Fairfield’s Office of Study Abroad attempts to push students beyond their comfort zones to experience new cultures and embrace educational opportunities in foreign countries. While it sounds like a smooth and easy transition, many students report several hardships involved in both the pre-study abroad process, as well as when they are abroad.
Issues regarding pre-study abroad seemed to primarily focus on complications with registering for classes. Students reported it is very difficult to schedule your classes, especially given that certain courses in other countries will not meet your core requirements for Fairfield. That is why the planning stage, for some, begins as early as their freshman year.
Freshman Gabriella Prignano shared that she is “excited to study abroad.” However, she stated, “I’m not quite sure which classes I will be taking when I go. It is a little daunting since I am undeclared, but I think that the core classes will help me a lot.”
Senior Bobbi Shortell, who studied in Brisbane, Australia, remarked on the planning stage for studying abroad: “I would take time to make sure that you study someplace that is right for your major and interests. You don’t want to be stuck taking a class you don’t like your senior year because you are making up for the class you didn’t think ahead for. To add to that, other countries are more suiting for your major than others.”
Shortell addresses the fact that certain study abroad locations will offer more courses for your intended major than others.
Sophomore Justine Ferrara is currently dealing with scheduling issues this year. “I have already done a lot of my core courses, so it is stressful to be planning a semester [abroad] with all upper level major courses.”
Senior Christopher Dunleavy, who studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, cautions, “Be mindful of your academics. Make sure you will still be on par [to graduate] if you go abroad, and double check everything everyone tells you. The Office of Study Abroad deals with so many students that they’re bound to make mistakes.”
Additionally, a more major-specific problem seems to hinder nursing students, whose necessary clinical rotations limit them to only select study abroad locations during the school year. Senior Lindsay Klemm explained some of these challenges. She noted as well that nursing students can only study abroad for the semester in Galway, Ireland or Brisbane, Australia.
“From a nursing standpoint, we did have to take a summer course when we returned from studying abroad. The course was medical surgical nursing. This semester we had to take an extra clinical rotation and I admit the coursework is a lot,” said Klemm. The issues regarding course structure seem to be paramount in the eyes of students preparing to study abroad, as well as those who have already experienced the process. The complications of study abroad seem to continue in various ways, however, when students finally embark on their journeys.
From pickpocketing, to language barriers, to financial burden, students reported many issues during their experience. “Be prepared to spend more than what you budgeted for. Also, don’t trust anyone. I got my camera swiped in Rome and lost over 1,000 pictures,” Dunleavy noted.
Senior Maeve Conley also experienced a few issues on her study abroad trip in Aix-en-Provence, France. “Logistically I should have gotten an international credit/debit card. That was kind of a struggle. I went to France and my French wasn’t that strong. I was with a host mother, who only spoke French, so the first week or so was a hard adjustment.
Regardless of their complications, both Dunleavy and Conley shared no regrets for studying abroad. Dunleavy remarked that the experience was, “out of this world,” while Conley added that she “would study abroad again 100 thousand times.”
Nicole M. Moffa, program coordinator for the Office of Study Abroad, said she noticed that most students she has seen who have experienced trouble while studying abroad are subject to “a minor culture shock,” which she considers part of the experience as, “an opportunity [for students] to explore themselves as well as their new environment.”
The memorable nature of both the complications and the payouts seem to attribute all study abroad students for their lives after their trips, and after their total Fairfield experience.
Fairfield alumnus Samantha Palazzi ’13 expressed her complications in travelling overseas when recollecting her study abroad experience in Florence, Italy, which mostly stemmed from “not having an iPhone, and having to figure out where to go with a map in a city where nobody speaks your language.”
However she continued that “the food, the people, the classes I took and places I traveled, were unforgettable.”
Moffa noted that at the end of their four years, seniors are asked to participate in a student survey, in which they list their top regrets and best experiences at Fairfield. According to Moffa, studying abroad almost always lands in both the top three regrets if they did not study abroad, as well as the top three best experiences overall for graduating seniors recalling their four years.
For students interested in studying abroad, applications will open in mid-November. All applications for the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 will be due on Feb. 1.