Why I Studied Abroad in Rome — and Why I’m Glad I Did

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Connecting with alumni is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about a particular study abroad program or location. What better way to gain insight than to hear from a person who has been through the experience already? We caught up with AIFS Alumni Ambassador, Amie Knowles, who is a student at Emmanuel College 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 learned about AIFS during a study abroad fair. After talking to an informed staff member of AIFS, I decided to grab a catalog and research programs. One thing that drew me to AIFS was the organization of the website and catalog. They had everything planned, a whole itinerary, so I really felt like I knew what I was signing up for.

In terms of destination, I knew I wanted to go to Italy. After looking at the Florence and Rome program, I decided to attend Richmond in Rome. The class options and additional excursions drew me to the program.

What are you studying in school and was there a connection to your choice of Rome?  

I am currently studying elementary education. Before I went abroad, I declared my major (I was a sophomore at the time). My decisions of my major and travel destination had no correlation at the time. Being only a sophomore, I still had a lot of free electives to take, which is what I received credit for when I was abroad. Although the program classes did not count for my direct major, I did volunteer at a school assisting in English classes. I got to experience teaching elementary students firsthand in a new county, which has been extremely beneficial for my major.

What are the strengths and unique features of the program and about Rome?

Rome is such an amazing city and AIFS has helped shine light on the beauty of it. From the very beginning, AIFS Richmond in Rome showed us the vast city, from churches to places to get traditional Roman food. I feel that the Richmond in Rome program has a huge strength with cultural activities. They really want you to experience the city for its entirety.

Richmond in Rome also has a strength in course selections. Thanks to the program, I was able to take classes I never thought possible, not to mention that their Italian classes are accommodating for all levels.

Finally, Richmond in Rome is a program that allows for many group experiences while also allowing you to explore the city on your own. They allow you to branch out while also reminding you of the continuous support you have from them. The support from the AIFS Richmond in Rome team is simply amazing. From the minute I arrived at the study center, the staff knew my name. They became like family to me.

What was your most interesting class?  

I absolutely loved all of my classes. No matter what the subject, learning was taking place outside and inside the classroom. All of my classes incorporated the city of Rome based on site lectures and projects. My most memorable class was History of the Italian Mafia. The professor was so passionate and deeply rooted into the subject matter, which made the class so interesting. We often had guest speakers and d stories about different scenarios within mafia organizations. One of the most interesting days of the class was when we got to go on a field trip to Rebibbia Prison. We were able to see firsthand inside an Italian prison and learn about how their systems work. We were even able to have conversations with inmates! It was definitely an interesting experience and class.

Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your experience.

One of the greatest highlights of my experience was volunteering at Regina Margherita Primary School in Rome, Italy. The experience that I was able to have, teaching English to third graders, really allowed me to pave my future career path. It has inspired me to teach English or internationally again someday. I would not have been able to find or have this experience if it wasn’t for Richmond in Rome.

Was there anything you did not expect?

I did not expect to arrive at Richmond in Rome and have the faculty be so understanding and knowledgeable about its students. From the minute I arrived, they knew my name and consistently asked me how everything is going emotionally and physically. It was unexpected but a wonderful surprise that I couldn’t be more thankful for. They really invested their time into their students and because of them, I feel as if I know have a second family in Rome.

How did you learn, grow or change by studying abroad?

This may sound cliché but studying abroad has allowed me to understand myself on a deeper level. This experience really allowed myself to grow emotionally, physically, and academically. It allowed me to step off of the busy campus I was on at home and ask myself, “what do you want in life?” Between traveling to many different countries, volunteering, learning new subjects, and making connections with lifelong friends I feel that I have grown and changed by studying abroad. 

Do you have any advice for future students on your program?

The advice that I have for future Richmond in Rome students is to live in the moment. Embrace the beautiful and ugly and move on. There will be times in your study abroad experience where you’ll experience culture shock and homesickness. There will be times when you will experience something so beautiful and spectacular that it will be embroider in your memory forever. Embrace it all and live life in the moment. There is always another moment to experience a new handful of things and events so let time run its course and move on.

Would you recommend the program to other students?

I would definitely recommend the program to other students. Richmond in Rome is accommodating to all and invested in making student’s study abroad experiences memorable.

Interested having a monumental and life-changing study abroad experience in Rome like Amie 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.

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