Caroline Dillon - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Part of the reason that I wanted to go abroad was because I am an art history and religion double major and I wanted to get outside of the classroom and see the works of art, architecture, and the churches and religions that I studied firsthand. And, while that was part of the reason I went abroad, most of what inspired me to go abroad was for personal growth.

I went abroad in the spring of my junior year and I didn't really know what I wanted to do! So, I was kind of inspired to go abroad and find myself and my true passions, and just be open to experiences, people, places, cultures, food, and everything that would be unfamiliar to be in a foreign culture and environment! I guess a large part of why I was inspired to go abroad was to see not just what I've learned in the classroom, but to figure out what my passions are and how I can align those with the skills and strengths that I've gained.

Roman Forum, Rome, Italy
View of the Roman Forum from above

Why did you choose IES Abroad?

I chose to study in Rome with IES Abroad primarily because of my background academically. However, I think that part of it was wanted to explore my heritage. I am part Italian and I had been to Italy in the past with my family and have always thought back to that trip. I knew I wanted to be there, but wasn't sure what city yet.

I thought about Siena and some other cities, however, I chose Rome because the program offered classes more relevant to and desirable to me. Also, Rome is a pretty urban city, and being the capital of Italy, it offered me more opportunity to easily travel both around Italy and Europe.

Lastly, I think I chose the IES Abroad program specifically because they offered a larger variety of classes than other programs, they offer more extracurricular activities and weekend trips, and they offer internship programs in various fields. I also enjoyed having the option to live with an Italian flatmate; having a go to person for all things and questions Italian and Roman was a must!

What was your favorite part about Italy?

There is no way I could choose just one favorite thing about Italy! Personally, I love the people, the food, the pace of life, and really just the overall culture. I lived with an Italian and befriended many others; everyone I met was kind and inviting! I loved that Italians strike up conversations with each other all the time even when they don't know each other.

The food is superior and IES Abroad offered many cooking classes so I got to learn how to make some of the most amazing dishes and put my own skills to the test in my apartment. My favorite pizza in Rome had Ricotta stuffed crust! YUM!

The way of life in Italy is a lot more chill and way more interpersonal than in America. I really appreciated being able to spend more time with friends and not spend so much time worrying about my classes or internship. Lastly, walking around Rome is like walking around a museum; it was awesome! You are sure to turn a corner and find yourself in a beautiful Piazza or in front of a beautiful church or fountain.

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

What made your experience abroad unique?

The most unique part of my experience was deciding to extend my stay in Rome for an extra two months. After living in the city for only three weeks I realized how much I loved Rome, the lifestyle, and the people, so I decided to stay with IES Abroad to further my Italian language skills and participate in an internship.

During the summer I took an Intermediate Italian class and interned for a small sustainable-tourism company in Rome. I got to work in a collaborative environment with seven others. I worked with not only Italians, but others from all over the globe. I got to learn new skills and developed others into strengths. I got to travel the country and blog about my experiences, and I was able to work closely with professionals to write copy for the website and boost their Pinterest board and other social media presence.

Working in a different country wasn't an opportunity I even thought about, but it is one of the most unique experiences that I think a student could have in another country.

How did the local IES Abroad staff support you throughout your program?

The IES Abroad center staff were crucial to my experience! We were always told when festivals were coming to town (my favorite were the gelato and beer festivals) or if transit workers were going on strike. When I was sick, the health advisor made me a doctor’s appointment with an English speaking doctor and helped me make it to the office. They were all inviting and personally interested in us. I loved being able to form friendships with the staff members and look forward to grabbing aperitivos with them when I return to Rome.

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

I would have set more specific and meaningful goals for myself. I was required by my university to submit a list of goals, but I did not take it so seriously. I did find meaningful differences in myself when I returned from being abroad; however, I wish I could have set more serious goals and have written them down so that I could see the changes and growth in myself and reflect back on them.

Basilica of San Francesco in Siena, Italy

Describe a typical day in the life of your program. 

A typical day at IES Abroad begins at 9:30 a.m. Walking to the center in the morning took about 15 to 20 minutes. Every class meets twice a week, one session in the classroom for an hour and the second session is two hours and generally is an on-site field study. Italian classes were Tuesday to Thursday in the afternoon, and usually gelato or class outings happened every couple weeks.

Then in the afternoons we were free to do anything around Rome or outside of the city. There are many places about an hour outside of the city, such as Tivoli Estate and gardens, and the Vatican or other museums and monuments in Rome make for an eventful afternoon. For lunch and dinner I usually ate out and cooked in for one of the two meals. Then at night it was always fun to grab drinks with friends around the city or walk to the colosseum. Typically, Thursday evening through Sunday can be spent traveling to different cities or countries.

Every Tuesday IES Abroad would take a group of students out to a "Trattoria Tuesday." At a different restaurant every week, we would go eat an amazing meal with delicious wine and friends. The center was a great place to study or hang out with friends; there is a terrace and library as well as a hang out area with couches and vending machines.

My favorite thing about daily life in the IES Abroad Rome program is that there is lots of free time to hang out with new friends, visit different areas of Rome, or take a half-day trip outside of Rome. And, with the extra time in the day, it is so easy to take advantage of Rome!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my free time everyday I would try to see a new part of Rome! Getting lost in the city was the greatest way to encounter new monuments. In the afternoons we typically had a lot of free time, so I would always grab a drink with friends at aperitivo, and then usually we would cook in together at an apartment or I would go out for dinner and drinks after with some other friends. But, my favorite thing to do in my free time was to hang out in Piazza Cavour, a small green space about ten minutes from IES Abroad. The Piazza never had a tourist in it and was a great area to read a book, have a picnic with friends, or just catch a few rays after class or school.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I lived in an apartment in the Prati neighborhood with five other suitemates (five of us were American and one of our suite mates was Italian). We had three doubles (each with a full bathroom), a common space big enough for entertaining about 30 people, a kitchen, and a washing machine. Our apartments were fully furnished and comfortable spaces to live in. Our Italian suitemate was my roommate; although I had my doubts at first, I am so glad because not only did I make a new friend, but I also had my own personal Roman tour guide. Our apartment was professionally cleaned and our sheets were changed once every three weeks.

I think the greatest part about my accommodation was that my apartment was such a home to me and I immediately felt welcomed. I think it was all around a great living situation and it wasn't only the people I lived with that made it great, but I also got to live in a great apartment and in a great neighborhood.

Study abroad students at the Amalfi Coast, Italy
IES Abroad Group trip to the Amalfi Coast

What is one thing every student should know before participating in your program?

I would recommend being open to living a different paced life. Things work slower in Italy; quality is the same, but it can take a little longer to get business done. I really embraced how deeply rooted Italian culture is in putting relationships before business. So, things really don't get done in the same timely manner as they do at home and sometimes you have to just get used to what we see as inefficiencies.

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

Being abroad has helped me figure out what I want to do and what kind of work environment I want to be in after college. I have also learned to go with the flow more and to find joy in the little efficiencies that we have here. I think being back I have gotten used to things like driving again, but sometimes I wish everything was more relationship-based like in Italy.

Would you recommend IES Abroad’s Rome program to others? Why?

Yes I would! I loved studying through IES Abroad because both beforehand and on site I was given a tremendous amount of support. Any question I had about my visa forms or other forms were answered within 24 hours and in many cases within minutes! On site I had a lot of support when I got sick and needed to go to the doctor. The director and really every staff member was accessible to students anytime during the week, and they always kept us informed about the different events and festivals happening in Rome.

I also loved my professors at IES Abroad. They were able to get us into some pretty cool restricted or hard to access areas, such as the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica. All in all, if I could do it again I would 100 percent choose IES Abroad Roma!