Bobby Hanlon - 2015 Program Participant

View of Capri from the mountains


Why did you decide to apply for an international program as a college freshman?

It has always been my dream to travel to Europe and explore the "Old World" that is so rich in history and culture. I also really wanted to travel and meet people while I was young, and I would not let this kind of an opportunity get away from me. Being away from home could be hard, but I will never regret the decision I made and the experiences I had.

Why did you choose your specific program?

The University of Maryland, where I am currently enrolled, offered a freshman abroad program which allowed me to meet other Maryland freshman and travel to Rome with them. The combination of meeting people from back home while also going to an international university where I could meet people from abroad was such a tempting prospect and turned out to be a great decision.

What was your favorite part about Rome?

It would be hard to narrow down one part about Rome that I could call my favorite. But if I had to discount the food, the people, the culture, and the ease of travel, I would say it would probably be the history and the artifacts that populate every corner of the city. There are endless sites and museums to visit within Rome, and around the country and continent.

Lake in Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

What characteristics of your program made it unique?

What made our program unique was that we were freshman and only 18 years old. None of us had lived away from home, in fact none of us had even experienced college. The program definitely taught me a lot about responsibility and how to take care of myself.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The school staff at the American University of Rome were absolutely wonderful. The school is the perfect size and we really got to meet some of the administrators who were very friendly and helpful. Also, the school took security very seriously and had guards outside of the school, so I never felt unsafe.

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

There are so many things to do and see in Rome, and in Europe, and I feel that I got as much out of my experience as I could hope. Whenever I hear about something in Europe, or in Rome specifically, that I failed to see I have a pang of regret, but then I remind myself of everything I was fortunate enough to see.

View of Rome through an apartment window

Window view

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Every morning began waking up and taking a combination of walk and bus to get to class. After class we would grab pizza at the same pizzeria as usual (or gnocchi if it was Thursday, because Thursday is gnocchi day in Rome), and we would often attend another afternoon class. Then I would usually walk back to our apartment and cook dinner.

Many nights we would be adventurous and take a team down to Piazza Venezia, which is the historical center of Rome and explore. Often, however, we would just hang out with other students we had met at a bar or at someone's apartment.

What is one of your favorite moments from your time abroad?

One weekend, a few friends and I traveled to the Amalfi Coast and we had a wonderful time racing a boat off the coast of Positano, visiting Capri and viewing Pompeii.

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

We stayed in an apartment, living next to normal Italian families, which was really interesting. The best part was the great memories shared in that apartment, but if I had to pick a physical aspect, it would probably be the balcony view. It overlooked an average Italian street but it was very interesting to see life there as it really is, and I honestly miss the view.

As you finish up your freshman year at the University of Maryland, how would you say your time abroad has impacted your life at home?

The program taught me a lot about how to deal with being away from home, how to take care of myself and handle issues as they come up (especially when we traveled for the weekend), and has definitely enhanced my world view. Many preconceived notions about Italy, and really the world outside the United States, were crushed, which definitely made me more open-minded. But the biggest impact was all the new friends I made by being abroad and being a part of the program, and I couldn't be happier about that.