On Making the Most of a Summer in Europe

Sep 12, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Audra Jones

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Meet Audra, a Texas State University student and interior design major who studied abroad in Florence during summer 2016. Below, Audra talks about the structure of her classes in Italy, the opportunities she had while participating in CAPA's My Global Education events and what she learned from both her experience in Firenze and her solo European backpacking adventures after her program finished. 

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CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
AUDRA JONES: I am entering my junior year at Texas State University. I will be majoring in interior design and minoring in art. I knew that I wanted to study abroad in Italy since junior year of high school when I took an art history course and fell in love with the Italian Renaissance period of art and design. As a sophomore in college, my plans came to fruition! I was able to take art history and drawing courses in Florence, Italy during the summer of 2016 and then backpack across Europe after my program’s conclusion.

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CW: Why did you choose to study abroad with CAPA and why Florence specifically? What was interesting about your program?
AJ: I came into college with a vast majority of my basic courses already completed due to AP and Dual courses in high school. This made choosing a study abroad program very focused due to a lack of upper-level art and design courses being offered through my school’s study abroad office. I chose to study abroad in Florence for a few reasons: (1) it offered courses that would count towards my major and minor, (2) I’ve wanted to go to Italy for years and (3) the program cost included weekend trips to Rome and Venice!

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CW: Talk about academics abroad: Which classes did you take in Florence and how did the experience differ from back home? How were you able to connect your experience of the city itself and your academics?
AJ: I was taking an art history course focused on the Italian Renaissance and Florence was the center of the Italian Renaissance so my course connected directly to the city! Studying abroad allowed my classmates and I to actually experience the works of art and architecture that we were studying. Another interesting part was that we did not have class in a classroom once—we were always at a museum or plaza or palace!

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CW: CAPA organizes regular excursions to different parts of the city and beyond as part of the My Global Education calendar. Would you recommend participating in these? Which was your favorite and why?
AJ: Everybody absolutely needs to participate in these! I was able to learn how to make homemade pasta and pesto from a jolly Italian man—how many people can say that? Also, my roommates and I went on a hike hosted by CAPA where we went into a little town in the hills outside of Florence. Seeing Florence from afar and experiencing a tiny, local town where there are no tourists gave me a completely different feel for the city and made me love it even more!

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CW: Did you find that there was a sense of community at CAPA? Was it easy to make friends on your program? Tell us about some of the relationships you built while in Italy that you won't soon forget.
AJ: I always felt right at home at CAPA! It was comfortable and everyone was always so friendly. Some of the best relationships I made in Florence were with my roommates. We had an apartment of six. I only vaguely knew two of the girls when the program started, but by the end we were all great friends. Whether we were getting dinner, watching soccer at a local spot, or just walking around town, it was great to be able to experience Florence together.

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CW: Tell us a bit about the support you had throughout the whole process: deciding to study abroad, during your pre-departure preparations, while you were actually in Italy and after you returned home.
AJ: I have been traveling my whole life, but this was the first time that I had been out of the country. My family was nervous about me spending two months in Europe, especially as more and more horror stories appeared on the news, but they were supportive of my decision from the beginning. I paid for the entire trip myself, but having the support and help of my family definitely made things easier.

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CW: You were able to extend your experience and backpack in Europe after your program. How did being in Florence prepare you for this and what tips could you offer to other students who hope to do the same?
AJ: Yes, I studied in Italy for one month and then backpacked around Europe for a little over a month after the program ended. I had never been out of the country, so Florence was definitely the reason that I was able to be successful backpacking alone. When I came to Italy I didn’t even know how to buy a train ticket, but when I left Europe I was staying in hostels and exploring new cities entirely by myself. To students who hope to backpack through Europe as well, my advice is stay in Europe until you absolutely can’t anymore. For me, I budgeted out my entire trip beforehand and knew that I would run out of money at the two-month point. When you return from your trip, you’ll have made friends with people from around the world who are still traveling and you’ll wish you could join them.

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CW: Where do you see yourself taking your career over the next few years? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? Or your future more generally?
AJ: I am still deciding whether I want to pursue a master’s degree after graduation or if I want to go straight into a career. However, after spending time in Europe I am much more open to the idea of working or continuing my education in a European country perhaps. No matter what, I will continue traveling for as long as I can. 

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CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Florence" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
AJ: There was a park that my roommates and I walked by everyday on our way to CAPA from the apartment. It was just a neighborhood park, but we all loved it. There were always boys playing soccer and kids riding bikes. It was just a nice glimpse into the lives of the local people.

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CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself, the world around you and some of the larger global issues?
AJ: Studying abroad and traveling has definitely made me more confident in my ability to make decisions and problem solve without another person around. I am also much more aware of how my words and actions impact other people, as I was a direct representation of America to all of the travelers I met along the way. These are just a few things that I have learned in my time abroad, among so many other things. I look forward to my future travels and all that I will continue to learn along the way.

Thanks Audra!

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Topics: Interviews, Florence, Italy