Ariel Riggio - 2014 Program Participant

Seagull flying near the Vatican in Italy

A seagull blocks my view of the Vatican

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I decided to apply for an international program because study abroad provides the unique opportunity to live in a foreign country and fully submerge yourself in the culture. While I have had many opportunities to travel abroad, nothing can replace the experience of living in another country.

Why did you choose the American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS)?

I chose my specific program and organization, AIFS, because of the unique opportunity they provided to spend two weeks in Florence in addition to my semester in Rome. I also chose my program for all of the cultural activities provided, such as wine tasting classes, pasta making classes, and attending soccer games.

What was your favorite part about Rome?

My favorite part about the location was living in the historical center of Rome. All of the major tourist sites, restaurants, and school was all within walking distance.

What characteristics of your program made it unique?

The program I participated in was unique because of the London stop over, the two weeks in Florence, the day trips to different cities, the cultural activities, and the meal vouchers.

Throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Wishing in the Trevi Fountain

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Local staff supported me throughout the program by helping me to assimilate and understand the culture. They were there for me no matter what needs or problems came up. My laptop broke during my time there, and the staff helped me find somewhere to fix it and served as a translator for my needs.

What surprised you most about Rome?

What surprised me most about Rome was how many different major historical sites, tourist attractions, and different things to do and see. Before arriving in Rome I knew about the usual tourist stops: the Trevi Fountain, The Colosseum, Spanish Steps, etc. However, as you learn about the city, you learn about more and more things to do and see. Even after living there for four months, there were still places I never had to opportunity to go.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

One thing I wish I would have done differently was study the Italian language before leaving.

What was a typical day like for you as an international student in Rome?

A day in the life of my program was going for a run through the park, painting outside the Vatican, exploring the city, going to class, and going out to eat with friends. On most weekends we would travel to different cities and countries.

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program? 

My favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule for my program was wine tasting classes instructed by our program director.

The Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy

Spring time at the Spanish Steps

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it? 

I lived in an apartment in the city center of Rome, it was much nicer than I ever anticipated. My favorite part about it was the location; I was blocks away from the Vatican and within walking distance of school and all major sites.

Do you have any packing tips for students headed to Rome?

My packing tips for students abroad in Rome is only to bring shoes that you are comfortable walking at least a couple miles in. Bring clothes for all weather, including an umbrella and warm jacket. When the weather turns warm, Romans still mainly wear pants and sleeves. Unless you are studying in the summer, I wouldn't waste much packing space on shorts.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad was spending an extended amount of time away from my family and friends. However, you eventually adjust and get used to being apart from your loved ones. When it was time to return home at the end of my program, I was on an emotional roller coaster of being sad to leave the city I had fallen in love with, but also so excited to see my family and friends.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

Communicating with the locals was manageable. Being in such a large city it is relatively easy to find someone who speaks some English. With the Romans knowing some English and learning Italian while abroad, you can get by. However, there were times when the language barrier was a real challenge, but it helped me to improve my Italian language skills and was a cultural experience I appreciate having.

View of Villa Borghese Pinciana

View of Villa Borghese from a nearby park

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Italy?

I wish that I would have known more Italian language before studying abroad in Italy. While I picked up on the language quickly, I feel I would have made even greater strides had I known more before hand.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of study abroad is?

The biggest benefit of studying abroad is that you get the unique opportunity to truly live in another country and fully submerse yourself in the culture and language of that country.

While many will travel abroad in their lifetime, nothing replaces the experience of living and studying abroad.

Now that you're home, how would you say your study abroad program has impacted your life? 

Now that I am home my program has impacted my life by giving me an even greater desire to travel. It has given me a new perspective on American culture and has provided me with a more open mind to other cultures.

Would you recommend AIFS to other students?

I would very highly recommend AIFS.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

If I could study abroad again, I would like to study in a different Italian city where I could even further my language skills and continue to learn about Italian culture. If there was a program offered in Cinque Terre, I would love to study there.