Alumni Spotlight: Mikayla Lofton


Mikayla Lofton is a junior studying Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from Saint Paul, Minnesota, Mikayla loves yoga, visiting museums, learning new things, and experiencing new cultures.

Why did you decide to study abroad with SRISA?

I decided to study abroad with SRISA because I wanted a study abroad program that fit with my major and my time constraints. As an Art History major, I knew that studying abroad in Italy would provide me with a wide variety of opportunities to see art from the Italian Renaissance right before my eyes.

During the academic school year, I have a job on campus that made it difficult for me to study abroad for a full semester. While this seemed like a disadvantage at first, I soon realized that it was actually an advantage. SRISA provided me with the perfect opportunity to study abroad for eight weeks -- during the summer!

Over the course of my eight weeks in Florence, Italy, I was able to take four different courses with four dedicated and caring professors. In the end, my decision to study abroad with SRISA was one of the best decisions of my life.

Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever think you knew more/less of the language?

I definitely ran into a language barrier in Florence. Coming to Italy, I only knew about three words in Italian. Going to school was not a problem because all of my classes were taught in English. When I went out into the city though, I was faced with the challenge of communicating with Italians around me.

I found out right away that the zones of the city that drew in the most tourists contained a high volume of English-speaking individuals. When I ventured into areas that contained fewer tourists, I was faced with the challenge of interacting with individuals who did not speak English either at all or very well.

This did not inhibit my experience though. I focused on being polite and cordial in Italian to the best of my ability and became a professional at telling people that I was a student studying abroad in Italy.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home:

Fridays at SRSIA meant two things -- no class and field trips. One particular Friday we went on an excursion to Castello Di Verrazzano, a vineyard in Chianti. This experience was totally unique and something that I would never have had at home.

Upon arriving at the vineyard, we were welcomed by our lovely tour guides who walked us around the grounds and explained to us the process of making wine. Afterwards, to make the day truly incredible, we were given a delicious meal and wine tasting in which we were able to try many of the wines we were told about during our tour.

The day was filled with intriguing information, incredible wine, fine dining, and an overall sense of relaxation that can only come from spending a day in Chianti!

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

My study abroad experience was unique and special for several reasons. I’d like to highlight two -- first, the class sizes at SRISA were small and intimate. This allowed me to truly interact with my professors in class. I had never been in a class of three people until coming to SRISA and could not speak more highly of it after the fact. I received valuable feedback and knowledge from these small class sizes.

Secondly, I entered this study abroad adventure not knowing anyone else who would be attending SRISA. While this was daunting at first, I made sure I had confidence and put myself out there in order to make new connections.

While your friends back home will be waiting for you when you get home, it is hard to stay in touch when you are abroad. I made wonderful friends at SRISA including students from my own university. I'm so glad I wasn't attached to social media, but rather, chose to interact with the new individuals around me -- definitely no regrets!