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AIFS Study Abroad: European Art and Architecture (Summer)
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AIFS Study Abroad: European Art and Architecture (Summer)

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community

    10

Study & travel summer program with AIFS

I was hanging out in my local comic and games store one night in December 2015 talking with some schoolmates, when the topic of travel came up. One woman, a history major, overheard me say that I had always wanted to visit Italy and told me about a faculty led trip to Florence every summer. I went home that evening and looked into it first thing. During my search for this program, however, I came across a listing for "European Art and Architecture" with American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) and found myself intrigued by the idea of not just studying abroad in one location, but several! In just four weeks during Summer of 2016, I would travel through London, Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, Lucerne, Venice, Florence, and Rome and see up close and in person some of the most famous works of western art and historical artifacts from all over the world.

A study and travel program is a bit different in structure and feel than a "traditional" study abroad experience. By traditional, I am referring to what many think of when the words 'study abroad' come up: placement in a single location, living in either a Homestay (with a host family) or dorm, and living fully immersed in a particular culture for a semester or year. On a study and travel program, there's an element of being both a student and tourist at the same time. AIFS has an incredible all-inclusive strategy in their program costs, from housing and some meals, to excursions and even an optional flight plan, so once I was there I didn't have to worry about anything but learning. I was in a different place in Europe every 4-5 days over the course of the month long excursion, so I didn't get to experience each location to the point where I could feel like a "local". We stayed in a range of housing situations, ranging from a 16th century Venetian palace-turned-hotel to an international student youth hostel that came with a host of challenges. Each housing situation, however, provided a unique look into an entirely different culture of its own. While I have traveled to a number of locations within the United States, prior to this trip I had yet to have ever set foot on an airplane. The methods of travel and expectations in lodging that I have always been accustomed to were irrelevant in this new atmosphere. One might not think that a hotel has a whole lot to teach about a culture, but there's definitely something to be said about it.

A big part of being on a program like this one is learning personal responsibility and independence. Even though we were in a group setting for most of excursions, my classmates and I were in many situations where we were given free time to do as we wished with an expectation of being in the next location by a certain time. This left us with the freedom to explore parts of each city to our personal interests, but also challenged us to utilize local systems of travel and communication to manage our time wisely and responsibly.


Despite being a group that was touring Europe's most iconic museums, the itinerary was far more than what could be expected from a vacation-tour package. Each day after breakfast we attended a lecture given by our phenomenal professor and guide, and then spent the afternoon in at least one museum or landmark historical site engaged in discussions and analyzation of masterwork western art and architecture. The content structure was well suited for all knowledge levels in art and art history, and the idea of being in several places where English was not the primary language was not as daunting as it seems. I was able to quickly learn the phrases that would assist me in utilizing public transportation and communicate my needs, but most of my best experiences came from just communicating with locals and connecting on a deeper level than words can describe.

AIFS provides staff at every single one of their program locations to offer support and and guidance to students, so aside from our professor the group was also accompanied by a tour manager based out of the AIFS London office. Both faculty members on the trip had years of experience living, teaching, and learning from each of the locations we visited, so my classmates and I were able to get the inside scoop on embracing the local cultures. On the last day of class, we were given an opportunity to provide our own feedback that would aid in shaping the program for the coming years. Overall, I could not recommend AIFS enough for a fantastic study abroad experience.

Overall Rating

6/ 10

  • Community

    6

  • Health & Safety

    6

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Living Situation

    6

  • Academics

    6

Exciting, Adventurous, Delicious, Mind-opening, Interesting

I remember sitting outside at a cafe in the middle of Florence with my study abroad friends, drinking wine, eating the most amazing food, and just laughing until our stomachs hurt under the Italian sky.

I wanted to get the most out of my time in Europe, and doing the multi-country tour was a great way to sample a bunch of different places and cultures. Plus, the art and architecture in Europe is absolutely amazing, so getting to study the different styles from London to Rome was such a cool, unique experience!

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Academics

    5

  • Living Situation

    5

  • Cultural Immersion

    7

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Community

    6

My European Appetizer

(This is basically the same program as in 1970 from AIFS and great to see it's still happening.)

The first time I saw the Sistine Chapel, the Pieta, ate gelato, visited Pompeii ...walked around Stonehenge, Shakespeare's theater, Parliament...climbed the stairs in Notre Dame, went up the Eiffel Tower at night, and much more is still unforgettable, while taking classes in the morning.
This was to be an academic review of my study abroad, instead, I will say, if after almost
forty five years of life, I can still see and remember the experiences of my AIFS
trip, the inspiring, breath taking sites, tasty food, and even the friends I made, that is my testament.


My study abroad was back in 1970, and the reason it is significant is to emphasize that no matter what else you do in your life, you'll always remember your study abroad, regardless of the where or what, so go, GoAbroad!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community

    10

Absolute time of my life!

I was lucky enough to participate in this program the summer before my senior year of college, and it was a blast! Naturally, visiting the vast majority of the important, iconic and world-renowned areas of Western Europe was exciting in itself, but the free time allowed us to customize our trip to make sure we saw exactly what we wanted to see and do while abroad. However, I'd say one of the very best things about going with this program was having all of the tickets for the museums ready to go - that meant we saved a TON of time from waiting in lines, so we had waaaay more time for memories and adventures!

Additionally, this class ended up sparking an interest I never knew I had in art from varying perspectives, and it ended up laying the groundwork for both my Economics and Spanish Senior Research Seminar classes, projects, and presentations. My study abroad professor from London was happy to email me resources and suggestions for my projects, and he was just as excited as I was when my research was chosen to be in the Undergraduate Research Symposium at school! I absolutely recommend this class, trip, and experience 100%.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    6

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Community

    10

Unique, Fast-Paced, Life Changing!

I was so indecisive about where to study so this program gave me the perfect chance to experience life in a variety of countries. Because of the travel aspect and living arrangements, I truly bonded with other students in the program.

Academically, you could not ask for a better way to study European art history: morning lectures followed by field trips to the best museums in the world or locations relating to the topic covered in class (not to mention getting to skip the lines at places like the Louvre & the Uffizi). Having studied art history for several years already, I thought the curriculum was engaging but I didn't find it as challenging as some of the fellow students who had never taken an art history course. You are assigned homework weekly, but as long as you attend class daily & pay attention at the museums, you'll have no problem getting it done and having free time. The professor was always available to talk to outside of class, and he was such a fun and interesting man to have conversations with, we really enjoyed going out to dinners as a group or listening to him at tourist stops.

There is no shortage of fun on this program. During the first week in London, AIFS arranged a boat cruise down the Thames with fellow AIFS students in the city, which ended up being one of the many highlights of our trip. Each city provided a different nightlife scene which makes it hard to pick a favorite. During the day, our tour manager and professor provided advice on where to go eat, shop, and explore.

Like most people, I wasn't ready to leave! I would have liked to spend more time in each city or even have a weeklong break in the program to give us a chance to try and travel outside of the program countries.
People who knew others on the program were able to plan ahead and travel before or after the course ended, but like most, I went by myself and became friends with people as the trip went along. You don't feel as immersed in the cultures as you would if you stayed in one place for several months, but if you get a thrill out of constantly being on the go, dream of studying art history in some of the most famous and historical cities on the planet, and have so much fun your head will spin, this is the program for you.

Institution Affiliates:

World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation