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Claire Smith

Senior, Integrated Studio Arts + Journalism (double degree)

From: Belmond, Iowa

Study abroad semester: Fall 2016 (August – December)

Studied abroad at: College of Design Rome Program, Rome, Italy


Why did you decide to study abroad?

Traveling abroad has always been a strong interest of mine, and studying abroad during college is one of the best times to do so. I’ve also thought about working abroad after graduation in photojournalism, and traveling internationally seemed like a good way to get experience and gain an understanding on what life is like in another part of the world.


How did you choose to study in Rome?

I decided to study in Rome since it’s rich in historical art that I have studied since high school, and the program for Integrated Studio Arts there is strong. Having other friends go in previous years allowed me to talk with them about the program and their personal experiences, which gave me more confidence about studying and living in Rome.


What were the most important things you learned?

The most important academic area I learned about was art history. Being able to actually stand in a church or museum and look at a piece of art while learning about it helped me remember it better. Art history has never been my strong area in design, but hearing about art from professors who specialize in Roman and Italian history made me more excited to learn about it.

Overall, studying abroad in Rome taught me more about myself than I thought it would. This experience gave me much more self-confidence as I learned how to live in another country, and budget and plan trips with the help of the other design students living in Rome.


Did anything surprise you about the experience?

What surprised me the most about the experience was how easy and smooth transitioning to life in a different country was. Everyone talked about culture shock and how to deal with it when studying abroad, but I never felt that until coming back to the US. There was a slight learning curve the first week studying in Rome and trying to plan trips, but after a week or two, planning weekends away and doing the simple things like buying groceries and supplies and cleaning the apartment seemed natural and much easier to handle. The whole experience goes so fast, you just get swept up by it and by the end, wherever you are studying really feels like home.


What was the best part overall of studying abroad?

The best parts of studying abroad in Rome were all the opportunities to travel — both in Italy and around Europe, getting to know people who I’ve seen but never talked to before and being able to tailor the experience to get what you want out of it. I was able to explore 12 different countries from Switzerland and Germany to the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Iceland. Later in the semester when coursework picked up, I traveled and adventured more through Italy and Rome itself. Weekend school trips with professors were always exciting and amusing, and free “on-your-own” weekends allowed for extra traveling or exploring Rome with new friends that made for experiences I’ll never forget.


What advice would you give other students who are considering studying abroad?

If you have any hunger for traveling or studying abroad, even just a little, do it. If you know it is something you would like to try but are worried or don’t know what it would be like, just do it. You will never know until you try, and in the end, you won’t regret going. Studying abroad has changed the way I think about many things, and I would definitely do it all again if I could.

February 3, 2017 3:58 pm

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