Whether it is studying among the riches of art and architecture in Italy, learning how to surf in Australia, speaking bits of Gaelic in Ireland or dining on traditional Hungarian goulash in the Czech Republic, Fairfield University’s extensive study abroad program has exposed students to countless new eye-opening experiences across the globe.

When Christie La Russo ’06 studied abroad in Florence last semester, she never imagined how much fun she would have.

“I spent my best day abroad in Capri, renting a boat with some Fairfield friends,” she said. “We got to explore the island by ourselves and swim around for hours. I’ll never forget that.”

Although obviously temporary, the lifestyle of students studying abroad seems much more relaxed compared to the average hectic Fairfield schedule.

Katherine O’Neill ’06 spent a semester in London, where she said the class load was much lighter than her usual business curriculum at Fairfield.

“It was extremely different from studying here at Fairfield,” she said. “We studied at Regent’s Park which is in the northern part of central London and classes only met two times a week.”

Many times, class was not even held within the walls of the University. Field trips throughout the city were required by several of her classes, so O’Neill was able to explore London for free.

“I got to sightsee in London basically for free because everything was paid for by the college,” O’Neill said. “These sites included the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, Parliament and many more.”

For many students, living in a foreign country offers the opportunity for reflection and self-exploration.

Jocelyn Collen ’06 studied in Italy, and she says her experience opened her eyes to the world around her.

“Studying abroad made me realize things about myself, my country and Europe. I realize how sheltered I would have been if I only stayed on the East Coast of the U.S.A. for the rest of my life,” she said.

Collen also learned to appreciate different ways of living.

“The Italians are a very loving group of people,” Collen said. “They have this outward way about them that is attractive and captivates you. Once you learn to understand the Italians, you appreciate all that they stand for.”

Shannon Cummings ’06 was perhaps more adventurous in her choice of Prague, the “City of a Thousand Steeples,” where beer was cheaper than water. She describes her choice as one that enabled her to break away from the typical Fairfield crowd.

“I chose to study in Prague because I knew it would be a totally different and less sheltered experience than my friends who chose to study in say, Galway or Florence,” Cummings said.

Living in a place where there were fewer familiar faces, Cummings was forced to expand her social horizons.

“Instead of spending the night in an Irish pub with my roommates from Fairfield, I was out dancing to Czech techno and drinking absinthe (wormwood and herbal flavor liquor),” Cummings said.

In addition to a more remote destination, Prague had other benefits, according to Cummings.

“One big highlight and huge difference from our own country is that beer (“pivo” in Czech) costs less than water in the restaurant. Served in half liters, it averaged out to be about 50 cents a glass,” she said.

Cummings summarized her semester in Prague as “by far the best experience of my college career.”

From these students’ experiences and so many other students’ accounts of life in other countries, the chance to study abroad appears to be a fulfilling opportunity. It is one that gives students the chance to see another part of the world, meet new people, perhaps learn a new language, become more independent and open and lastly, encourage personal growth.

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