One of the best ways to learn about a study abroad program is connecting with its alumni! There’s nothing like hearing from someone who has already been through the experience! We caught up with AIFS Alumni Ambassador, Hannah Hubbard, a recent graduate of the University of St. Thomas who studied abroad abroad with AIFS in Barcelona for a semester before going on to study abroad in Rome for J-Term. Read on as she reflects specifically on her experience in Rome.
Why did you choose the AIFS Study Abroad in Rome program? How did you learn about it?
I chose the AIFS Richmond in Rome program because a course there fulfilled my final theology requirement at my university. This would be my second time studying with AIFS, so I already knew I would love this program due to my previous incredible experiences with my first time abroad. I was also very familiar with the entire process from applications, pre-departures, arrival, departure, etc.
What was your major at the University of St. Thomas and was there a connection to your decision to study abroad in Rome?
I am an international business major and a Spanish minor. I decided to study in Rome because it was the perfect opportunity to fulfill my final theology requirement at my university by taking “Comparative World Religions.” What a better place to study world religions than in Rome, right?
What are the strengths and unique features of the AIFS program and the city of Rome?
One of my absolute favorite aspects about the AIFS Richmond in Rome program is the diverse and unique array of cultural and social activities that are offered. For me, these were exciting and engaging ways to try new things, build friendships, and explore our host culture. From gelato tasting, art tours, biking tours, and all others in between, AIFS keeps students on their toes and engaged in Italy’s culture as much as possible. I absolutely loved this aspect of AIFS.
I think the most unique aspect of Rome is the history. On one of the first days of class, my professor said to us “Rome is like a lasagna; because of the hundreds upon hundreds of years of history that this city is built on.” This stuck with me as it is so true. There is no other city like Rome in the aspect of seeing how history has changed and adapted over time. Rome has preserved much of the old while still transforming the city into the new.
Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your experience?
A few highlights of my J-Term in Rome would be some of the cultural excursions including our day trip to Assisi, attending a Papal audience, bike and food tour and gelato tasting. These were all really fun and special experiences that I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to do on my own. The activities were also great ways to connect with my fellow study abroad friends.
Secondly, another highlight of my experience in Rome was being able to connect with some of the local Italian students that interned at the office. I was able to develop a few friendships with them through our program activities. These friendships allowed me the opportunity to learn all about their lives in Italy and learn about different Italian customs and traditions that were unfamiliar to me before. It’s very rewarding knowing that I not only gained new friendships from the U.S., but also Italy as well!
Was there anything you did not expect?
I was not expecting to encounter a language barrier. But, to my surprise, there were various times that I faced the challenge of not being able to communicate with others. Though it was tough and frustrating at times, these situations helped me to adapt and to problem solve in order to communicate with the locals.
How did you learn, grow or change by studying abroad?
This was my second time studying abroad and, for me, both experiences were both very similar and very different in numerous ways. With this J-term in Rome, I feel like I gained independence… in the sense that I was “okay” being alone at times. I learned that it’s okay to do things on my own and that sometimes time alone allows you to connect better with yourself and the host culture. I became comfortable with seeking things out on my own and doing what pleases me. I think independence is a very important aspect to have, so I’m thankful that this program allowed me to grow in this area of my life.
Do you have any advice for future students who also study abroad in Rome?
I would advise students to consider a homestay for their living accommodation. Though I was nervous about it at first, it was a unique experience that only a few of us got to have. It’s a great way to discover the Italian culture on a more personal level and a way for students to really step outside of their comfort zones. You will never have another opportunity to live in the home of a local, so might as well give it a try! Be brave and be open to a new and rewarding experience. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll teach you the tips and tricks of making the best Italian pasta. 😉
Would you recommend the AIFS Study Abroad in Rome program to other students?
Over and over 100% YES! AIFS has completely changed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. They have helped me discover my passions and have allowed me to live them out every single day. The on-site support staff, the cultural activities, class selections, housing accommodations, and so much more are all what help to create the supportive, engaging, exciting, and fulfilling program that AIFS is.