Richmond in Rome with AIFS is hands down the best study abroad program in the eternal city. Since meal plans, accommodations, and excursions are included you really do get the most for your money. For me, the program was the perfect size (about 75 students and 15 staff members) which was intimate enough for engaging classes, and large enough to meet new faces throughout the semester. The school itself was located in an amazing location, allowing me to explore the city between classes, and to enjoy the scenery on my walk to school every morning. In fact, I chose the home-stay option, and my apartment was just a block from the Vatican! That placed me right in the historical center of Rome, and coincidentally during one of the most epic moments in history-the resignation of Pope Benedetto XVI, and the election of Pope Francesco! Now of course, not everyone will be so fortunate to be there in such heightened times, however, this is just to illustrate the point that Rome is an incredibly busy city, with some of the worlds richest and growing history. This study abroad program helped me be a part of that.
Many of my classes were taught onsite by knowledgeable and passionate professors. The excursions were very well organized. Each of them had a balance between faculty-led activities and free time for exploring on your own. The accommodations in Venezia, Napoli, and Firenze were cozy and centrally located. Excursions were a great way to bond with other students in my program. In addition to the excursions, the cultural events such as wine tastings, cooking classes, museum and villa trips helped expose us students to the culture and become closer with one another at the same time.
Another plus for this program when comparing it to others, is that it comes with meal vouchers! Eating in Rome as one would imagine can become pretty expensive, however these costs can be greatly reduced with these vouchers. Because they were accepted in many restaurants and grocery stores in all of Italy, I was able to better budget my expenses so that I could travel more.
If I every had a question or concern, or was in need of a simple suggestion, a staff member was just a phone call or email away with a quick response. Any student on my program will tell you how amazing the Richmond staff was: Rosanna, Marco, Chicca, instructors and interns put forth great efforts to give us an unforgettable experience and they succeeded. They were also just very caring and approachable people that many of us students, including myself still keep in touch with.
Undoubtedly, my favorite part of my study abroad experience was my Italian host family. My host family and I became very close. They showed me Rome from the eyes of Romans, and taught me a lot about their culture and way of life in a way that I wouldn't have been able to learn on my own. My months in Rome have forged a relationship with them and my Italian friends that will last a lifetime, and that's something you can't put a price tag on. I cannot wait to go back!