I called Rory Westerman from Rome and he answered in Belfast, Ireland. His cheery demeanor stood out to me as soon as we began chatting. We shared complaints about the restrictions of Covid and the limits of Zoom, but he had only good things to say about the American University of Rome. "I can only think of positive things," he said. During his four years at the university, Rory studied communications and followed the writing track in the major. Having grown up between the Netherlands and Rome, the city was certainly not foreign to him, but he still captured every opportunity for experience throughout his years of study.
Rory agreed that the relaxed chaos of Rome is energizing, especially to a student in his twenties. He lived in an apartment in Trastevere where he was able to enjoy the frequent company of his friends. He noted that the area acts better than others as a hiding place from the eyes of hungry tourists. He recalled that he could easily practice Italian with the locals and enjoy a variety of small, family-owned restaurants. Trastevere runs along the bottom of Gianicolo, the green hill that AUR sits upon. Rory often rode his motorino up and down the hill to school and home again. He remembered fondly the chances that he got to "take Rome in," especially as part of the communications curriculum.
Many of the classes that Rory recalled reflected AUR's mantra: "Rome is your classroom." Classes like Food Writing, Roman Sketchbook, and film courses granted him creative freedom to explore Rome through his work, as did the for-credit field trips. For Rory, the school-sponsored travel was a particularly inspiring opportunity. He visited the UN headquarters of Geneva, Switzerland, and was a member of an international-relations-focused Harvard Model United Nations experience.
"The individual attention that you get is not something you get in other universities."
Rory's contribution to AUR didn't end with his school day; he was also a player for the AUR wolves football team, a student assistant to the administrative department, editor to Remus, Mr. AUR 2011, and a member of the student government under Advisor Stefano Stoppaccioli. He laughed cheerfully when he told me about a particular project he was a part of for a TV commercial course: He starred in a mock Gillette commercial. When Rory was admitted to AUR, he was determined to soak up the experience. It paid off. He got to enjoy the benefits of the university's small student body: a close-knit community and attentive professors. He noted his surprise during his first semester of attendance that professors were willing to talk outside of school hours to advise on education and career goals. "The individual attention that you get is not something you get in other universities," Rory added, and he still keeps in touch with some of his AUR professors. He appreciated the individualized criticism and unique advice on his classwork. He mentioned that working with Professor Colletta for his capstone, the creation of a children's book, had been an enlightening collaboration, one that inspired his current writing passions. And about relationships with classmates, Rory said, "You tend to create longer-lasting bonds with people." This environment, Rory noted, encouraged him to continue his exploration in communications. He still takes interest in writing and enjoys being of service to people in need through his work.
After graduation, the alumnus continued to explore in the US and in Australia. Later, he worked as a communications manager at a fashion company, as a business consultant for GoDaddy, and as a recruiter for a company called Concentrix. Now he works from home, as most of us do, as a talent recruiter through Alexander Mann Solutions for a pharmaceutical company, MSD. About his current work, he says, "Who knows, I may have hired someone who had a big impact on finding a vaccine." Rory is currently considering publication of his children's story titled Petit Henry, inspired by his youngest nephew and the "global," or international family he has. To prospective students of the American University of Rome, Rory gave three words of advice: "Go for it."