On Feb. 16, staff from the American Institute for Foreign Studies  (AIFS) hosted an event with alumni of the AIFS program focused on maintaining healthy habits, mentally and physically, while abroad. 

AIFS is one of the leading third-party abroad programs in the world, offering programs for students in both college and high school, according to the AIFS website.

The University of Rhode Island has partnered with the AIFS for many years. This is due to the variety of options available with the AIFS program which are more open to any students whereas some URI Abroad programs are exclusively for certain majors, according to URI’s Office of  International Education. Through the program, students have been able to travel to Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. 

When discussing abroad possibilities with fellow students, some mentioned that they were hesitant to study abroad because of the lifestyle changes and fear that it will be hard to stay healthy while abroad. AIFS hosted this event to assure students that there are plenty of opportunities to take care of your body in other countries. 

Students took advantage of the markets that are common in many European countries as a way to find fresh and healthy food. This can be very beneficial to students who have specific dietary restrictions or follow certain eating styles, like veganism. Students said that they have integrated many of the healthy habits they picked up while abroad into their routines in the United States. 

Many of the cities that students traveled to in Europe had a walking-based culture that they embraced. Some students walked multiple miles a day as a way to further explore the cities they were living in.

While abroad students can also find many opportunities for physical activity embedded in their campus amenities or close to their homes.

“Multiple of our host universities have gyms and athletic facilities that are open to use for abroad students,” Angela Manginelli, an AIFS staff member, said. “A highlight for many students is that a host university in Greece has a large pool which the students use frequently.”

Students who are studying in other countries are also able to find a way to stay physically fit if their host universities do not offer these same facilities.

 Sadie MacKinnon, one of the program alums, said she decided to take dance classes at a studio nearby her housing while she was studying abroad in Berlin, Germany. 

“The studio, as well as many other facilities in the area, offered student discounts which made fitness a lot more accessible,” MacKinnon said.

Alexis Voisard, another AIFS alum, recommended that students be conscious of spreading themselves too thin. She recollected that there were many experiences for students studying abroad, but not enough time to do them all. She advised students to take a day to focus on themselves when needed. 

Voisard additionally said that her time abroad has helped her gain confidence as she overcame culture and language barriers. 

AIFS is hosting programs that are available to students in the upcoming fall as well as next spring. They currently have students abroad following their host countries’ guidelines. The website provides up-to-date information on the reopening plan for the program as well as the most recent updates from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. 

A few students dealt with the effects of the virus directly as it developed in Europe last spring. 

Hayley Martinez, a student who was in Barcelona at the time, said that AIFS was very helpful when it became quickly apparent that the American students would need to come back to the United States as soon as possible. 

“AIFS helped me change my flight and even arranged transportation to the airport for me, which put a lot of stress off of me and my parents,” Martinez said.

The students said that studying abroad was one of the best decisions they have made in their lives and would recommend it to any student who can go.