Frequently Asked Questions
- A reusable water bottle.
- A power converter and adapter for your phone and computer.
- A smaller carry-on bag for your program excursions and independent travel.
- A small backpack for day outings.
- Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block noise from church bells and other students when you're trying to sleep.
- Comfortable slip-on shoes to wear around the Steger Center.
You may need to bring:
- Textbooks. Some faculty will require you to purchase and bring textbooks. Other faculty will provide readings to you electronically and through Canvas. Check with your professor prior to departure. We have some textbooks available at the Steger Center.
You do not need to bring:
- Towels (shower towel, hand towel).
- Sheets, pillows, or blankets.
- Hair dryers or straighteners.
All of the above are provided to all students at the Steger Center and in the apartments.
Past students studying on semester-long programs recommend budgeting $2,000–$2,500 for personal spending money. Depending on your travel style and the things you want to do, you may want to budget more or less money.
For summer programs, we recommend budgeting $300–$400 for personal spending money. If you are planning to travel independently before or after your program, you may want to budget more money.
Yes, Wi-Fi is available at the Steger Center and apartments. You will be provided the Wi-Fi password when you arrive. Because the building is 250 years old, there may be locations in the villa that do not have a strong signal.
Most semester-long programs have a required Italian language course. Riva San Vitale is a small town and few people speak English, so it’s important for you to have a basic understanding of Italian. Also, learning Italian will help you connect with and understand the culture of the region. Your Italian instructors are native speakers and you will have many opportunities to use your newfound language skills around Riva and during your travels.
Summer programs usually do not require Italian language study at the Steger Center; however, we recommend picking up a few useful words and phrases before departure.
Absolutely. Most students at the Steger Center have never taken an Italian course before and take an introductory course during their semester abroad. Some programs may require you to enroll in a beginning Italian course the semester prior to departure. Summer courses do not have a language requirement either. All other courses are taught in English.
Yes, all students need a valid passport to study abroad. We recommend applying for your passport at least 6 months in advance of your program start date to accommodate processing times. Information about applying for a passport can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html
If you already have a passport, ensure if will be valid at least 6 months beyond your program end date. If your passport will expire less than 6 months after your program end date, you should renew your passport. More information can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/renew-by-mail.html
For more information, see the Passports and Visas page.
Semester-long program participants need a Swiss national visa. You do not need to apply for the visa on your own. After you are accepted to the program, the Global Education Office and the Office of International Support Services will work with the group to complete the visa application, mail the applications to the embassy, and return passports to students.
Summer program participants do not need a visa. Visas are not required for stays of less than 90 days in Switzerland.
If you are an international student, your requirements may be different. The Global Education Office, the Office of International Support Services, and the program leader will work with you to complete any visa applications.
For more information, see the Passports and Visas page.
No, airfare is not included in the program cost. You are responsible for booking your own flight. We estimate budgeting around $1,000–$1,500 for your round-trip airfare. Depending on when you purchase your tickets, what time of year you are flying, what booking site you use, and available discounts (such as frequent flier miles), your actual cost may be lower.
Most students fly into Zurich Airport (ZRH) or Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) and take the train. Find information about transportation to the Steger Center.
Before you depart, we will distribute more information about how to travel to the Steger Center from the various airports in the region.
Before your program departs, the managing director or faculty leader will send out information regarding the housing options (either in the villa or apartments). Typically, you will communicate your preferences to the managing director and faculty leader, although the specific process may vary slightly from program to program. The faculty leader and managing director will take your preferences into account when making assignments but cannot guarantee that everyone’s requests will be granted.
Before your program departs, the managing director or faculty leader will send out information regarding the housing options (either in the villa or apartments). Typically you will communicate your preferences to the managing director and faculty leader, although the specific process may vary slightly from program to program. The faculty leader and managing director will take your preferences into account when making assignments but cannot guarantee that everyone’s requests will be granted.
Yes, many weekends will be available for you to explore Switzerland and Europe. Keep in mind that you will also be traveling for your program on excursions and field trips. On weekends when there is scheduled program travel, you will not be able to pursue independent travel opportunities. There are also many things to see in Switzerland and northern Italy within a one- or two-hour train or bus ride. You may also wish to travel after your program ends.
Your course schedule in Riva may look different than your typical course schedule in Blacksburg. Instead of taking the same course at the same time every week, you may spend more time focusing on one or two courses at different points of the semester. You will also be taking advantage of your location in Europe and will travel on program excursions and field trips that complement your course content. You may also have some afternoons free for independent study and travel. Contact your faculty leader for more information.
Riva is a small town, but there is still plenty to do. You can sit by the water or take a boat ride on Lake Lugano. Two mountains, Monte Generoso and Monte San Giorgio, tower over the town and are great for hiking. (There is also a train that will take you up Monte Generoso.) There are a few restaurants, cafes, and bars in town, as well as a phenomenal gelato shop.
The Steger Center has a collection of basketballs, soccer balls, yoga mats, and bicycles for student use. You may also travel to the nearby towns of Mendrisio and Lugano by bike, bus, or train for additional shopping and sightseeing opportunities. The on-site student life coordinator also organizes outings for local concerts, festivals, and events.
Unless previously arranged by the program faculty leader, students must take their courses at the Steger Center for a letter grade.
Yes, but to ensure that the mail is not returned please have your friends and family use the following address:
c/o Virginia Tech Steger Center
via Settala 8
6826 Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.
(It is important to include the "c/o" line after the name as letters may not be delivered without it.)