By KATIE ALBERT
For the Republic-Times
My name is Katie Albert. I am a Waterloo High School graduate, resident of Waterloo, and full-time student at SIUE majoring in psychology with a minor in studio art. This spring, I will be studying abroad in Florence, Italy. This is the first of a six-part series of articles describing my experience.
On Jan. 19, I will be boarding a plane to Florence, Italy; my home for the next three-and-half months. At 20 years old, I would never have imagined I would be living and studying abroad. I will be taking courses at Richmond in Florence focusing on art, specifically drawing and painting, Italian language, and Italian food and culture.
Growing up in Waterloo, the world seemed so much bigger than my backyard. Participating in several international travel opportunities through Girl Scouts while in high school, I became interested in studying abroad.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has an extremely accessible study abroad department, as do most colleges and universities. The office administration is knowledgeable about a wide range of international programs that will accommodate practically any degree program. While there are several psychology study abroad opportunities I could have applied for, the idea of studying art in the home of the Renaissance just had a certain ring to it. Looking at a couple different options, I decided that attending Richmond in Florence through the American Institute for Foreign Study program was my best option.
The assistance provided by SIUE, American Institute for Foreign Study and Richmond has been more than helpful. Any questions I have are answered within days via email. Information is provided on safety, living abroad, and traveling. In addition, they provide opportunities for scholarships, including guides with hints and tips on how to submit a quality application.
Study abroad can be expensive. However, there are numerous programs with varying fees depending upon location and duration as well as scholarship opportunities. Certain college scholarships are able to be used for a study abroad semester. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is a U.S. Department of State grant program for study abroad and is available for any study abroad program. I was fortunate to receive the Gilman Scholarship. The purpose of this scholarship is to publicize the benefits of studying abroad and the financial aid available. Part of the requirement for the Gilman is for awardees to complete a service project that highlights the Gilman Scholarship, and the importance and real-world benefits of studying abroad. As an awardee, I will work with local newspapers to produce articles about my education and travel experiences. My goal is to encourage students and their parents to pursue study abroad as a realistic opportunity.
The next few weeks I expect to be a whirlwind of nervousness, excitement, and new experiences. My next article will be a summary of my first month abroad: a weekend in London, orientation in Rome, and settling down into a routine with my classes in my apartment in Firenze, Italia. Ciao!