Why did you decide to study abroad with AIFS at Richmond in Rome?
Natalie: I chose Richmond in Rome because I have always wanted to spend an extended amount of time in Italy. When I compared multiple organizations, AIFS had the most comprehensive program. I liked that they helped coordinate everything from our housing and meal plans to extra travel opportunities. They also had the best variety of classes.
Mid semester I connected with friends who were doing different programs in Italy, and after hearing what was included told me they wished they would’ve chosen AIFS. It was a bit more expensive, but it was truly worth every penny.
What made your study abroad experience unique and special?
Natalie: Part of what made this program unique was the great location of the school and my apartment. I lived in the middle of Rome and truly enjoyed being able to walk barely 15 minutes to get to the Vatican City or walk 20 minutes to get to the Coliseum.
By far what was most unique and special about my experience would be the great relationships that developed over my five months in Rome. The staff and faculty at the school were just wonderful people. They genuinely wanted us to enjoy our entire time there. It was easy to connect with locals and get involved in the community. I met great people in my classes who have become some of my best friends.We made a pact to get together at least once every year since our study abroad, and we have stayed true to our promise.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Natalie: My experience abroad exposed me to a completely different culture. I had to learn to communicate in a different language, immerse myself in a different way of life (for example picking up fresh produce every day at the market, getting everywhere by foot, or listening to workers sing opera while repairing an old building), and of course try tons of new foods, which was not difficult by any means in Italy.
Living in a different country forced me to step out of my “comfort zone,” which is an important skill to have in all aspects of life. I learned how to communicate with a variety of people and backgrounds which has helped me immensely in my professional career as a health advocate.Being able to step into a new environment or situation whether it be a new job or continuing on to graduate school has opened the door to many opportunities to travel more, discover different cities and countries, and meet great people with unique stories. I've studied and lived abroad again since my time in Italy, and have made friends from many parts of the world. I plan to continue traveling as much as possible!