Home Alumni Alumni Spotlight: Andrew’s Spring Semester Abroad in Florence, Italy

Alumni Spotlight: Andrew’s Spring Semester Abroad in Florence, Italy

by AIFS Abroad
AIFS Abroad student in Florence, Italy with Duomo in background

Doing a study abroad program can be incredibly transformative. Just ask Andrew, a college student from Rowan University and AIFS Abroad Alumni Ambassador who spent his Spring 2023 semester studying in the heart of Tuscany: Florence, Italy.

Hear from Andrew about his study abroad experience and the impact it’s had on his personal growth.

As a first-time international traveler, Andrew now had the world at his fingertips because of his decision to take the leap and study abroad — something he says he never thought he’d be able to do.

“As a New Jersey student, I never imagined myself traversing foreign lands, yet there I stood—a 20-year-old kid who had never ventured beyond my home country. The journey was nothing short of surreal, but it transformed me into a professional in ways I could never have foreseen.”

But when you’ve never traveled abroad before or haven’t been away from home for an extended period of time, it can feel overwhelming! It’s normal to have apprehensions, and Andrew certainly did. Luckily, he took the plunge and now has some great advice for future students.

“The hardest part? Taking that initial step. Committing to something so unfamiliar, especially the prospect of moving to a foreign country, can be daunting. But if even you have a hint of curiosity, I implore you to leap. Valuable lessons lie within the unknown, and you’ll never truly grasp them until you propel yourself forward.”

Many college students have preconceived notions about the way they’ll feel when they arrive abroad and start to acclimate, but the reality is that every student has a different experience! There’s no one-size-fits-all reaction or guaranteed instant gratification. Andrew shares:

“Studying abroad didn’t instantly flood me with fulfillment. In fact, as I touched down in Italy, I felt neither complete nor accomplished. True fulfillment, I discovered, blossomed gradually. Each day I stepped beyond my comfort zone, I edged closer to understanding the world and myself.”

As he navigated his study abroad program in Florence, Andrew found himself growing and changing because of the myriad of new experiences he was having and connections he was making in his host community.

“Alone I arrived, but not alone I departed. My days overseas were a kaleidoscope of new faces, exotic flavors, and cultural revelations. Conversations with strangers became friendships, and every meal was a passport to understanding.”

AIFS Abroad students in Florence, Italy with local man
Andrew with friends from his AIFS Abroad study abroad program in Florence, Italy with a local business owner

But now that he’s a member of the AIFS Abroad alumni community and can reflect back on his experience, what does Andrew feel was the overall impact of his semester abroad in Florence? Hint: It has something to do with intensive growth and change he experienced by going out of his comfort zone.

“Two years ago, I’d have had little to share about these experiences. Now, armed with memories and insights, I’m eager to return—to create more chapters in my global adventure. Studying abroad is an everlasting experience unlike anything else. By going overseas, you are placed out of your comfort zone into somewhere that you can truly grow beyond your imagination.

I’m profoundly thankful for that initial leap beyond my comfort zone. Studying abroad connected me with strangers who became friends from every corner of the globe. As I reflect on my journey, I realize how far I’ve traveled—both geographically and personally.

Witnessing the impact of a single step abroad, I’ve woven that philosophy into my daily life. Each day, I seek out discomfort, knowing it’s the catalyst for progress. Whether it’s tackling a new challenge or embracing vulnerability, I’ve learned that growth thrives in the unfamiliar.

None of my journey would have been made possible if it wasn’t for the incredible staff at AIFS and all of their help in providing such a wonderful and welcoming environment. They took care of everything from housing, to food, and even cultural excursions. My biggest thanks goes out to AIFS!”

Ready to take the leap and study abroad? We’d love to help you start your journey!

Here at AIFS Abroad, we know a thing or two about helping college students and pre-professionals study and intern abroad. Our programs are incredibly inclusive, which takes a lot of the stress out of planning, especially if you’ve never traveled internationally before like Andrew. From coordinating your housing to providing things like cultural and social activities, excursions, comprehensive insurance, 24/7 emergency support, on-site staff, and more, you’ll take comfort in knowing you’ll have support throughout your entire experience abroad.

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