Harvard Summer Program in Trento, Italy

June 10, 2017 to August 5, 2017
Apply by: 
January 26, 2017

The Trento program was a perfect blend of science, sightseeing, and adventure. From the winding canals of Venice to the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps, the variety of locations we experienced was absolutely breathtaking.

Study the mind and brain through lectures, field trips, and demonstrations at the University of Trento’s Center for Mind/Brain Sciences. 

In this program, you delve into the field of neuroscience through lectures, hands-on laboratory sessions, and experimental research. Courses are taught in English by Harvard and Goldsmiths University of London faculty, exposing you to several different methodologies for analyzing the mind, brain, and behavior. In addition to coursework and research, you take advantage of your surroundings with field trips and excursions throughout Italy.

Program Structure

The University of Trento's Center for Mind/Brain Sciences provides this unique opportunity for you to study neuroscience and cognitive science, as well as explore Italy. Courses generally run Monday through Thursday, with Fridays dedicated to program outings.

The program's multifaceted offerings are designed to give you a broad understanding of the mind and brain. You learn about cognitive neuroscience research by participating in experiments, as well as attending talks and presentations at the research center. 

Interesting classes with fantastic professors in the mornings, delicious gelato in the evenings, and a different Italian city every weekend. What more can you ask for? The professors succeeded in sharing their passion and excitement for neuroscience and psychology. I can't praise the program enough for creating an environment conducive to both learning and community. I will cherish my Trento memories forever. 


This program is designed to give you a broad understanding of the mind and brain. In the first half of the program, you take the course MBB S-101. During the second half, you take MBB S-100. 

This program counts as two semester-long courses (4 credits each) of degree credit.

When taken together, MBB S-101 and MBB S-100 meet the General Education requirement for Science of Living Systems. In general, tracks will give one course (4 credits) for completion of the program. Please consult with concentration advisor to confirm. Note: MBB S-101 does not substitute for either MBB foundational course (SLS 20 or MCB 80).

MBB S-100 Study Abroad in Trento, Italy: Magic and the Mind (33799)

Gustav Kuhn
4 credits
UN Limited enrollment.

Magic is one of the most enduring forms of entertainment, and the ease by which magicians trick us highlights our mind's limitations. This course explores the psychological illusions magicians use to trick our mind as well as the unique emotional experiences that these illusions elicit. Among the question we address are: What is magic? What role does magic play in our day-to-day lives (such as superstitions)? Can you trust your eyes? Can you trust your memories? How can we unconsciously influence your behavior? What is hypnosis? Can you detect lies and deception? The main objectives of this course are to use magical illusions as a vehicle to discuss advances in our understanding of the mind and thus bring cognitive psychology/neuroscience to life. While you learn about some of the secrets in magic, the main emphasis lies in understanding the brain mechanisms involved in our everyday illusions and the fascinating and unexpected reality of our internal world.

Prerequisite: none.

MBB S-101 Study Abroad in Trento, Italy: Windows into the Structure of the Mind and Brain (33300)

Alfonso Caramazza
John A. Assad
4 credits
UN Limited enrollment.

The mind/brain can be studied at multiple levels of description and with various methodologies. The course reviews methods from psycholinguistics perception and language processing to neuroimaging, and from computational modeling to cellular and clinical neuroscience. Each method is illustrated through laboratory demonstrations. This course is mandatory for all program participants, and it is meant to provide the neuroscience and cognitive science foundation necessary to explore specific topics in the field.

Prerequisite: none.

Where You Live and Study

Program outings and trips are designed to immerse you in Italian culture and tradition. You participate in hikes in the Italian Alps, a weekend getaway on Lake Garda (Italy’s largest lake), and day and overnight trips to nearby cities such as Verona and Florence.

On free weekends, you can organize additional trips to nearby lakes (Lake Caldonazzo, Lake Levico, or Lake Garda) or to explore other popular destinations in Italy (in the past students visited Milan, Rome, Tuscany, and Cinque Terre).

Coming to Italy for this program was the best decision I made this summer! Pasta, history, and neuroscience made every moment unforgettable.


You receive on-campus housing at the University of Trento, where they have the opportunity to interact with Italian students. There is access to lounge areas and kitchens in the individual entryways. Laundry facilities are also available on site.

How to Apply

The application deadline has passed.

Review How to Apply before submitting your application.

Application materials include: 

  1. A personal statement of interest in the program
    • ​Include information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not a prerequisite)
  2. Letter(s) of recommendation from a current or recent teacher or advisor
    • Harvard College applicants: Submit one recommendation
    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit two letters of recommendation so program staff can learn about your academic background and preparation for this program
  3. Transcripts
    • Harvard College applicants: You may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu
    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit an official transcript from your university
  4. A $50 nonrefundable application fee

Note: Interviews may be requested.

All application materials were due January 26, 2017. You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.


The program fee includes tuition, accommodation, scheduled excursions and activities, and some meals.  

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options. 

Student budget

In addition to the program fee, you will need to budget for a number of personal expenses: 

  • International airfare ($1,300 to $1,600)
  • Local transportation ($500)
  • Meals during personal travel and some during organized weekend excursions ($600)
  • Personal expenditures, laundry, communications, and miscellaneous ($300)

Please note: The amounts are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not listed here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including your personal spending habits and currency exchange rates. If you have specific questions about budgeting, please contact the program directly.

Additional Information

Program director

Alfonso Caramazza


  • Gustav Kuhn, Reader in Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Alfonso Caramazza, PhD, Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and Visiting Research Professor, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento
  • John A. Assad, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School