Saturday, June 2, 2012

Study Abroad Re-Cap: Classes

Since I've mainly written about the adventure side of study abroad, I thought I might write about the "study" part since part of the experience is taking classes.  Every study abroad program is different.  Some offer a greater variety of classes than others, and some even teach the classes in the language of the country.  Your experience all depends on which program you pick - and believe me, there are plenty of programs to choose from.

I decided upon AIFS in Florence for a few reasons:

1. The excursions included looked awesome.

2. The meal tickets seemed like they would help finances a lot.

3. Though there was not a terribly wide range of classes, the classes that Richmond University did have looked very interesting and appealed to my history major.

I ended up taking 4 classes as well as volunteering for an English newspaper throughout the semester.  The classes I ended up taking were History of the Italian Mafia, History of Italian Cinema and Society, High and Late Renaissance Art and Basic Spoken Italian.

Saint Mike's made it a pretty painless process to choose classes abroad and fill out paperwork to get credit for the classes.  I started out by making myself a 4-year plan, laying out what requirements I had already fulfilled and which requirements I still needed to fulfill.  With the requirements I still needed to fulfill, I figured out which classes should be taken in which semester.  Many of the classes I still had to take were electives in my majors, so it was fairly easy to choose classes.  History of the Italian Mafia fulfilled an upper level history class, History of Italian Cinema fulfilled a journalism elective, and I was required by my program to take Italian so I would be able to survive in the culture.  I took High and Late Renaissance Art as my first ever art history class just for fun.  I figured it would help me see some of the sites.  I also took a two-week language intensive in Siena, which everyone else had to take as well.

The classes themselves were difficult enough that they were college classes, but they were not extremely demanding.  I would not say I took a semester off (as many claim a study abroad semester is a vacation), but the program and professors made sure to leave enough wiggle room for traveling and cultural experiences.  The most difficult part of the semester was mid-semester when we had midterms followed almost immediately by mid-semester research papers.  At that point as well, homesickness is the most prominent, so it was a tough time all-around. My friends and I made sure to support each other through our academics (my friend Molly was especially great since she let Liz and me come over her house almost every night because our internet was terrible) but we also looked out for each other socially and took breaks and adventures when necessary.
Katherine and Lindsey work on their mid-semester papers during our excursion to Venice.

None of my classes were taught by Americans, which made the experience that much more enriching.  Three of my classes were taught by native Italians and the fourth class was taught by a native Czech.  I really liked all of my classes and felt like I got a lot out of them.  By the end of the semester, I knew how to speak enough Italian to survive daily life, I knew all the places to find awesome Renaissance art (and the history behind the art pieces as well as how to analyze them) and I knew lots of facts about Italian history through the lens of the cinema and the mafia.  It definitely helped to be right in the country (or even the city) when learning about certain things because you could then go out and experience the things after learning about them.  I don't think the classes are supposed to be challenging as much as they are supposed to be culturally enriching.  It was a great semester.

If you have any questions about my study abroad experience or my life at Saint Michael's College, do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).


  1. wait you didn't say, did you take classes in english or italian?

  2. Hi Carly! Sorry! I took classes in English as I was at an English university in Florence. I was not able to speak any Italian until I took the language courses in Italy.

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  4. That's great that you are enjoying yourself while studying abroad! Do not worry about what all the other students are doing. You should take the classes that you want to, even if your classmates are taking easier ones.

    Cursos de verano en el extranjero.