Rebecca's Study Abroad Story

Study abroad is for me because...

I wanted to get the experience of going out into the world by myself.

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Rebecca's Story

For a while, Rebecca Heftel didn’t think it would be possible for her to study abroad.

“It sounds like a pipe dream to many, many, many non-traditional students,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca is a part-time student working towards a degree in English. She works in the Anthropology Department and also has a daughter who is a third-year student at Miami.

Before studying abroad, Rebecca had to take several things into consideration, such as finances and vacation time from work.

“As a non-traditional student, it was a little bit more difficult because … it’s not just a matter of picking a program you want to go to. It’s a lot more thought into it and a lot more planning.”

However, Rebecca was able to travel to Italy with Miami’s Florence: Visions and Contrasts program this past winter term, with some careful planning and the help of the Gilman and other scholarships to help fund the trip.

One of the classes she took there was a course on Italian Film, which opened her eyes to a side of Italy she wasn’t aware of before.

“I had absolutely no idea going into the class that the Italian film industry was as big as it was,” Rebecca said. “And it was very intriguing to learn about that, and we screened some really really good films. We also screened some not so good films, but the ones that were good were really good. I had no idea they even existed.”

She also took a class that included keeping a travel blog about her experiences—something she had never done before, but enjoyed it to a point that it made her reconsider her post-graduate career path.

“I got some very strong encouragement saying, ‘You know you’ve got a voice here that isn’t really one that is prevalent in this type of situation, and you might want to think about this,’” Rebecca said. “So I started thinking, ‘You know it wasn’t really what I was thinking about doing, but I really enjoyed it, you know kind of putting my spin on the experiences.’” 

One of the experiences she wrote about was a tour around Montepulciano, a walled city in Italy with historical roots and lots of hills.

“Despite the fact that I really, really wore out my legs, that was one of the topics of my blog is how to get a workout while walking around Italy,” Rebecca said. “It was the hiking up and down those streets through the cobblestones...It was just a really neat visit to say the least. I think that was my favorite part of the whole trip.”

During her time abroad, Rebecca got to experience much of what Florence has to offer and hopes to return some day.

“The food was incredible; that was to be expected, though, from Italy,” Rebecca said. “The history and just the places that you saw were unlike anything you could get in the United States. I mean we were in buildings that were built in the 1400s.”

The study abroad program also gave her the confidence to step out of her comfort zone in the future. 

“To me, it was a lesson that I can do this,” Rebecca said. “I can go out by myself and do these types of trips for the future if I wanted to.”

Though it took some careful and thorough planning, Rebecca is glad that she took the steps to make her study abroad experience a reality.

“It was worth every sacrifice and everything that I did for it,” Rebecca said.

About Rebecca

Rebecca Helfel headshot


Hamilton, Ohio 

Graduation Year





Visions and Contrast in Italy

Favorite Class or Professor Abroad

ENG 310 with Dr. Palmeri, as this was the first time she had done this style of writing

Favorite Destination Outside of the Classroom

Peinza, Italy

Campus Involvement

Miami staff member and student and advisor to Premiere League Soccer Viewing Club

Involved with the Native American Student Association and PRIDE group on the Hamilton campus