Carolyn O’Brien, Lindsay Howland and Aidan Bennett all waited in much anticipation to receive an email from the Fairfield University study abroad office on Feb. 1. These three sophomores were about to find out where they were accepted, if at all, to study abroad in the fall or spring of the 2020-21 academic year. 

The Fairfield University study abroad programs are most popular amongst sophomores, applying in the midst of their fall semester, for either the fall or spring of junior year. O’Brien, Howland and Bennett all applied for different programs, but are ultimately happy with where they ended up. 

The process itself can be quite rigorous, requiring about 15 different steps depending on the program. Every Fairfield sponsored program needs two letters of recommendation submitted with the application, as well as a series of essays. But settling on one of the locations can be half the battle. 

“My advice would be to do as much research as possible and don’t be afraid to ask upperclassmen for advice,” said Bennett. “When you first make your study abroad account, be sure to explore as much as possible because there are so many programs that end up hidden.”

Bennett will be going to Fairfield’s program in Florence, Italy, for the spring of 2021. She has always loved Europe and wants to study abroad during college since it’s one of the few times she will be able to travel for that long of a period of time. 

She is also in the process of getting a fashion internship while there. As an international business major, it would be an absolute dream for her. 

“Something like that just seems like a super cool experience and a great opportunity for me to learn more about global markets,” Bennett said. “It will definitely add to my resume and make me stand out which I’m also very excited about.” 

Fairfield is one of the few schools to provide this option as easily as it does. Fairfield students have the option to either take 4 classes or 5 classes and participate in an internship abroad. 

“I hope to gain a lot of new perspectives and knowledge that I can’t in the states,” said O’Brien. 

O’Brien will be going to Fairfield’s program in Barcelona, Spain, in the spring of 2021. The program is nomination-only and O’Brien is thrilled to be able to have the experience. 

“I hope to not only learn in a traditional sense in my classes, but also about the culture of Spain while bettering my Spanish,” O’Brien said. “It will be interesting to work in a completely different environment with new people.” 

Programs such as these are what make Fairfield itself so unique. The most popular options include Italy, Spain, England, Australia, Ireland and France, some of which clearly have a language barrier. 

Some of the programs offered are homestays, too. For some, that can pose as an extra challenge, changing a student’s mind about going to that location. Language barriers are unavoidable in some cases, which is why Fairfield does its best to provide classes for its students in English, especially in Florence. 

Florence is the most popular program, with over 100 students in attendance every year. It was not an easy decision for Fairfield to bring the students home due to the global pandemic. All Fairfield students have been home since March 11. 

Programs coming up are starting to be affected as well. Summer programs have all been cancelled since February or March, and certain programs scheduled for the fall have been pushed back at least a month, cutting students’ time abroad short. 

Howland was originally accepted to study abroad in Florence for the fall of 2020. With everything going on, and once the dates got pushed back, she decided to look into other programs for the spring to see if there were better options for her.

“Initially I was very upset about the setbacks, considering I was already worried if it was even going to run,” said Howland. “As more information was being shared, it confirmed my gut instinct that Florence wasn’t going to happen for me.”

Howland is now going to Sydney, Australia, in the spring of 2021. It is a change from Florence, but she is still thrilled to be going.

“Sydney was one of my potential backups since I wanted to be in a place that had a city feeling, and London was full for the spring,” said Howland. “I’ve been there before, but there’s a lot more for me to see, and I know there’s even more things I didn’t get to see the first time.”

Howland has a happy ending story with study abroad, but there are still students who plan on going for the shortened portion in the fall.

Finances are extremely important when it comes to studying abroad. There are many things that students forget they will have to pay for out of pocket compared to attending the semester at Fairfield, even though scholarships carry over.

The plane tickets themselves can be quite costly, as Fairfield requires students to purchase them through a specific agency, not allowing them to use miles for cheaper prices. 

“Think about money for the whole process, because it does get expensive fast,” said Howland. 

One thing all three women mentioned was coordinating travel plans with friends. 

“Don’t plan where you go based off of your friends,” said Howland. “Make sure that you go to a place you really want to explore.” 

Bennett said this is the only time in her life she can travel as much as possible, and she wants to take advantage of it.

 “We’re already paying so much to go, so it’s important to choose a location you actually want to be able to explore,” she said. 

Not every student wants to study abroad at first either, but the resources Fairfield provides definitely clear up a lot of hesitations and worries. 

“In all honesty I didn’t even want to study abroad when I first got to college,” O’Brien said. 

“I didn’t want to be away from my family in Connecticut or Massachusetts, but after researching my program I realized it was a great fit and an exciting opportunity I could not pass up.”

All three young women are looking forward to their different journeys abroad and cannot wait to be back on campus in the fall. With all of the negativity in the world right now due to COVID-19, this is certainly something keeping these Fairfield students’ spirits up. 

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