Alumni Spotlight: Jeni Berecek

Why did you decide to study abroad with AIFS at Richmond in Florence?

Jeni: I chose the AIFS program at Richmond in Florence program because it offered classes that I was interested and fit into my schedule the best. The classes they offered in art history were exactly the types of hands-on, get-in-the-field classes that I wanted to take. The program is five weeks during the summer, which fit great into my schedule since I didn’t have a semester that I could just go to Europe and still graduate on time. There were also scholarship and grant opportunities through the program and my school that made the trip affordable.

Jeni in Florence, Italy during her AIFS program

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

Jeni: One of the best parts of this trip was the great people I met and interacted with both inside and outside of the program. My friend and I chose this program together, traveled there together, were roommates, and shared all the great experiences together. However, we also shared this experience with some great friends that we met in the program and still keep in touch with to this day. The professors and staff at the Richmond school were so friendly and helpful as well.

One of our professors was the funniest older gentleman who would take our class all around the museums and streets of Florence and show us not only the art, but introduced us to locals, his friends, museum directors, and even his favorite bartenders. We could ask the staff anything from “Where should we eat dinner tonight?” to “How do I say this in Italian?” or “where should we go in Rome this weekend?” and they would help as much as they could.

Then there were the people of Florence themselves that made us feel so welcome in their city. From the young waiter at our favorite restaurant around the corner, to the older man whose café we would pass on our walk to school everyday, to our landlady who would take us out for gelato every week; interacting with these people made us feel like Florence was our home away from home.

Jeni with some friends eating lunch in Florence, Italy

How has this experience impacted your future?

Jeni: I can’t list all the ways this experience has impacted me because there are simply too many. But I will say that this experience pushed me outside of my box in the best way and exposed me to a way of life so different from my own. The best part was that I wasn’t just reading about the culture, or learning about it; I was living it. The classes taught me so much about art history in such a small amount of time because the information was not just presented to me, but rather surrounding me.

The subject matter was not just in class because it was part of my everyday which made it meaningful. This experience also taught me that sometimes I can’t control every little thing and the best experiences and memories can come from spontaneous events that you never planned. Now I know that I am capable of adjusting to different ways of life and appreciating all kinds of people and places. I now make it a priority in my life to travel as much as I can and take advantage of any new opportunities that come my way.