I studied in Padova, Italy in spring 2011 with Boston University. It was an amazing experience overall. One of my favorite parts was getting the opportunity to live with an Italian host family. Besides allowing me to use my Italian more often, that experience gave me a glimpse of what day-to-day life really is like for an Italian family. My host mom gave me lots of cooking lessons, including how to make homemade pasta!
Studying in Italy certainly helped improve my Italian skills exponentially. All my classes were taught in Italian, including one at the local university (I was the only American in the class!), and, since Padova has very few tourists, all my interactions with vendors or people on the street were in Italian. It truly was an immersion experience. I would recommend to all students planning to study in Italy to live with a host family or Italians if possible, and to go out and find Italian friends – it helps so much and gives you a more authentic experience.