Rusty Benton

Why did you study abroad with the AIFS European Art & Architecture Program?

Rusty: Ever since I was a little boy I have always been fascinated with Roman history. After doing research on various study abroad programs, I settled with AIFS as my best option. I was initially going to study abroad in Florence, Italy and had been accepted into the program, but I ran into issues with the Italian Consulates about getting my student VISA.

AIFS was great with working with me through my problems. My family and I were in contact with AIFS just about every day. As we talked further, they suggested the Art & Architecture program. Once I saw that I would not only be going to Florence and Rome but also London, Paris, Venice, and more, it was an easy sell. There is no better way to see Europe than to have a program such as this one set it up for you.

What made your study abroad experience unique and special?

Rusty: In all honesty, getting around Europe on your own is not as difficult as it sounds. What you would be missing is the opportunity to take such a trip with 49 of your peers. I knew no one going into the trip but came out knowing some truly great people. I have since been fortunate enough to link up with a couple of my classmates in LA and Pittsburgh to catch up on old times.

Europe is amazing. The artwork that you will see on this trip is breath taking, and this is coming from someone who had little appreciation for art prior to going on this trip. The cities you will visit are unique and fun to explore. With all of that said, it is about the people. While I loved the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Coliseum, I remember and cherish the time I had with my classmates the most. My pictures and stories are not centered on the places but rather on the people.

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and had experience living in many of the cities we were visiting so he was able to guide us to some ‘hidden gems’ as well as set up group outings to celebrate the 4th of July in Paris, give us a chance to go to a wine tasting in Tuscany, and much more. He and our professor worked to make this a truly unforgettable experience.

I could go on for days about what made this trip so great, but unless you go yourself you’ll never quite understand. It is just one of those things you have to experience for yourself.

Rusty on the European Art & Architecture Program

How has this experience impacted your future?

Rusty: Europe took me out of my ‘comfort zone’ and I haven’t really returned since. Being twenty years old and having just completed my sophomore year of college, I still had a lot of growing to do as a person. Personally it helped me come out of my shell more, which has helped immensely as I just recently moved to a big city in which I hardly knew anyone. Professionally speaking it has helped in terms of interviews. A lot of employers that were interviewing me were very interested in that portion of my resume. Art & Architecture was definitely an outlier on my resume, but I believe that it helped me stand out a little bit more.

My experience in Europe has also made me increasingly more interested in eventually working/living abroad. I really enjoyed my time over there and would like the opportunity to delve into European culture more.

As far as academics are concerned, I have to be honest in saying that I wasn’t the least bit focused on that aspect while I was in Europe. I was a business major in college and needed a fine arts elective to graduate. I figured there was no better way to experience the arts than to go see the best up close and personal. While I wasn’t focused on the academic side of it, it was a very educational experience. I learned a lot about art, and my interest in the arts has grown since my trip to Europe.

My advice on the academic side of things when it comes to studying abroad is twofold. I went to one of the best business schools in the country, so I figured it would be counterproductive to take business classes through another institution when I had some of the best professors in the field at my home campus. It is also worth noting that the art majors that were on the trip with me seemed to get a lot out of what they were seeing. Having studied the art that was now in front of them, they had a greater appreciation and understanding of it then I did. They were able to point out things that I would have never known on my own.

In Europe you will learn a lot and most of it will be out of the classroom. You’ll learn in the museums and on the streets. You’ll learn from your professor just as much as you will learn from your peers.