I did this program in the summer before my senior year in 2015. The change I've felt in myself from the experiences I had are magical. The people I went on this trip with were complete strangers before, and now I have an amazing group of friends who I know will never leave my life. I had a strong interest in Art and History (so, naturally, art history), and seeing things in person during our field trips was one of the coolest feelings. I know what it's like to look at pictures in a book for years, then walk up to it and see it with my own eyes. Wow. Many times I was overwhelmed with gratitude that such beautiful things exist in the world to the point that I teared up, and believe me, I am not an overly emotional individual.
Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and leaving the states to journey across Europe with a group of strangers made me a better person. It made me realize that sometimes you don't agree with everyone, but differences can be accepted. I learned that I love seeing other cultures - how people communicate, their food, and their worlds that are so strange yet vaguely familiar to my own. Most of all, I learned that being in a strange environment and having completely new perceptions will expand your goals, thoughts, and ideas in ways you never expected.
I am very happy I decided to study abroad, and I'm pleased to the nth degree that I decided to do so with AIFS. They were accommodating, helpful, and organized with the program. Our tour manager was extremely knowledgeable, and our professor was brilliant. Both were wonderful human beings who I will never forget. The tours and lectures we had were taught in what I believe to be the best possible way. My flights and other details of the trip were meticulously planned, which is exactly how I would have done it myself. I completely trust the people in charge of the program.
Finally, a little story about one of my favorite moments of the trip: we stayed in Paris for about 5 nights, which was one of the longest visits of the trip. Each night, since the hotel was so close to Champ de Mars, my new friends and I would eat dinner or grab snacks and drinks then walk to the Eiffel Tower around 10 pm. When the sun leaves the sky completely, the Eiffel Tower starts sparkling all over. Hundreds of other tourists and locals come to see this each night, and when it happens they all start cheering and singing. Being in the same place with people who are just as pleased with a giant weird structure sparkling as me was a spectacular feeling, and I'll never forget laughing and having a good time with those people.
Sharing these experiences with individuals who are like-minded is unforgettable and will change your life for the better. The only downside is that I wish I could spend the time doing this every single summer, but I know it wouldn't be the same if it wasn't with AIFS and the original group of college students I became such close friends with.