When asked what life is like in Italy, Ilaria says, “Beautiful, it’s my birthplace and home of all my family and friends.” This contrasts sharply with her first experiences in America. Ilaria came as an exchange student pursuing her PhD late in 2021. “At first only bad things happened,” she said. “It was a shock, and so difficult that it was like I forgot God. I thought that no one could help me.”

Ilaria struggled for several months before she was referred to IFI. Soon after hearing about it, she was invited to the home of Xia, a staff member of IFI, for a bible discussion group. Ilaria remembers walking into the house and noticing a map hung on the wall. Xia explained that the countries were marked for every student that had visited her home. Italy had not yet been scratched off. When Xia asked Ilaria to do the honors, Ilaria said it was the first time she felt safe. “I felt like I could trust these people and ask them for whatever I needed,” Ilaria smiles.

“I felt like I could trust these people and ask them for whatever I needed.”

Despite the rough start, Ilaria says she can now say that her experience in America is also beautiful because of how it allowed her to grow and meet new people. “Finally I understand the necessity to have God in my life. I think I will bring with me back to Italy all the people that I met and also all the teachings that I learned. These experiences changed me for the better!”