Alexa Ball - 2014 Program Participant

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Exploring the Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Why did you choose to study abroad in Italy?

I chose Italy because I studied abroad in Rome during the summer after my Freshman year of college. I fell in love with the Italian way of life, the language, the food, the ancient structures, Renaissance, and Baroque art, etc. I wanted to spend my semester abroad speaking a foreign language which I had spent the previous three years studying and I wanted to be totally immersed in a new culture. My family prides itself on our Italian heritage and I wanted to experience la dolce vita up close.

What was your favorite part about the city of Rome?

Rome, quite literally, feels like the center of civilization. It is drenched in history and breathtakingly beautiful. I loved that you could walk down the same street twice and have two completely different experiences. In a way, Rome is a city frozen in time though it is constantly changing. Every day brought something new. From my experiences travelling around Europe, I found Rome to be the essential European, Italian city. Rome feels exotic and relatively untouched by American pop culture and media (unlike Paris where one can find a Starbucks on every corner).

What was the most unique part of your program?

The most unique aspect of my program was the Italian Student Companion (ISC) living situation. Students have the option to stay in apartments with other American students and one Italian university student. I was able to practice casual Italian conversation with my ISC and she introduced us to true Italian culture and life as a local. It is like a mix of apartment living and a homestay that makes for the best of both worlds.

The canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands

On the canals of Amsterdam

What kind of support did local staff provide for you during your stay?

Staff were always there for us to help us navigate the city and travelling throughout Italy and Europe. The staff would also periodically check in with us to discuss culture shock, ways to adjust to our new surroundings, and how to prepare for reentry.

If you could change one thing about your program what would it be?

I wish I studied abroad for a full year!

What was a typical day like as a student in Rome?

A typical day involved one or two classes at the IES center in the morning, a break for lunch and a stroll around the nearest piazza in the afternoon, and Italian class in the evening. Later that night I would return home to cook dinner with my roommates (who were basically my second family) or we would have our Italian roommate show us a new restaurant or bar in the lesser known neighborhoods of Rome.

What was your favorite part about your program outside of your coursework?

The sponsored IES field trip to Tuscany was a highlight of my semester. We traveled to Siena and Montalcino and spent the night in the Italian countryside at an inn at a vineyard.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

In the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Can you explain your housing arrangement a little more? What were the benefits?

I lived in an apartment with other American students and an Italian university student. It was great to have the typical roommate experience with the added cultural component of living with a local and speaking Italian with her. My roommates became like a second family to me and we still remain close friends.

How has traveling and studying abroad changed you life?

My time abroad completely changed my career goals and aspirations. After studying abroad, I chose to get my TEFL certification and I am returning to Italy after graduation to teach English. In the more distant future, I plan to go to graduate school to earn my MA in International Education Management with the hopes of becoming a study abroad adviser, director at an American university, or a program adviser at an independent study abroad organization. While I was abroad, I met influential and successful people who astonished me with the passion they held for their studies and careers. I found myself envious of their passion and drive to pursue what they really loved and I made the decision to indulge in my true interests of speaking and learning foreign languages and studying abroad.