working with communities and young people to confiscate Mafia properties and give them over to the communities. These properties are often in depressed areas, and thus are providing incomes (and hope) to a new generation of Italians.

Application Procedure

  • Application Open: November 1, 2019
  • Application Deadline: December 3, 2019
  • Application Extension Deadline: January 15, 2020
Submit to GEO
  • GEO Application: All applicants must complete the GEO application. This is the first step for applying to any program.
  • $500 non-refundable deposit: Deposits must be paid through NUPay. Be sure to select the appropriate summer term.
  • Photocopy of Passport: This is to be given to your faculty leader after acceptance.
  • Essay Questions: Answer each question in 2-3 paragraphs (completed online via GEO application).
    • What are your personal and academic reasons for wishing to participate in this Dialogue of Civilizations program?
    • How will the program further your academic and career goals?
    • What is your previous travel and language experience, if any?
    • What courses have you taken which are directly relevant to the program?

Applications are not considered complete until deposit is received. This deposit will be applied to the full cost of the program.

Update My Travel Plans on myNortheastern
Once you have been accepted into the program and your the flight and accommodation details have been shared with you, you are required to create an entry in My Travel Plans for the trip. Please be sure to enter the following pieces of information:
  • Personal and Emergency Contact Info
  • HealthTravel Info: Dates, flight and accommodation details, etc.
  • Passport Details: Passport number, Expiration date, Passport Country of issue, etc.

Please refer to this step-by-step user’s guide for directions on how to navigate the My Travel Plans system.

Should you fail to complete this step as directed, you may be prevented from traveling, may not receive credit for courses, and/or may be excluded from participating in other Northeastern global programs.

Eligibility Requirements

Studying abroad requires a valid passport. You may also need a visa and/or other travel documents. It is your responsibility to ensure that all your documents are valid and appropriate to the nature of your program.

Minimum Requirements
  • Minimum Cumulative GPA: 3.0
  • Minimum Semesters: Minimum of 2 completed Northeastern semesters at the time of program start date. NUin students are eligible to apply. Transfer and Global Pathways students contact GEO program coordinator for eligibility.
Other Requirements
  • Possible Student Challenges: The Dialogue requires quite a bit of walking, and that can mean anywhere from 3-5 miles a day of walking. It is not uncommon for students to walk 8-10 miles a day on their own. Also, the time change and jet lag can leave some students very tired for the first 2-3 days of the Dialogue.


Students will engage extensively with Roman society — from conducting social observations to visiting local sites and organizations. In fact, the primary objective of the course is to train students to critically engage with Italian society. This will be achieved in several ways. First, the Dialogue will offer engagement with guest speakers, and also provide interactive sessions with the local population and officials with various organizations and institutions. Students will also be be reading a scholarly literature concerning various topics in Italy. Students will also engage in structured observations of various events, activities, and social settings to understand the core customs, norms, values, and mores of Roman/Italian culture (especially for students with a limited grasp of the Italian language). More precisely, students will receive instructions on “how to do fieldwork” and to reflect upon being part of a particular setting from the perspective of the participants. They will also compare and contrast their observations of Roman/Italian social life with that of the United States (or another country). The purpose of these exercises is to help the students move beyond a tourist mindset and to critically analyze (or “get inside”) social life in Rome and develop an appreciation of the many unique qualities of Italian culture.

The purpose of this Dialogue is to make the connections (in both empirical and theoretical terms) between issues of social justice and environmental justice in Italy, and to bridge the social and natural sciences in such an examination. Such an approach is necessary in order to achieve a more “totalistic” view of the global social, economic, political, and ecological crises. Such a view (however crude) is essential, first, because of the coexistence of modern economic and ecological crisis trends and tendencies; second, because social science and natural science have become so specialized that is has become almost impossible for most if not all students of the subject to “see the forest for the trees”; third, because social and political action against social and environmental injustices can be effective only when guided by a theory which develops the interrelationships and contradictions between and within political structures, the economy and society, and the environment. Thus, the interdisciplinary nature of the course, and the more holistic approach it affords, will afford students with a set of analytical skills that will serve them well as they continue their educational careers, regardless of their major or areas of interest.

This Dialogue embodies the university’s signature model of global learning in a way that connects students to others across cultural and national boundaries. It provides a deeply meaningful study abroad experience by integrating a rigorous academic curricula with deeply enriching personal and group learning experiences in another culture. The course will serve to enhance the cultural agility and appreciation of the students for an increasingly interconnected global economy. By immersing the students in such a setting, they can become more capable world citizens and develop a deeper respect for cultural diversity. This Dialogue is all about developing mechanisms of cross-cultural communication that can serve these students the rest of their lives.

  • SOCL4580 - Special Topics in Sociology - Discovering the Eternal City: Power, Culture and Society in Rome and Beyond : Designed as a specialized themes course for students with experience in sociology and/or anthropology. Takes advantage of unique opportunities—visiting guests, special thematic interests—which are not part of the regular curriculum. May be repeated without limit.
  • SOCL4522 - Political Ecology and Environmental Justice : (Writing Intensive (WI) NUpath) Engages advanced sociological research on topics relating to political ecology and environmental justice, with the goal of producing a publishable report(s)to be published and posted on the Northeastern Environmental Justice Research (NEJRC) website and circulated on various national environmental list-serves. Possible topics of investigation could include the power of the polluter-industrial complex in the American political system; the role of trade agreements in relation to the globalization and the export of environmental hazards; climate justice, with an analysis of the manner in which climate change is exacerbating social and environmental injustices, especially for the poorest and most politically powerless populations in the world system; or many other important issues.


Northeastern Tuition: Summer term tuition as published by Northeastern
Dialogue of Civilizations Fee: $1,750
  • Northeastern Tuition and DOC Fee Includes: 8 Northeastern credits, international round-trip airfare from Boston, accommodations for program duration, international security and emergency support, and program related expenses (local transportation, field trips, excursions and some group meals)

Additional Expense - Meals and Incidentals: $1,400-2,090
  • Students should anticipate spending this estimated amount during the program for meals and incidentals.

    If necessary, students may incur additional fees for visa costs and travel to consulates or embassies to obtain the visa. If you have questions about costs you may incur while participating in this program, please ask your GEO advisor.

GEO offers scholarships and grants for students studying abroad on Dialogue of Civilizations programs. Please visit our Scholarships page for more info!


Given the richness of Italian history and culture, the prominent place the country now occupies in the European Union around immigration and other issues, the economic importance of Italy to the EU and the United States, the country’s growing environmental problems around illegal toxic waste dumping and climate change, the rise of the Slow Food movement in reaction to Fast Food culture, and many other important social and environmental issues, Rome is an ideal place for students to become inspired to learn about social and environmental justice.

The U.S. State Department lists travel advisories, local laws, alerts from the embassy, and other important information about Italy here. Please review this information before applying.


  • Apartments: Students will be staying in modern and comfortable apartments located in the Trastevere, a neighborhood in the heart of Rome. Trastevere is home to countless cafes, restaurants, galleries, museums, churches, and a vibrant night life. The apartments are convenient to mass transportation systems and easily walkable to the classroom building. The area is extremely safe. AIA has a long history of placing students in first rate residential accommodations. The residential building in which the students are housed is convenient and comfortable

Host University or Organization

Academic Initiatives Abroad (where the classroom space is located) is situated in the Jewish Ghetto and provides an ideal learning environment for the students. AIA provides extensive support services, including a computer lab, library, classrooms with wi-fi, a lockbox, outside terrace, and kitchen.

Faculty Advisor