Home General Alumni Perspective: Favorite Part of Taking Classes Abroad with AIFS

Alumni Perspective: Favorite Part of Taking Classes Abroad with AIFS

by AIFS Abroad
young male traveler in paris, france at eiffel tower

When you study abroad, in-classroom learning is often accompanied by experiential learning. Learning inside and outside of the classroom means you’re getting a well-rounded education, applying what you’re learning theoretically to what you can physically see and experience in real life.

To give you a better idea of what we mean, we asked from some of our alumni about the highlights of their academic experiences while studying abroad and how it enhanced their learning — whether that was a particular course that they enjoyed, or an aspect of their learning experience, such as a field trip, or a different teaching method.

Here’s what some of our AIFS Study Abroad alumni had to say about their favorite aspects of academics and classes abroad:

“I took an art class (taught in Spanish) that I was most worried about going into my program because I am not an art major (the class was for my Spanish minor). This class gave me most of my new friends and forced me out of my comfort zone going into art museums and looking at architecture in a new light. I definitely wouldn’t have seen as much of the city if it had not been for this class. Even though I was most worried about this class, it is the first one I think about when I think about my academic experience in Barcelona.”

— Megan L., AIFS in Barcelona, Spain, Fall 2018

“The highlight of my academic program was a course titled A Greater Middle East. It really taught me to see beyond the static stereotypes attached to the region.”

— Luzmia L., AIFS in Barcelona, Spain, Spring 2019

“To pick one moment as a highlight seems unfair to all the amazing experiences, I had in my time abroad. This being said, if I had to pick one, it would be the photography class I took. I had never owned a camera other than my phone and I jumped right into this class. I learned so much about the art of taking pictures and more than that, the homework assignments gave me a reason to go out of my way to take pictures of all the amazing places I traveled and have more memories and more appreciation for what was in front of me in that moment.”

— Alex F., AIFS in Prague, Czech Republic, Fall 2018

“One of my favorite things about my program was the fact that we were at an international university. I found it so enriching to learn alongside students from different parts of the world. It taught me so much about working with other cultures and will definitely help me not only in my career, but also in my day to day life.”

— Laura V., AIFS in Barcelona, Spain, Fall 2018

“Obviously, the internship was an incredible experience. Working at an embassy at attending UN sessions is something I’ll always treasure. My marketing teacher also always had us in contact with Roman companies and I learned a lot through that.”

— Caleb C., AIFS in Rome, Italy, Spring 2018 and Spring 2019

“I really appreciated that my courses came from an Austrian and/or European perspective. My Austrian Folk Art class immersed me in the world of tradition; my fascism class painted a political context about Europe I had zero awareness of; and, my WWII class shed light on how German society processed and is still processing their role in WWII. Learning about World War II from a native Austrian whose cultural, social, and political influences regarding WWII are different from the American perspective I have heard all my life; it was eye opening. Same to be said for my Fascism class with Stefan Walley. Personally, my exposure to the historical political contexts that European countries derive from has been severely limited. These perspectives definitely made me a more global citizen, and even if I had access to the material at my university (which I’m sure I do), the mindset my professors have comes from generations of socialization in a country different from my own. That’s priceless. If for whatever reason, the professors were U.S. educators, I must say the experience would immeasurably decline.”

— Kendra K., AIFS in Salzburg, Austria, Spring 2019

“I think for me what I enjoyed the most in general were the way the classes were structured and how it allowed me to learn so much more than I would in the USA. In each class there were only two assignments and a final exam so it forced me to really absorb the material in the way that constant busywork and handholding would. More specifically, I enjoyed my International HR Management class because it allowed me to see what I really want to do for a career (travel) and how that is something that could actually be not only feasible but plausible.”

— Tricia-Marie T., AIFS in Wellington, New Zealand, Spring 2019

“My favorite class abroad was Cultures without State: The Case of Catalonia. It was all about the political divide between Spain and Catalonia. I had the best professor and learned so much. It was really amazing to learn more about the political issues that were going on in the city I was living with.”

— Liza T., AIFS in Barcelona, Spain, Spring 2018

“The highlight of my academic program was the Latin America on Film class that I took. This class was amazing solely because of the professor, Juan Ignacio. The films we watched helped me connect themes in Latin American and Chilean history, but I mostly enjoyed the theory that we engaged in in class everyday with Juan Ignacio.”

— Cayley P., AIFS in Viña del Mar, Chile, Spring 2019

“My beginner’s Afrikaans course. All of the students were from different countries, but each of us left our native tongue at the door and stumbled through learning a new language. I learned far more than I expected, and I also met some of my closest friends. All of us were out of our comfort zone, but it became a space where we learned together and encouraged one another.”

— Sarah V., AIFS in Stellenbosch, South Africa, Fall 2018

“My favorite part of my academic program was everything we did before classes started. We had an orientation with Charles University which included an introduction to the college with all other international students and two different day trips around the Czech Republic to get to know the history and culture of the country. I was able to visit two different towns that played a major role in Czech Republic’s history and major events.”

— Brook A., AIFS in Prague, Czech Republic, Fall 2018

“I believe the pace and intensity of [the course I took] enhanced my learning the most through interactive classes and professors who were excited to teach us about Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. We were taught in the classroom for three hours a day and were then able to use this knowledge to go on afternoon field trips and learn about these concepts in greater depth. These field trips allowed us to feel more engaged with our class topic and helped me explore my own self-interests.”

— Isabel S., AIFS in Galápagos Islands, Ecuador, J-Term 2018

“As a history major, I decided to take a course on the Berlin Wall. This course allowed me to not only learn more closely about the Berlin Wall and what life was like before, during, and after, but it exposed me to my first field research experience. Our professor asked us to travel the city and interview people about a research question of our choice. At first it wasn’t easy, but after we worked out the language kinks I was able to get first-hand stories of life with the wall.”

— Sierra S., AIFS in Berlin, Germany, Summer 2018

“AIFS requires Budapest students to study Hungarian and, while we were all nervous about it, it was by far my favorite class. Not only was the teacher really nice but you did learn a lot of Hungarian (the 2nd hardest language for English speakers to learn) and were able to communicate with locals and feel like you belonged in Budapest.”

— Abigail B., AIFS in Budapest, Hungary, Spring 2019

“I loved all the classes I took, but there were two things that really stuck out to me (try as a might I can’t choose just one). I loved my History of Modern Europe class as there was a lot of information about world history I missed out on from my history education in the United States, and it provided me the opportunity to learn about it from a very different perspective. I knew a little bit about Hungarian history but most of it was about the Hungarian revolution, since that was the event that resulted in my grandparents fleeing the country. However, even my knowledge about the specifics of the revolution was still quite sparse before I left. Another class of mine was about the history of Budapest and our professor took us around the city to several different locations to teach us about the history of the city and country in the context of where those events took place. It was such a different experience to learn about these events where they happened and to see many significant parts of the city I probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise. That really helped me understand the city and the country on a deeper level and to understand how much of an influence history has on modern-day Europe and the rest of the world. Getting to learn about these important historical events in the exact locations where they took place is invaluable compared to just reading about it from a textbook. “

— Natalie J., AIFS in Budapest, Hungary, Spring 2019

AIFS Alumni Ambassador Alina Zárate

“I thoroughly enjoyed all of my classes at the University of Granada, Centro de Lenguas Modernas. I had good teachers who taught interesting subjects and helped me improve my Spanish skills tremendously. However, the highlight of my academic program was actually through La Casa de Porras which provided 8-week workshops to the public at a very reasonable price. I took a photography class there and was one of only two non-native Spanish speakers that participated. The class, while incredibly challenging, allowed me to interact with native Granadinos and take a class that was not designed for Spanish learners. It was an experience that took me completely out of my comfort zone and forced me to use my new language skills in an incredibly challenging environment. While initially very difficult, the experience exposed me to a completely new community within my host city, improved my ability to communicate in my other classes and with my host family and friends, and taught me a practical skill. “

— Alina Z., AIFS in Granada, Spain, Fall 2018

“The internship was definitely the highlight of my academic program. The first month or so was a class where we learned about the education system in Spain. The remaining three months were spent in a school with the age of kids we were interested in teaching! It really enhanced my learning to dive in to the classroom and practice exactly what I want to do, especially in those classrooms where the teacher gave me autonomy to teach my own lessons. Now I feel like I can handle being put on the spot in my teaching/tutoring a lot more easily.”

— Olivia B., AIFS in Granada, Spain (Study Abroad + Internship Program), Spring 2019

The highlight of my academic program was a class called Spanish Civilization and Culture. This was the class that originally made me want to study in Granada. The whole class was talking in depth about Spanish culture and the positives and negatives of the country. It was amazing to learn the reasoning behind things that I was experiencing in my daily life. I lived with a host family and this class helped me understand why my family did what they did and made my culture shock less extreme. Towards the end of the class, we took a field trip to get churros and chocolate which also made the class unforgettable! ”

— Pippa R., AIFS in Granada, Spain, Spring 2019

“There have been so many amazing experiences resulting from my studies here in Spain. Two of the best, however, stem from the internship experience that I have had here at a local hospital. As part of my professional studies, and this internship, I had the opportunity to assist in the delivery of and helping two newborn babies to take their first breaths. These were surreal experiences and they have caused me to want to commit to future work saving lives not only back in the United States but also in other parts of the world as well. “

— Samantha G., AIFS in Granada, Spain, Spring 2018

“I would say one of my highlights would be getting to meet a lot of professors. I was in the Intensive Language Program and my class changes every month. This is also mean that most of my professors change too. I really like this because each professor expects different things from you. For example, one might focus a lot on your pronunciation and another would focus more on your writing. I was able to improve all aspect of my French because of how the program was structure.”

— Tine S., AIFS in Grenoble, France, Fall 2018

“I personally loved both of my theatre courses and the field trips that came along with it. Seeing Shakespeare plays in The Globe was something I’ll never forget. The exposure to all forms of theatre was incredible. I also developed a love for the HR sector of business through my HR Management course. Prior to studying abroad, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take with my business major, but now I have a clearer idea, all thanks to that business course.”

— Clarissa C., AIFS in London, England, Spring 2019

AIFS Alumni Ambassador Claire Barkley from Rhodes College

I have two major academic highlights from my program. My Spanish class taught me more than I could ever have learned at an American institution. I was one of only three Americans in my class, the rest of the students in my Spanish class were from other countries across Europe, and some even came from Morocco, Brazil, and China. Each of those students predominantly spoke their countries native languages, which meant that in order to communicate at all we would have to rely on Spanish. I learned a lot of Spanish outside of the classroom, whether that be on me weekend trips across Spain, or even just my walks to and from class, I was constantly able to apply what I was learning in the classroom to my day to day encounters. The second highlight was my European Union Class. My teacher worked for the Spanish Government and it was really interesting to learn a different perspective of European politics, especially a European’s perspective of current issues such as Brexit and the refugee crisis in Eastern European countries.”

— Claire B., AIFS in Madrid, Spain, Fall 2018

One of my favorite courses I have ever taken, I took abroad: Alternative Cultures with Professor Pavla Jonssonová. Our classroom was located at the main Charles University building, right across the street from a beautiful view of the Prague Castle and the Vltava River. Down into the library, a small and narrow room became my first class of the week for 4 months. “Alternative Cultures” taught me about the changers in society, the people who exist on the fringes of “good” society. We learned about how those cultures blossomed in the Czech Republic, even while in the face of tyranny and war. On one occasion, Professor Jonssonová took us to the only legal graffiti sight in Prague. She had told us to find something we believe in, something we love, and paint it onto the wall. I remember her the most when I think of my professors abroad. How do you forget someone who introduces themselves as “a child of the cosmic age”?”

— Alejandra M., AIFS in Prague, Czech Republic, Fall 2018

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