Information for Families
We know that you may have questions about the process and what to expect but your student may not always have the answers. We hope that the resources on this page will answer your questions and provide you the tools you need to help support your student while they are overseas.
Contacting Your Student
We recommend that students contact you as soon as they can after arriving overseas. The Villa and our Italian homestays are equipped with internet access, and we therefore recommend email and Skype as the most cost-effective means for communicating with your student. Please note, however, that Internet speeds and bandwidth are not as reliable as in the U.S.
Many students will have cell phone access, but it may take a few days to get this set up. International phone rates will vary, but most U.S. plans carry hefty roaming charges; be sure to check with your U.S. service provider to make sure your student’s phone is activated for international use and to inform yourself of the various calling/texting rates. Renting or buying a European phone or SIM card is an alternative – most incoming calls to these numbers will be free for the recipient.
Students living at Villa Le Balze will have access to an incoming phone line in their bedroom and your student will be provided that phone number a few weeks before the program begins. Remember that your student will be sharing a room with 1-2 other students and a private conversation on this phone line may not be possible. These phones are only equipped for outgoing emergency calls to police, fire, and rescue services.
We recommend that you maintain contact with your student, but not on a daily basis. This is a time for your son or daughter to gain the confidence of becoming an independent global citizen. Familiarize yourself with the program dates and your student’s travel itinerary. If you have not heard from your student, it may be because they are on an excursion.
Sending Mail to Your Student
Letters and packages should be sent to Villa Le Balze regardless of whether your student is living on-site at the Villa or with an Italian host family. Mail is delivered Monday-Friday, except on Italian holidays or in the rare case of a postal strike. Please address all mail as follows:
Villa Le Balze
Via Vecchia Fiesolana, 26
50014 Fiesole (FI), Italy
Shipping Methods and Delivery Expectations
The United States Postal Service (new window) provides reliable and inexpensive options for sending letters and packages to Italy. Find out more about international shipping rates as well as a list of restricted items that cannot be shipped to Italy (new window). Please note that international tracking service is only available on certain types of shipments and at an additional charge. Packages usually require additional customs declarations. Packages are usually insured and additional insurance is usually not necessary and may incur hefty customs fees. Delivery of letters and small packages will normally take between 1-3 weeks.
Private shipping companies (like UPS, Fed Ex and DHL) provide reliable and speedy options for shipping items to Italy, but their services may cost more. These companies usually provide an international tracking service included for all international shipments. Packages usually require additional customs declarations. Packages are usually insured and additional insurance is usually not necessary and may incur hefty customs fees. Delivery of letters and small packages will normally take between 2-5 days, while larger packages and those shipped with expedited service may take up to 2 weeks or longer.
Tips for Sending Packages
Do not send anything irreplaceable or of great value by mail. Incidences of loss and theft are low, but better to be safe than sorry.
Declare a low value and do not purchase additional insurance. Shipments with high declared values (over $25.00) or additional insurance values may be subject to customs charges which must be paid in cash upon delivery of the package in Italy. Villa Le Balze cannot be responsible for paying customs or delivery charges on behalf of program participants.
Visiting Your Student
We know that you are excited to share in your student’s study abroad experience and we would like to welcome you to Villa Le Balze for a visit! There are, however, ideal times to schedule your visit so as not to interfere with the academic program and dynamics of the living learning community.
Each semester program has a 10 day mid-term break built into the schedule and this is the ideal time for family and friends to coordinate a visit. Students are expected to travel and are not allowed to reside at the Villa or with their host families during this time.
Holiday breaks are another ideal time for planning a visit with your Villa student. In the fall, the Thanksgiving break allows for students to have a 4-day break (Thursday – Sunday) from academic commitments and the same is true over the Easter holidays in the spring (Friday – Monday, as Easter Monday is a national holiday in Italy).
Finally, travel after the program with a visit to the Villa along the way is another opportune time for sharing in your student’s overseas experience.