Connecting with alumni is a great way to learn more about a particular study abroad program or location. What better way to gain insight than to hear from someone who has been through the experience firsthand? We caught up with AIFS Alumni Ambassador, Zenya Capellan, who is a student at the University of Tampa and spent her Spring 2018 semester studying abroad in Rome, Italy.
Why did you choose the AIFS program in Rome and how did you learn about it?
I chose AIFS in general because I wanted a program that was all-inclusive and a good value. My Study Abroad Advisor recommended AIFS because they were all-inclusive, worked well with financial aid, and were very hands-on with the process. I had always wanted to go to Italy, so I researched the Italy programs AIFS offered and Rome stood out to me the most. The fact that I got tuition, housing, meals, and excursions included for a single price made it hard to say no.
What are you studying in school and was there a connection to your choice of Rome?
I picked Rome because I have always loved history, and wanted to learn more about Italian culture and art. I am studying Political Science and the Rome program seemed like it could put me in the heart of politics, art, culture and history.
What are the strengths and unique features of the program and about Rome?
The feature that I enjoyed most about the AIFS in Rome program was the centrality of everything. The location of school and how easy it is to navigate the city was great. A lot of your courses have on-site visits, but they are short distances or a short bus ride away.
What was your most interesting class?
I honestly loved all of my courses while abroad; each was different and exciting in its own way. The Political Science student in me loved the European Union course I took because I got a deeper sense of what the European Union is and how it functioned while also focusing on Italian politics. Our European Union professor was very knowledgeable and took us to see an Italian State Prison. My art and culture course was a real treat, especially alongside my other art history course where I learned about the Baroque Period from a Borghese. The on-site visit to churches and priceless art was something I cannot even put into words. It was great being able to experience the art I was learning about in class and actually seeing the remains of events that happened centuries ago.
Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your experience.
I visited multiple countries and saw many great museums, world wonders, and beautiful sights. However, the biggest highlight of my experience was realizing and taking the time to appreciate where I was. Every city and every place I went to, I tried to take a minute to not take pictures, and actually see where I was. It was something that stuck with me because now I can vividly remember these experiences.
Was there anything you did not expect?
I did not expect to fall in love with a city so much, I know it is a cliché but I did not expect to get so attached to a city. Rome taught me how to become independent and actually do things on my own. There is a special connection I will feel for Rome and the whole staff there that will stay with me. I appreciate this because it will only make returning that much better.
How did you learn, grow or change by studying abroad?
I changed a great deal by studying abroad — it is hard not to when you’ve been immersed for four months in a different culture. But I believe I became more self-aware of who I was, my identity, and how I was perceived. I did not try to change or hide who I was, but rather embrace it and try to just be friendly to other cultures. I was an American, but I wanted to be an American who was respectful and appreciated their host culture.
Do you have any advice for future students on your program?
My biggest piece of advice I could offer any future Richmond in Rome student through AIFS is to keep an open mind when learning about or dealing with something in a different culture. Just because it is different than the way you do things, does not mean it is weird or “bad.”
Would you recommend the program to other students?
I would recommend this program, or studying abroad in general, to everyone. Studying abroad in Rome gave me a deep appreciation for learning new things and embracing different cultures from my own. I think Rome is a place anyone can fall in love with and find themselves because of the variety of aspects the city offers.
Interested having a life-changing study abroad experience in Rome like Zenya did? Click here to learn more about AIFS’ study abroad, intern abroad, and volunteer abroad opportunities during a semester, summer, academic year, or J-Term.