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By Matteo Travers, Community Manager

We interviewed Aurora Till, Verto Alumna (Fiji, Spring 2021 and Florence, Fall 2021) to hear about her life after Verto. Aurora is currently studying at the American University of Rome, one of Verto’s Direct Transfer Partner Colleges.

Matteo: Tell me a little bit about your path to Verto. Why did you choose to start college with Verto? Where did you study when you were with Verto? And then what were some of the highlights of your experience?

Aurora: I graduated from Palmer High School in Palmer, Alaska, in 2020, which was just a very crazy time for the world. And initially, my first pick was the University of Utah, but I got rejected from there.

I was scrolling through my Instagram, and then an ad came up, and it said something about studying in Fiji. So I put in my contact information, and then a few days later, somebody from Verto contacted me, telling me about the program. So I talked to my parents, and after finding out more about the company, we all kind of decided that this is something that I should and could pursue. And, yeah, it kind of all started from there.

That following spring of 2021, I participated in the Verto experience in Fiji, which was just an amazing experience. Getting to see different islands of Fiji with the Verto staff and my professors was incredible, which led me to want to continue traveling. So I contacted my Verto counselor to sign up for another experience and I chose Florence, Italy. Something in my heart said that, and now I’m here.

In Florence, when I was surrounded by all of my classes going for art history, going to museums, for astronomy, going to different viewpoints in the city to look at planets, it was a very immersive experience, which I feel like led me to discover those passions within myself.

I also did language exchange in Florence, and that was like, my first grasp of the language. Learning a new language was very intimidating at first, but now I’m doing pretty good. And it’s just like watching that growth from then in Florence sitting at a coffee table with strangers to now being able to actually communicate in the language is really cool.

Matteo: How did your experience at Verto shape your post-Verto plans? Where and what are you studying now? 

Aurora: Going into Florence, I had no idea what exactly I wanted to study or what I wanted to do. My Student Life Coordinator Marissa helped me a lot to discover what I wanted to study, because initially going into college, I thought about political science and law. I met several times with Marissa, who had studied cultural heritage in Florence, and that really drew my interest. We also got talking about the travel and tourism industry, and then that kind of really just set what I wanted to do.  Meeting with Marissa and then discovering what I was passionate about and something that would be really good for me in a career led me to think of a sphere that I wanted to study.

And then when my Verto experience was coming to an end, I was kind of like, okay, well, now I know what I want to study. And that’s how I found the American University of Rome (AUR) in Italy because they have an amazing cultural heritage and tourism program, which was literally exactly what I wanted to study. Plus, it was very similar to Verto, being very experiential and hands-on, with small class sizes, which really suited me as a learner. 

Matteo: What are your thoughts on the American University of Rome being one of Verto’s newest Direct Transfer Partners?

Aurora: I think that is just so exciting. When I transferred to AUR, they took all of my Verto credits and I started as a sophomore. At AUR they say that Rome is our classroom, so for a lot of my classes, I get to be out and about, which is really cool and something that is hard to find, I feel like, in a university.  

And I feel like being here, especially at AUR, we have over 60 nationalities represented on campus. It’s a super diverse and global space, which is what I always wanted.  I feel like I have something to learn from everybody here, inside and outside the classroom. 

Starting with Verto and transferring to AUR is almost the perfect thing because Verto gave me the confidence and tools to be able to be successful, and reassured me, especially after the pandemic, that I’m capable of being in academia. 

Although it has its struggles at times of just being a 19 year old living abroad, I think that it also gave me the courage just to take this leap and be in an international educational space, which is what I always wanted when I think about ever since even in middle school, I wanted to study abroad and travel the world.

Matteo: What’s next? What is your post-post-Verto plan? 

Aurora: Because I’m studying business and travel and tourism management, one of my dreams is to have my own alpine tourism business in Alaska because that’s where I was born and raised. And I’d love to connect the local cultural heritage to hiking experiences and maybe apply. I’ve learned a lot about farm to table tourism here in Rome and just in Italy in general. I’d love to bring that kind of tourism experience to Alaska. So I think one day I would like to own my own business, but maybe I’d probably have to get a job and get some experience first working in the tourism space.

Matteo: Thinking back on your experience, what do you most remember about the Verto Community? 

Aurora: I think in both of my semesters, I’d say that we were all alike in a lot of ways. Even though we all came from different parts of the United States, very different backgrounds and spaces, we all had one common denominator factor: that we all chose to do this experience, which I think really connected us all.

I’m still in such good contact with all of my friends that I had met from my Verto experiences and classes.

I think one thing that Verto really taught me and made me understand is the importance of having a global community. It’s just so cool having friends in Oregon and Florida and Maine and all of these different places around the US and South America of people that I can just call know if I’m ever around.

And it’s like, even though my Verto experience is over in a way, it’s not necessarily complete, because I’m always going to have that connection and ability to reach these people all over the world. And we shared this amazing experience abroad, and then that’s one thing that we’ll always be able to relate to between each other. Just last week I met somebody in Paris that was a Verto alum, and in two weeks I’m going to Florence, and there’s a girl that had done Verto Florence, and she still lives there.

I feel like I’m always going to have people that are there for me in different places, which is so cool.

Matteo: What advice would you give other Verto students who are considering staying abroad to finish their degree?

Aurora: I feel like it all comes down to a gut feeling. And if there’s something in your gut or your heart or your brain telling you that maybe you should continue this… do it! At first it’s kind of scary thinking about how your life will change and what this could mean moving away, maybe from your family and resources.

But I’d say if something’s really urging you and telling you just to really go for it, and if you have the resources to do so, I think that it can really change your life positively for the better. I think having a global community has been one of the most valuable things that has come from this for me.

Every day I wake up feeling very inspired in my space and where I am and what I’m learning. And it’s so different, but it’s just so amazing being able to be here, studying, learning, and making new friends.

Matteo: Anything else that you wanted to mention as part of your Where Are You Now spotlight? 

Aurora: I kind of feel sometimes that before I ever studied abroad or moved abroad, I didn’t really know myself. And through these very different worldly experiences, I feel like I’ve really found myself. And obviously I feel like living abroad matures you a lot as well. Cooking for yourself, visas, learning how the buses and trains work, that kind of thing. But I’d say that if you ever have the chance to be in an international space, whether that be studying, working, or volunteering to go for it, because I think there’s something that you can discover within yourself.

I’m so happy with my choice in where I am. I always tell people, I wish I could go back in time and hug the little person that I was in Florence, because she had no idea of what was going to come from that and the experiences that I had that I would have and that I’m still living. And it’s just every day, I think, gets, although it has its up and downs, it gets a little bit easier. And then I feel like my choice is just more reassured every day.

Yeah, it was my Roman Empire.

Matteo: And now you’re living in the Roman Empire. 

Aurora: Exactly. 

Want to see if a Verto start to college can work for you? Apply today to get started.