Roads to Rome

Study abroad leads to post-graduation internships in Rome for UR seniors

May 2, 2011

Study abroad shaped Fred Shaia’s, ’11, (above right) college career. In fact, it shaped his future.

A summer class trip to Peru convinced him to major in political science. Shaia, who also has minors in journalism and Latin American and Iberian studies, says the trip “took us well outside the classroom and opened our eyes to so many things. It inspired me to want to travel after graduation and continue learning about different cultures and seeing different places.”

The Richmond-area native, who also studied abroad for a semester in Spain (he blogged about the experience), will build on his passion for new cultures when he starts an internship in Rome this August. He will be working with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, specifically with U.N. agencies based in Rome, like the World Food Program and the Food and Agricultural Organization.

“It’s basically a public diplomacy internship,” he explains. “I’m going to be dealing with a lot of policy issues relating to food security, rural poverty and the law of developing nations.”

Shaia also will put to use the communications skills he has developed at The Collegian, the University’s student-run newspaper, for which he served as online managing editor. He will assist the U.N. agencies with online content management, media relations and social media.

While his journalism and political science background no doubt helped him stand out in the application process, Shaia thinks it was his experience abroad that helped him get his first choice for the internship.

“They like people who have had some cultural experiences in the past — they know we can adapt to different situations,” he says. “It really helps you become more independent, more flexible, more adaptable.”

Shaia’s move across the world is a big one, but his roommate of four years, Philip Garrity, ’11, (above left) will be right there with him. The state department offered Garrity an internship through the same program.

“We both applied at the exact same time — we were sitting next to each other at computers,” says Garrity. “We never thought one of us would get it, let alone both.”

Garrity will work at the economic council of the U.S. Embassy in Rome from September to December, if all goes well with the security clearance process.

Eventually, he would like to work for the U.S. government, doing something related to foreign affairs or global economics. “I’m hoping [this internship] will open up opportunities in the future,” he says.

Garrity, originally from outside of New York City, is an economics major with minors in studio art and Italian studies. While in Richmond, he took advantage of the University’s international campus, serving in a leadership role with the Italian Language and Culture Club and as co-president of the Model U.N. team. He also studied abroad twice in Italy — one summer month in Ravenna and a semester in Verona.

“Everyone should study abroad. You see the world,” Garrity says. “It’s so important to open your mind.”