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Lauren’s AUR experience began and ended with music. She first came to Rome one year before starting at AUR through an opportunity to take part in a competition showcasing her talent as an opera singer. The Eternal City struck a chord with her and she made a vow to return. Hearing stories of students from her home state of California studying at American universities abroad, Lauren began researching institutions in Italy, and came across The American University of Rome. Immediately drawn to AUR, she sent in her application as quickly as she could and, one year on from her opera experience in Rome, she returned to study – and her vow was fulfilled!
Music also played an important part in the conclusion of Lauren’s time as an AUR student. A true ray of light that shone through the challenges of the first lockdown was the simultaneously joyful and moving display of heart in Italy, when across the country people took to their balconies, windows, and gardens to lift each other’s spirits with music. The AUR community was stunned by a video of Lauren delivering a breathtaking rendition of “O mio babbino caro” to her very lucky neighbors, and soon people all over the world were stunned by the video too as it was rapidly shared across social media. Although the performance wasn’t planned (hence her outfit of pajamas and a dressing down in the video), the setup was perfect: it was her final night in Rome, there was a beautiful sunset lighting up the sky, and music was drifting through the apartment from neighbouring buildings. Lauren told us how she was quite literally pushed into the performance by her roommate who saw this perfect setting, turned on the speaker, and pushed Lauren to stand by the window to begin singing along to the music. Lauren gave a shoutout to the girls (from AUR's Class of 2021) who encouraged her and made the viral success happen: "I would like to add that Isis Gardner took the video of me singing on the balcony. She, Drew Simpson and I were roommates and dearest friends that keep in touch, everyday."
Not only did the performance bring Lauren closer to the AUR community, it also resulted in people from across the globe reaching out to Lauren to tell her how it had moved them. She therefore counts this as a highlight of her time as an AUR student, and as something that turned an incredibly difficult time into something more positive and hopeful.
Reflecting on the experience of completing her degree and graduating under lockdown, it was agreed that the defining characteristic of the Class of 2020 is resilience. Although the pandemic denied our students the special experience of the Commencement ceremony at Villa Aurelia surrounded by friends and family, for Lauren the virtual ceremony went a long way in making up for it. She celebrated with her family at home, and the virtual ceremony made her feel that she and her classmates were not thousands of miles apart, but just in the next room. The challenges they faced brought them closer together, and she is certain that the friendships forged at AUR will endure.
When asked to articulate the most valuable thing that her time at AUR taught her, the answer Lauren gave made it clear that living and studying in Rome was transformative for her. She told us that her worldview was much smaller before going abroad, and coming to Rome widened her horizons. While adjusting to her new life in Rome and to the unfamiliar culture in which she found herself took some time, she persevered by reminding herself that the challenges of settling would pass and give way to exciting opportunities and new experiences – and they certainly did. She made an effort to integrate not only into the AUR community but into the local neighborhood of Monteverde, which in turn increased her appreciation for the Eternal City: “Rome is more than its landmarks. It’s the charming neighborhoods that make it whole.” Lauren also credits Rome with encouraging her to slow down and be more aware and appreciative of her surroundings in the moment, and it is a mentality that she has kept with her since returning to the U.S..
This mentality is something she would encourage current students to adopt. “Take your time”, she urges. “Immerse yourself in the community and make an effort to integrate”. She also recommends traveling within Italy as much as possible: while enticing destinations throughout Europe are easy to reach when in Rome, Italy has so much to offer and its regions are so diverse that even a year wouldn’t be enough to cover it all (we wholeheartedly agree).
Looking ahead to when travel becomes possible once more, we asked Lauren what her first stop will be when she makes it back to Rome and (with no pressure from us) she promised that she will head straight to the campus, perhaps with one quick stop at Archi Bar for a coffee on the way. We hope to see her back in the AUR garden sooner rather than later!
A few months on from our interview, we checked in with Lauren and she updated us on her current projects and future plans:
"I am currently residing back in my hometown of Laguna Beach, CA on lockdown. However, I am doing lots of writing as freelance writer and editor for local and online publications. In addition, different news outlets such as Walt Disney's ABC7 network LA continue to interview me upon my success of the viral video reach and my future endeavors in music and journalism."
Click here to watch Lauren being interviewed on ABC LA's Morning Show.
As for the future, ideally I would love to acquire work as soon as possible. Particularly, in Music, Digital Marketing, and Journalism. If I could choose the location, it would be Rome or Milano! When theater houses reopen, I hope to audition for opera house auditions of young artist programs to continue in perfecting my craft of classical singing. I am eager for the stages to reopen and for the arts to have essentially, a "rebirth." Moreover, I am hoping to make my way back to Europe somehow to return the pursuit of my artistic endeavors; when of course, it is safer to do so."