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The University of Rochester Program in Italian Studies in Arezzo is an amazing experience. But don't just take our word for it, read what some of our students and parents have to say...

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January admits: midyear first year students share stories of their semester before UR

By  · Published on January 30, 2014 5:28 AM · Features

Among the variety of nontraditional students at UR is a special group of individuals that opt to begin their college career during the second semester of the academic year. This year, UR granted fall admission to 5,824 applicants and offered 108 students spring spots. Of these 108, 48 students chose to enroll and have since been adopted into the University community. Eighteen of these students are first year students and 30 are transfers. A “January Admit” may spend their free semester in a variety of ways; below, two midyear first year students share their stories.

What our students say...

Angela Kluzniak, Class of 2017

Along with a small number of other students, I did not start this fall but as a January Admit. I didn’t know that this was even possible until I received my admission letter. I read the lines “after careful review of your application, I have concluded that I can invite you to enroll in January 2014.” Immediately, I thought it was a joke. I thought maybe I had mistakenly checked a box on my common app saying that I was applying for the spring term.Starting college is a difficult process. There are people to meet, friends to make, dorms to move into and clubs to join. Some students even have the additional trouble of shipping their belongings and catching flights to Rochester. Like any other new social setting, each student is struggling to find the place they fit in. It is hard for some and easy for others, but they all find where they fit because there is a large group of people that are going through the same struggle.

I called the school and learned that I had not made a mistake, but simply just that the school couldn’t take in all the students they wanted to for the fall term. The University offers the students spots in the spring when they will have more living space on campus.

When I was finished with the call I was confused and conflicted. I didn’t like the idea of being idle for such a long time. Because of this, I almost considered picking a different school where I would start on time. That was, until I re-read my admission letter. There are actually quite a few ways January Admits can fill their fall semester, but only one choice stood out to me.

“One option exclusive for Rochester-guided students is to start your college career in Arezzo, Italy.” I had never heard of a study abroad program that allowed freshman to participate, but I was immediately interested. I inquired about the program, filled out the forms, got accepted, and a few short months later found myself on the long flight to Florence, Italy.

I will never regret accepting my spring spot at UR because it provided me with an excellent opportunity to do something unique and exciting. The Arezzo program was wonderful because I was able to meet a very diverse group of UR students and get a good look at what it is like to study as a college student. The program was composed of five intensive classes; Ancient Structures, Cultural History, Art History, Italian language and Culture in Context.

I was able to learn a lot from those classes, but I learned the most outside the classroom. I learned how to be independent. I was able to decide when I got up, when I left for class, how much I studied, and what I did in my free time. I know it is typical for students who are living away from home to find this independence – the difference was that I had to do these things in a completely different culture.

I had to learn the culture around me so that I could perform my daily tasks. I had to be able to speak the language so that I could communicate. I could not use my family as a crutch because of the eight-hour time difference, as well as the fact that it was impossible to teach my parents to use Skype. Because of all these things, I gained a lot of self-confidence that I can now apply to my time at UR.

Starting in the spring is different than starting in the fall, but not worse. The orientation is a lot shorter, but the orientation leaders are just as kind and helpful. It is more difficult to make friends now that all the other freshmen have figured out where they belong, but it is not impossible thanks to the long list of people who are there to support the January Admits. I know that I have the support of the school, other admits, my freshman class, and the other students I went abroad with. College may be more complicated because I am a January Admit, but I wouldn’t have done it differently.

Mikael Olezeski – Arezzo 2013 – Take 5 Scholar

“The part of the Arezzo program that I found to be the best as well as most unique was its size. By having a group of 13 in a smaller city, the entire experience becomes more intimate and opens up the possibility to see things that wouldn't be available in a larger group. We all live together, eat together, take classes together, and spend our free time together. While some may prefer the big city and more independent program, I couldn't have been happier with this setup. I became so very close with this group of people that I struggled to say my goodbyes at the end knowing that even though we would see each other at school, this incredible journey we had all just experienced together was coming to a close. Being a small group, we were able to travel throughout Italy as a unit, going to Rome, Pompeii, Florence, and Venice just to name a few. Other programs may offer a package deal for a price to do something of this sort, but ours was part of the program and allowed us to sleep in the same hotel and experience the cities as a whole, while still providing free time to break apart and explore. Arezzo is only an hour train to Florence if the city ever gets too small, but I never experienced that feeling. I couldn't recommend a study abroad program more because I don't know of any other program of the same caliber.” 

Jessica Isaacs – Arezzo 2013 – Class of 2015

“My favorite part of the Arezzo program is how much I've learned. Not just in the classroom but through my experiences with the culture, people (both in and outside of the program), and our trips throughout the country. I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be Italian and to live a Tuscan lifestyle. I have grown as a person and I feel so much more knowledgeable about Italy in general- I don't tell people I am a student abroad in Italy: I tell them that I live in Italy, I cook in Italy, and that I attend school here, because everything I've done has been so immersed in the Italian culture that my adventure in Arezzo has been more of an Italian experience than I could have gotten on any other program.”

Natusumi Mariner– Arezzo 2013 – Class of 2015

"I don't think any experience has ever affected me so strongly and so positively in a matter of three months than the experiences I had on this program did. During this time, I was able to find a renewed passion for learning, all the while expanding my mind and horizons interacting with a different culture. Even as an English major, words fail to describe how grateful I am for the time spent on this program."

Kevin Scantlen – Arezzo 2013 – Class of 2015

“The past 3 months have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Prior to this trip, I had never been out of the country before. I had no idea what to expect, and even less of an idea of how things would turn out. I just remember feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement. Looking back on my time in Italy, it’s really difficult to put all of my feelings into one written reaction.

This program, first and foremost, was a head-first dive into Italian culture. Arezzo offered all of the perks of a bigger city but without a loss of integrity. I couldn’t get away with speaking English in Arezzo. While it was definitely difficult to adjust to this, it also meant I could get a glimpse into a true Italian city that wasn’t tainted by tourism (such as Venice, Florence, and especially Rome). This full immersion gave me a chance to experience Italy very closely to how an Italian experiences it. We ate at restaurants owned by Aretines. We went to school at an Italian university (University of Siena). We lived in an Italian apartment. Most importantly, we needed to use Italian to communicate.

I had never been put in a situation where my first language was useless. It was scary, but it forced me to think in ways I hadn’t before. And it made me realize how much of a privilege it is to communicate with other people. Living in the US, I was able to communicate with everyone. In Arezzo, it was not possible to do that. There were so many times I wanted to say something but couldn’t because I didn’t know how to say it. While at the time it was frustrating, it helped me in 2 ways; first, it became an incentive for me to study harder in Italian class, and second, it made me value the ability to communicate. Before this trip, it had never crossed my mind that there are billions of people who I will never be able to communicate with unless I learn another language. Living in a country where it is assumed that English is known by all and living in a world where English has become an international language, I had become comfortable with relying on English. Coming to Italy made me understand that knowing English isn’t enough to truly connect with people who speak another language.

This program profoundly changed my ways of thinking and provided me with a plethora of memories of beautiful Italy. I can now cross Arezzo, Rome, Venice, Florence, Siena, and multiple smaller cities and towns off of my “to-see” list. More importantly, I can also put all these places on a list of places to return to someday. Italy is truly an amazing country, and Arezzo is a great place to study abroad if you’re looking to go out of your comfort zone and eat some mind-blowingly good food.”

Rob Gelfond – Arezzo 2013 – Class of 2017

“It's really Italy. If you want to see every city, film, monument, masterpiece artwork, ancient bath, arch, lintel, caldarium, and type of pasta you'll have it, you'll have great pasta up to your faccia for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Zoya Ramzan – Arezzo 2013 – Class of 2017

“One of my favorite things about the Arezzo program would have to be the sense of community and family that you feel throughout the three months.  Starting my university career in a foreign country was definitely a nerve-racking and stressful step but getting to know some of the upper classmen and even the other freshmen on the trip made the transition into college life that much easier.  We spend almost all of our time together.  We live together, we eat together, we have all our classes together.  Naturally, we know we can depend on each other for anything.  It's nice to know that I'll have established these relationships and connections when I start my second semester at the University of Rochester in the spring.  I know I can always rely on my "Arezzo family" to advise me and be there for me.”

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Letters from parents...

Dear Dean Feldman,

As a member of the class of '72 (River Campus, pre-med/ sociology) and the proud parent of Livie Cohn (2013), I am writing from Arezzo, Italy, visiting my daughter in the semester abroad program.

My wife Diane and I are delighted with the growth my daughter has experienced since she left home Aug. 31; she has learned a great deal about Italian art, architecture, culture, and language in a brief period of time.

We especially commend Donna Logan, who as director of the program, has worked tirelessly to create a safe environment for learning and reflection.

We appreciate the flexibility that everyone has shown to make Livie feel a welcome part of the academic community and are delighted that she has chosen to spend her next 4 years at UR.

With best wishes,
Kenneth H. Cohn

"Just wanted to let you know I am thrilled with the content of this program. As parents, we are appreciative of the organization and detail that went into getting Stefania and her classmates to wonderful places like Pompeii and the Vesuvius, for the historical and academic benefits, before classes started. Each time we speak with her she is full of news of her classes, the readings, the art and language, side trips, and all the great details of people, places, and food that go along with being in a place like Arezzo. Her success this semester, in part of course, is due to you, the faculty, and the excellent direction this program is under. Thank you."

- Maria Ianno

"The U of R Arezzo Program was a very positive experience for Emily and I was so glad to be able to spend time in Arezzo, meet the other students, and some of the instructors.

I really liked the city and the location. The city was very manageable, it allowed the students easy access to school, shopping, and a social life. While offering many of the modern conveniences Americans are used to, the historical and cultural aspects were still predominant. Being within walking distance of the train and bus stations allowed easy access to other towns and cities.

The housing accommodations were good. Santa Caterina offered a beautiful building and grounds. The rooms were quite typical of student housing (though cleaner, thanks to housekeeping). The food was wonderful and plentiful. Besides enjoying the food the students made friends with local people who helped them to become a part of the community. Fabio and Enzo should be commended on an outstanding job, introducing the students to many new foods. On Emily's birthday, Fabio made and decorated a cake for her. At the last lunch at Café Centrale each student was given a "goodie" bag of chocolates and cookies.

Irene, whom my daughter describes as the program's social ambassador, did an outstanding job. She helped the students become acclimated to the community, and became a good friend. Emily talked about her all of the time. She especially enjoyed spending a day with Irene's family picking olives. The Orientation and first weeks of the program gave the students time to experience many different parts of Italy. The weekends, too, had many offerings of festivals and fairs. Another highlight was the joust! Emily's phone calls were always full of new and fun adventures and talk of "the best meal ever."

I was pleased with the academic program as well. The instructors and courses were interesting and meaningful.

Donna, congratulations on a wonderful program. As a parent, my concerns were minimal. I would highly recommend this program to any student and am so very pleased that Emily had this opportunity. I'm quite sure you will be seeing her in Italy again. Many thanks."

- Sarah Discenza

"My daughter had the privilege to go to Italy on the Italian Studies in Tuscany program for the fall 2007 semester. I was able to attend a meeting at the university before my daughter went to Italy. The information given at that time was very helpful. We learned what to bring and what not to bring. They were able to tour before classes started and saw much of Italy. While my daughter was there, not once did I get an unhappy phone call. My daughter felt safe and comfortable. Housing was provided for and the meals were delicious.

As a parent I would highly recommend this program to any student that has the desire to go abroad."

- Mrs. B. Myers

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