What Butler Students are Saying about the Siena Livable Cities Program

Our Butler cohort visiting our friends in the Panther Contrada


The following quotes were provided by students participating on the 2016 Livable Cities program in Siena, either from the course evaluation survey or the final course reflection questionnaire. They obviously learned a lot and we appreciate their feedback and comments! Enjoy!

A general testimonial about the program: 

  • Overall, I thought this program was perfect. I loved the flexibility as far as the class schedule, and I loved that all of our group excursions were front−loaded so that later in the month, we knew how to do things on our own if we so wished. I did not expect to do activities with the whole group for most of the trip before I left, but everyone on the trip was so great that I wanted to spend time with them and do everything together! This program was a really profound experience for me in which I learned a lot, not only in an academic sense but also regarding my own personal growth.


Gaining Independence and Self Confidence Abroad:

  • I definitely feel more independent and self-confident, particularly with regards to learning how to navigate a foreign place, operate with limited linguistic capabilities, and overcome unforeseen travel hiccups. I also think it’s important to note that I also learned the value of looking for support in other people when necessary and being willing to do so.
  • I feel strongly that it helped me grow as a person and show me what I value most in my life. The Sienese people showed me their passion, emotion, and genuine love for where they live as well as for each other, and I absolutely enjoyed this so much. I wish I lived in a place that valued these things.
  • It has greatly improved my independence and self-confidence. When we first arrived, I was afraid to travel anywhere alone, but I now feel comfortable navigating a city and traveling by bus and train in a foreign country. I learned that I know enough Italian to accomplish what I need to do in most situations, or I can substitute Spanish and try and make it work.

Experiencing Livable and Walkable Cities: 

  • There are qualities of life here that I never would have imagined being possible, like having everything in walking distance. This is an idealist idea that you read about in books, but Siena proves that it is possible.
  • Previously, I was the type of person who would move my car from one end of a shopping center to the other instead of walking across the parking lot. Now, I see the benefits that walking places has on not only my health, but on the environment. I have developed better stamina, and a stronger sense of independence since I do not feel dependent on a vehicle to survive in the world.
  • Before this class, I had no idea what livability was; after our individual research, group projects, and various lessons throughout the trip, I developed a much better understanding of what makes a city livable and how these characteristics are influenced by (and influence) the outside world.
  • Doing some research on the livability of Siena and livability in general helped me gain a perspective on what types of places I enjoy living in and what I look for in a city—which will help me when trying to find a place to live after I graduate. I think the biggest thing I took from the discussions is that concept of community and livability changes from person to person, and place to place.

Observing Contrada Place Attachment and Sense of Place

  • This course has explained how and why the people of Siena are so connected to their city and their public spaces. They love their local spaces because it is inside of them where their lives take place. All the things that they deem important can and do take place in these spaces. Siena is a perfect city to understand that.
  • I was unfamiliar with [place attachment] before the program, but the discussions in class, combined with my own observation of the Sienese and personal research project, have helped me develop a deep understanding of this concept. Although people all over the globe can feel place attachment, the unique contrada system and history of Siena make the place attachment which the Sienese feel very distinct from the rest of the world.
  • The type of community that is present within the contradas is, to me, the ideal community. The contradas accept everyone regardless of social status or race, and although the contrada is like a large family, you do not have to have family ties to the organization, as some children are part of a different contrada than their parents. This is what community means to me—that everyone is welcome, and there are spaces for everyone to frequently socialize and bond and share their history.

Experiencing the Pre-Palio dinner, the Cena della Prova Generale, with the Goose