Home Alumni Alumni Spotlight: Azucena’s January Term Abroad in Rome, Italy

Alumni Spotlight: Azucena’s January Term Abroad in Rome, Italy

by AIFS Abroad
aifs abroad student in rome, italy at the colosseum

Doing a study abroad program can be a life-changing experience, even if it’s short-term. Just ask Azucena, a college student from Texas A&M International University and an AIFS Abroad Alumni Ambassador who spent a January Term studying in Italy’s capital city of Rome.

Now that she’s officially part of the AIFS alumni community, Azucena can reflect on her January Term study abroad experience in Rome. Read on to hear all about it.

What does study abroad teach you? 

Studying abroad taught me to experience new things and be more independent. As a college student, studying abroad completely changes your life. It brings you the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and prepares you to face the real world. Studying abroad also taught me how to interact with people with different cultural backgrounds. 

What were your challenges when studying abroad? 

I had many challenges while studying abroad. One of them was the fact that I would travel by myself with two flight connections. I am allergic to cheese and chocolate so I had to be really careful in choosing my meals (specially pizzas and pastas). I am from South Texas so I was not used to Rome’s winter weather (January is very cold).

How did you make friends abroad? 

Before arriving in Rome, I did not know anyone. At the airport, I met other students who got transportation, as well, and we matched! After that, the group was getting bigger and I met the best people ever! Also, I really loved my roommates and they were also part of the group. We immediately followed each other on Instagram and made a group chat. I am still in contact with some of them and I hope I can see them soon. Fun fact: my first language is Spanish and the two first friends I made at the airport were also Spanish speakers. So, I got comfortable with them real quick.

Interview with AIFS Abroad in Rome, Italy alum Azucena

How did traveling abroad change you? 

Traveling abroad changed me on how to travel safely and discover new places. Now, with the acquired experience, I want to travel to many places. Traveling abroad taught me to be more open-minded and respect every culture. 

How did you prepare to study abroad? 

Before applying to this program, I was a participant in a faculty-led program from my university. So, I already experienced what to and not to bring with me abroad. For this program, I started to save money and invest in two luggages and one backpack, packed appropriate clothes and shoes, bathroom amenities, prescribed medication, bought Euros from my local bank, have physical and digital copies of my documentation, looked for the weather and tips from TikTok. The AIFS and university staff helped me to prepare with the required documentation and organized orientations to help with diverse topics related to studying abroad.   

What were your top courses and why?

The program offered many courses. I only took one course: Elementary Italian II. Since I was the only AIFS student who took that course, I ended up taking the class at the Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci Roma. It was a language institute with a variety of students from around the world. I really liked having class at the institute and all the instructors were very nice and helpful. The institute was close to my apartment (5 min walking distance).

What were your top 5 strengths and how did you use them? 

My top five strengths were: organization, responsibility, basic language knowledge, planning, and sense of direction. I used all of these strengths to get familiar with the city and its culture/environment. I succeeded in the course with an A+ due to being organized and responsible. It is important to not forget that even if you are in a foreign country, you still have to prioritize school. Planning ahead and my sense of direction helped me to not get lost in Rome and be alert of my surroundings. Basic knowledge facilitated my communication with Italian citizens and understanding directions or instructions.

aifs abroad student in florence, italy during winter
Azucena in Florence, Italy

What was your daily routine like?

My daily routine was waking up at 6:00 AM to get ready before class (9:00 AM – 12:00 PM). Before class, I liked to have enough time to explore my surroundings and get breakfast in coffee shops. After class, eating lunch at local restaurants (using the vouchers) was part of my routine. I really enjoyed walking around the city (downtown), going to stores to buy souvenirs (especially leather bags and postcards), and exploring museums and historical monuments/places. After a long day full of activities, I used to meet with my friends and roommates at the apartment or at restaurants to get dinner.  After dinner, taking a shower, doing homework and preparing my backpack the night before was the key to survive the next day and save time.

Tell us about your study abroad housing.

I shared an apartment with three other AIFS students. The apartment was located at Campo de’ Fiori, where the local market is surrounded by coffee shops and small stores/boutiques. The apartment was small but had everything. It had two bedrooms and I shared one with one roommate. The apartment had a laundry room and the host provided us with towels, cookware, clean sheets and pillows. The best thing was that the apartment included cleaning service twice a week. It was in excellent condition. The only thing that I would have bought there was a thick blanket — [being from South Texas], I was freezing the whole time.

What were your top excursions and why?

My top three are: weekend trip to Florence, excursion to Galleria dell’Accademia (Academy’s Gallery-Florence), and the Roman Colosseum. I fell in love with Florence — it was a small city but so beautiful; rich in history and art. Florence had beautiful museums, famous attractions and galleries. My favorite gallery was Galleria dell’Accademia since it is where David’s statue is, among other famous paintings and sculptures. The Roman Colosseum was unexpectedly big and crowded; the history behind it was interesting and the architecture was really fascinating.

Interested in taking the leap to study abroad during January Term like AIFS Alumni Ambassador Azucena did in Rome? 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. 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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