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Villa Aurora College in Florence, Italy is a historic school dating back to the 1940’s. This school became a place of refuge for many people during a time of war and hostility among the fascist movement. Since then, generations of students from all over the world have come to Villa Aurora College forming friendships, pursuing educational goals, and growing in their faith.

The campus is tucked away on a hill just 10 minutes from downtown Florence. The architectural beauty dates back to the 14th century. The dormitory used to be a castle and, to this day, school leaders have preserved most of its original form. The campus offers plenty of space for the students to enjoy the property and many olive trees.   

This study abroad program is usually popular among American students. In past years, enrollment was so high that they had to deny applications. Many students want to come to this college because of the trips planned in the academic school year. Villa Aurora College takes the students to visit over twenty places around Italy. This year, only nine American students came.

The government in Italy has shut down most abroad programs and schools. Villa Aurora College has continued to stay open while other schools are shutting down. Antonietta Riviello, the director of the study abroad program said “Here in Italy and all over Europe, programs were canceled. For us too, it was a surprise.”

While they were surprised to continue in person learning, the school discovered that some government regulations do not apply to them. Villa Aurora College is seen as a community rather than just a place of study. Everyone lives, eats, and gathers together under one roof. Riviello said “The public schools are closed because the students and the teachers go home so they cannot check what they are doing while they are home and living their life.”

Even with close contact all day, this college is COVID-19 free. “We are like a big family so it is hard to keep the distance,” said Riviello. However, the school has implemented social distancing rules to keep their campus safe. Students are asked to maintain a distance of one meter and to wear their mask in class and during social gatherings.

Although student enrollment is at its lowest, Riviello said “We were ready to welcome just one student.” Their goal is to provide each student with a year of rich cultural experiences no matter what the number is. Having nine students was more than what they had anticipated.  

The school hopes enrollment will return to its regular numbers the following year. They cannot continue to survive on just a few students. Registrations is open for the 2021-2022 school year and they are encouraging students to apply early. Those interested can visit the Adventist Colleges Abroad website and register for their program starting in the fall.