We’ve all seen glamorous study abroad pictures crowding our newsfeeds. I myself posted my fair share of albums last spring when I studied abroad at the American University of Rome (AUR).
The unquestionable benefits of URome had lured me to apply: seven Miami professors, more than 20 UM students, delicious Italian biweekly group meals and a couple of trips to charming Italian cities. In fact, URome sounded so great that I overlooked where I would actually be four days a week: AUR.
Even if reasons like cultural immersion, foreign language acquisition and traveling are your primary motivation for going abroad, which university you choose makes a huge difference.
Like many students, the academic aspect was not my main purpose for going abroad. I was eager to explore the world to see things I had only read about and to learn about myself in the process. I accomplished my main objectives going abroad, but my academic experience tainted my semester.
If you are considering studying abroad, take the following points into consideration before hopping on a plane for the program.
Research where your university is located in the city and the housing it provides. AUR is not in the city’s center. In fact, it is across the Tiber River atop an enormous hill, which is a 45-minute walk from the Colosseum. I had expected my living accommodations to be in the vicinity of the university, but it took me more than 35 minutes to get there, by both foot and public transportation.
On that note, think about how you plan to get around. Rome’s public transportation often took longer than walking, and it rarely follows a schedule. There were several public transportation strikes too, which occasionally prevented me from getting to my on-site class.
Finally, consider the student body composition. I met very few Italian students at AUR since the majority of its students are also participating in study abroad. Many were taking classes that weren’t going to affect their GPA, which was inconvenient when I worked with them on a group project and was actually taking the class for a grade.
Don’t be blinded by the glitz and glamor of an experience in a foreign country. Before you commit, carefully research the university to ensure the program is a good fit.
Caroline Levens is a senior majoring in public relations.