Oliva Witwer - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

As a freshman I had been told over and over again that senior's biggest regret in college was that they didn't study abroad. I did not not want to be one of those seniors. I happened to be very lucky that my major would allow me study abroad and get credit for many major related credits. I knew that I wanted to study abroad more than anything, it was just a matter of where and when. Florence was a no brainer for me as an art history major, and CAPA was one of the few programs that went to Florence at my school.

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

Why did you choose CAPA International Education?

I specifically chose CAPA because they offered the best opportunities for me in an abroad environment. The classes they offered and the MyEducation activities alone were unique. CAPA offered classes that I would not have been able to take at my home university, which was one of the biggest factors that drove me to choose CAPA. The MyEducation activities allowed me and my classmates to do unique things, like row a boat on the Arno river, take pasta making classes, and take day trips to places like San Gimignano and Siena. CAPA also provided lectures outside of regular classes that helped me learn more about my global city and its history and what made it unique to other cities in Europe.

View of The Duomo in Florence, Italy

The Duomo

What was your favorite part about Florence?

The best part about studying in Florence is that it was located in such a rich location. By that I mean the city itself was rich in history, culture, and adventure. But, if you wanted to branch outside of the city you were at an advantage; it was never hard to go somewhere whether it was in Italy or venturing out to other cities. Being a city in northern Italy, day trips were always easy to make to places like Venice, Milan, Bologna, Verona, Perugia, Assisi, and Rome. The opportunities were endless.

What makes CAPA’s Florence program unique?

The most unique thing about CAPA was the class excursions. Classes were generally three hours long, but because we spent majority of our time walking the city and visiting museums and other sites learning was fun and time flew. Before I knew it the three hours were up! It was more efficient and interesting than most classroom environments at my home university, and I know I wasn't the only who felt like this.

CAPA created a learning environment that allowed students to be engaged and alert and interested in what they were learning.

Gates of Paradise at the Florence Baptistery in Italy

Gates of Paradise

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The CAPA staff was always ready to help out when I had questions. If I needed a quiet place to study, the CAPA center was always there. If I had a question on a good place to take my family to dinner, they were extremely helpful in pointing to places that weren't "tourist traps" and great quality. They were always efficient with replying to emails and helping out with copying or faxing anything.

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

If I could have done anything differently, it would be my planning of weekend trips. The sooner you plan out where you want to go and how you plan to get there the easier it will be to plan what you want to do and see once you are there. It will also make financially planning it out easy and you’ll end up saving more money. Also, buy a post card or some sort of memorabilia everywhere you go so that you can remember all the places you've been.

Describe what a typical day of courses looked like for you.

CAPA makes schooling abroad very easy and convenient. A week's worth of classes are done in one day, so you never have to worry about making it to class multiple times a week. One of the best parts about the classes offered at CAPA, however, is how they are taught. For many of my classes, the city was the classroom. We would spend part of the class at the CAPA center taking notes, then we would go out and see what we had just learned! From Botticelli's Primavera in the Uffizi Gallery to immigrant communities around the city. It made learning fun and interesting.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Sitting on the Ponte Trinita with the Ponte Vecchio in the background

What did you like to do on your free time?

Florence is a great walking city. When not in class it was always great to just walk the city. If you ever got lost it was easy to find yourself again. There was always something going on in the streets, whether it was an open air market, the leather market, a musician playing on the street, or a tree lighting ceremony. It wasn't necessarily a specific activity that I loved to do, but just walking around the city I was always bound to run into something wonderful.

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

I stayed in an apartment with roommates during my time abroad. It was really nice because it was close to the city center and other people in my program were all within a block of each other. An apartment allowed for me to meet other people in my program easily. It was also nice to come home to my space and have alone time if I needed it, since I didn't need to worry about house rules or anything of a homestay.

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

My program has impacted me in several ways now that I have returned home. I look at many things, from the food I eat to current events, like immigration, with new eyes. I now make my coffee with an Italian coffee maker, tomatoes taste completely different and I refuse to eat ones at the common grocery store, I find myself wishing I could walk everywhere, and things like immigration are not just issues in our nation, but all around the world. Everything changes when you go abroad, but I can confidently say they change for the better.