Meet Study Abroad Student Emma Pierce

Originally from Rifle, Colorado, Emma Pierce studied abroad at JCU in Spring 2024. She is currently a junior at American University (AU) in Washington, D.C., majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and minoring in Justice. While at JCU, Emma did a for-credit internship with the Web Communications Office.

Why did you decide to study abroad in Rome?
AU offers great options to study abroad, and JCU had the best classes for my major. I liked that JCU was an American university, with familiar teaching methods and class structure. I had never been to Italy before, and I was interested in the history and culture. Also, Italy was the warmest country out of all my options for studying abroad and the easiest to travel out of.

Emma Pierce
Emma Pierce

Why did you decide to pursue a for-credit internship and what did it entail?
I got an internship with the Web Communications office through the JCU Center for Career Services, which helped me edit my resume and then sent me some options based on my major and past experiences. I am a staff writer and photographer for AU’s magazine, AWOL, so the internship with Web Communications looked perfect. As part of the internship, I interviewed students, staff, alumni, and faculty and wrote testimonials; took photographs for different events; and updated the JCU website as requested. I learned a lot about how updating websites works and improved my skills in interviewing and taking pictures.

What is your best study abroad story?
In March, some friends of mine from AU were visiting during their spring break. We took a day trip to Florence via a four-and-a-half-hour FlixBus that had us in Florence from about 11 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. We were able to see a lot of the city and had a great trip by the time we headed back to the bus station. However, the bus was late and showed up at the same time as another bus, which we were in line for, because we thought it was ours. By the time we realized it wasn’t, the actual bus we were supposed to be on had left. 10 of us were stranded, with six strangers and my group of four. Out of the six others, there were two girls from Greece, a family of three from Argentina, and one girl from Spain.

We didn’t get on another bus until around 2 a.m., and although there were rough moments, it was also a good time. We sat around a table outside getting to know each other in three different languages, sharing blankets, drinking vending machine coffee, splitting portable chargers, and figuring out how to get on a different bus back to Rome. It showed me that you can’t always control what is going to happen, but you can make whatever does happen fun.

What did you learn about yourself from studying abroad?
Something important I learned about myself is that I enjoy my own company. Before studying abroad, I had gotten used to constantly being around other people and always having a familiar face nearby. Traveling halfway across the world completely alone forced me to do some things by myself, and I realized that I could still have fun, even without the company of a friend. I learned the value of solo traveling and being able to meet new people on my own terms. It taught me how to rely on myself, and once I learned how to do that, everything surrounding traveling and studying abroad was much less scary.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying abroad?
To get to know Rome as well as travel around. Visiting new places is great, and studying abroad is a perfect opportunity to do so, but Rome is also an incredible city. Trastevere alone is a great area with interesting people to meet, good food to eat, and fun times to be had. I’ve loved being able to spend nearly four months exploring and getting to know the city, from late-night bars to early-morning runs. I would tell anyone considering studying abroad, whether in Rome or anywhere else, to not only focus on their travels but also the city they’re staying in.

What are your plans for the future? 
I’m going to spend the summer in Long Beach, California, before finishing my last year at American University. I’m hoping to get an internship with the D.C. Public Defender’s office next semester, and I was recently promoted to the Staff Editor position at AWOL, so that’s where I’ll be spending most of my time. After I graduate, I plan to take a few years off to work before going to law school and becoming a Public Defender. That said, life is unpredictable, so who knows where I’ll end up?