Alumni Spotlight: Haley Helfer

Why did you decide to study abroad with ISA in Florence?

Haley: Ever since my sister studied in Italy, while I was in High School, I have planned to study abroad. I love art, but unfortunately am not an art major. Italy is the perfect place to study art, even if it is just an interest. I knew I wanted to go to Italy. Comparing my personality with my sister’s, I thought it would be better to go to a city that was a little bit bigger than her small hill town. Florence seemed to be the perfect choice (not too big, but not too small), and it was.

I chose ISA after the intense research of many different programs. ISA offered more excursions and more opportunities to be immersed in the culture like conversation partners with citizens of the host country. When deciding what I wanted my study abroad experience to be like, cultural immersion was a must.

Haley overlooking the city of Florence

What made studying abroad a unique and special experience?

Haley: I made the absolute most of my time abroad. Running around constantly, I jumped at every single opportunity that ever crossed my path. The most precious part of my study abroad experience, although full of so many sub-experiences, would have to be the friends that I made.

Coming home was extremely difficult because I had committed myself so much to relationships in Florence. These relationships were with people from all different groups in which I was involved. For example, I had friends from my program, that either worked for ISA or were studying abroad as well, my close-knit quadrant of roommates, close friends from all around the world that were in my classes or clubs at the university I attended, Italian friends that worked at many of the places I was often found at, and my close Italian friends like my conversation partner and two friends that were about my age with whom I spent most of my free time.

This set apart my time from being only a vacation to much more than that. I am a completely different person from this experience and I owe a lot of that to the people that I met there and our relationships that have grown and are still growing today.

Haley eating gelato with some friends in Italy

How has this experience impacted your future?

Haley: Personally, from studying abroad, I have become so much more independent and am looking for ways to expand my future. I know a lot more about myself, what is important to me, and what I want to exist in my future. some of those aspects I want in my future are traveling and experiencing other cultures. My worldview has expanded and I understand a lot more about life and am eager and open to learn more. Life is huge and I want to experience as much of it as I can!

Studying abroad impacted my future professionally as well. I would like to have a career that is in an international field. Whether this be teaching overseas, working with a travel agency, being a part of ethnographical studies, or simply helping students study abroad, I now know that it is important for me to have a career that will involve me not only in America, but the rest of the world.

My awareness of culture and the world has raised dramatically. Studying art in Florence, I was able to learn the joy and importance of art. I am also more motivated to learn now and in the future about subjects I felt distant from. For example, history and international studies can sometimes be hard to grasp, but after going to the places in which we learn about, it gave me a fresh perspective and new motivation to learn. Overall, it is much more rewarding to be intelligent and sophisticated, than ignorant. I understand and enjoy the importance of learning even more than I had before.

My experience abroad was amazing and unforgettable. I would not trade it for anything as well as I would not trade who I have become because of my experience.