In February 2020, I was packing my bags, excited to embark on my semester abroad in Shanghai. Days before my flight, it became clear that I would not be able to travel to China as planned due COVID-19. I was crushed and panicked, not knowing what to do. Luckily, IFSA staff reached out and allowed me to switch to another one of their amazing abroad programs. Within days, I was on a flight to Rome. I was amazed at how well IFSA organized an amazing experience in which I lived blocks away from the Vatican, took interesting classes with Italian professors, and even got to travel.
A highlight of my time abroad was IFSA's planned trip to a small Italian city called Orvieto and Florence. We had a guided tour of the caves in Orvieto and a personal cooking class in Florence (in which we made the most amazing homemade bruschetta, bucatini all'Amatriciana, and tiramisu). We stayed in an authentic, quaint hotel and had plenty of time to explore Florence on our own. I couldn't believe this was all organized and included by IFSA! Another weekend I had the chance to visit my cousin in Milan with a few friends from my program.
While my time in Rome did get cut short due to the pandemic, I have countless memories from my time there that I will cherish forever, like getting a private tour of the Colosseum or making new relationships with an Italian family that IFSA connected me with. While no one could've totally prepared for an unexpected global pandemic, IFSA did an amazing job rolling with the punches and providing me with an unforgettable time in Rome. I created what I believe will be lifelong friendships with other American students as well as Italian peers and professors.
What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't worry about where your friends and fellow peers are studying abroad. I was nervous going into a program in which I didn't know any other students, but it turned out to be an amazing opportunity to make friendships with people across the country and the world. I still keep in touch with my friends in Rome and American students (with many post-pandemic plans to visit each other). Getting out of my comfort zone facilitated a lot of personal growth in getting me out of my shell more and building confidence in my social as well as academic abilities.