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Students share how Studying abroad changed their life

By Adam Levine

Editorial Staff


Elizbeth Walker caught the travel bug in high school when she traveled to England, where she would later return for college. 


Tim Reed said traveling abroad was overwhelming at first, but his first experience at independence provided him with life-long skills that will take him further than Italy.


Maddison Behringer said studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland enriched her global perspective. “I've also learned many valuable people skills from traveling and interacting with so many new people, especially in places like this,” she said.


Sofia Wilson, who studied abroad in Portugal and India, said that being able to connect more with her own culture and one so different from her own provided her with the opportunity to connect with people from all around the world.


All of these students, and more, had their lives changed by studying abroad through Framingham State’s Office of International Programs.


Study-abroad programs can take place during the fall, winter, spring, or summer terms and are for course credit, according to the University’s website.


Faculty-led study tours are opportunities that take place throughout the year and can last anywhere from one to three weeks. These study tours can count toward academic credit or can be “purely experiential learning opportunities,” according to the University’s website. 


Courtesy of Elizabeth Walker

Elizabeth Walker ’23


Walker traveled to England during the fall of 2021.


She said she studied at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England during her junior year, but she knew coming into FSU as a freshman she wanted to study abroad.


Walker said she traveled to London during her senior year of high school and caught the “travel bug.”


She said, “Studying abroad is such a unique opportunity that you're not really going to ever have again in life, so I was really interested in doing that in my undergrad career.”


Walker said she began planning for her trip during the Spring 2021 Semester.


She said she didn’t live on campus that semester and prepared for her abroad experience virtually.


Walker said the first step was applying to UEA. Once she was accepted, she began to fill out her paperwork.


She said the last step in her planning process was choosing her courses. She only took three courses instead of four because UEA and FSU have different credit systems.


Walker said she took an American voices class, a course titled “Empire and After: Globalizing English,” and a course titled “Language and Society.”


She added Language and Society was “probably my favorite class, or one of my favorite classes, I had in my undergraduate career.”


Walker said her classmates were mostly from the UK, but there was a large international study-abroad population at UAE.


She said she lived in a flat on campus with 10 other students, five of whom were international study-abroad students - none of whom were also from the United States.


“I feel like it sounds so cliché when people talk about studying abroad, but it truly was life-changing,” Walker added.


She added although living in a different environment was “daunting,” it was “personally rewarding.”


Walker said despite her hesitations caused by post-COVID-19 travel regulations, she traveled to the other countries in the UK.


She said she planned trips on her own to Edinburgh, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales; and Belfast, Northern Ireland.


Walker said her favorite memory of her semester abroad was from her trip to Edinburgh when she inadvertently experienced a ceremony for Armistice Day, which celebrates the end of World War I.


She said she saw military professionals dressed in kilts and a ceremony of people playing bagpipes.


Walker said it was unexpected, but “it all just lined up so perfectly.”


Courtesy of Tim Reed

Tim Reed ’24 

 

Reed studied abroad in Florence, Italy during the Spring 2023 Semester through Lorenzo de’ Medici (LdM) - The Italian International Institute.


Reed said he had a trip planned to Italy during his senior year of high school, which was canceled to COVID-19 restrictions.


He said Italy has always been a place he wanted to visit.


“I knew that studying abroad was something I was interested in,” Reed said. “I wanted to get worldly experience and see a lot of different things when I had the opportunity to - which during college is the best opportunity.”


Reed said he began the process of planning his semester abroad nearly a year and a half before he left.


He said his process began by going to the Office of International Programs to “get those ideas generated” about his semester.


“You have a lot of meetings throughout that period until you actually leave,” Reed said.


He said there are a lot of “moving pieces" and “it can definitely get overwhelming at certain points if you aren’t an organized person or if you don’t really have too much knowledge” about the forms involved.


He said the study abroad office helps you “piece by piece.


“They talk throughout everything - whether that be financials, the advising of classes, the transfer of credits, and just the overall experience of what to expect and how to prepare for it.


“I would say working with the office was very beneficial and very smooth,” Reed added.


He said, “The semester before, that’s when you start doing a lot more of the paperwork and the more logistical aspects of it.”


Reed added by the end of the semester before the trip, everything should be set up and “you’re ready to go.”


He said, “You just can’t do it all at the last second.”


Reed said when he was abroad, he gained a “new perspective on [his] environment - the things around you, the people around you, and your view of yourself.”


He said being abroad is very much about being on your own.


“You learn how to be independent and really push yourself out of [your] comfort zone,” Reed said. “I would say that's the biggest thing with study abroad - you're pushing yourself so far out of your comfort zone that when you return, it just turns you into a more developed and more well-equipped person.”


Reed said he tries to recommend studying abroad to his peers. “I sell it as much as I can.”


He added, “If someone is telling me about how they're thinking about it, I try to tell them to jump on it.


“For me, it's been probably the most important and best part of my college career so far because it's just a semester in a completely new place with new people. And you really learn about yourself,” Reed said.


Courtesy of Maddison Behringer

Maddison Behringer ’25


Behringer studied abroad during the Fall 2023 Semester in Dublin, Ireland, and London, England.


Behringer said she always wanted to travel abroad in college. “I wanted to make sure my college had a study-abroad program.”


She said her first step was attending the study-abroad fair her freshman year and beginning to have a conversation with the staff of the office.


Behringer said she chose to study abroad during her junior year because it worked out best with her workload in the Honors Program and with her major.


“I wanted to go to London because my friend who goes to a different university was also studying abroad and she wanted to go to London, so we kind of planned that together,” she said.


Behringer said, “The program I picked aligns well with my major and the courses would be easily transferable.”


She said she took “Media, Gender and Identity” and “Irish Culture, Society, and Identity" while in Dublin for the first six weeks of the semester and then took “Contemporary British Theatre" and “British Art History: The Golden Age” in London during the second half of the semester.


Behringer said “Media, Gender and Identity” and “Contemporary British Theatre" count toward her major, “Irish Culture, Society, and Identity" counts as a general education credit, and “British Art History: The Golden Age” counts as an elective.


She said there were no other students from FSU in her study-abroad program.


Behringer said, “I've learned a lot. I've been able to become a lot more independent.” 


She said she learned more about both of the cultures she’s experienced, especially Ireland’s deep history.


She added her favorite aspect of her study-abroad experience was the people she met.


“I've loved all the people I've met so far,” Behringer said. “I met some genuinely awesome people through my program.”


She said her favorite memory has been traveling to Howth, Ireland with a group of her friends.


Behringer said they went on a cliff walk and hike overlooking the ocean. “It was a beautiful view, and it was such a lovely day.”


Courtesy of Sophia Wilson

Sofia Wilson ’25


Wilson said she participated in both a faculty-led and a study-abroad program.


She said she participated in the 2023 J-term India trip and studied abroad in Portugal during the summer of 2023.


Lisa Eck, chair of the English Department, is the founder and co-leader of the India J-Term trip.


The India J-term trip is just one of many faculty-led trips offered at FSU, but it is the only program to run since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down study-abroad programs.


Eck most recently co-led the trip with Rachel Lucking, assistant dean for campus engagement, during the 2023 J-term. Twelve students participated in the trip.


“I’m dead serious about not going and being a tourist in India,” Eck said. “I think there are right and wrong ways to even be a traveler.”


Wilson said she chose these trips rather than a full semester study-abroad program because of her “strict academic plan.”


She said, “I decided to do winter and summer because that way I could still go abroad and get the experience without having to take my whole semester off and put me back a semester for graduation.”


Wilson said she began planning for her trip to India during spring 2022.


“It was well-informed,” she said. “Because it was faculty-led, I had a lot more help with it.”


Wilson said the pre-departure planning consisted of filling out paperwork, making payments, and packing.


“I had to figure out what I needed to pack - which was kind of difficult,” she said. “It was really cold at night and kind of hot during the day.”


Wilson said she thought the trip was “introspective.


“I liked reflecting on it and being out of my comfort zone,” she added.


Wilson said traveling to India was a “huge adjustment” at first because of the timezone and being so far from home.


“I really liked India,” she said. “I thought that the people I met there were really nice - I loved the food and the environment.”


Wilson said her favorite memory during her trip to India was walking with her peers on the trip and the kids from the village to a church near the farm the students stayed on in Kalimpong.


She said the church was lit up with Christmas lights. “We all just hung out and looked around the church and took pictures on the roof area outside.”


Wilson said, “It was very fun because I'm not sure we were supposed to be there.


“But it was fun to hang out with people that were close to my age and just mess around, explore the area, and get to know what some of the kids in the village were doing - where they went to pray or where they went to hang out,” she added.


Wilson said she began planning for her study-abroad summer 2023 trip to Portugal during Fall 2022.


She said she chose Portugal because, at the time, she was a Portuguese major and also because part of her family lives there.


Wilson said, “I wanted to get more exposure to parts of my culture and more exposure to the language, so that I could be a little more fluent in it.”


She said she took “Intermediate Portuguese 1” and “History, Art, Culture in Contemporary Portugal” at Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon.


Wilson said her trip to Portugal was a “much more personal experience.”


She said, “I went up north a couple of times to visit my family and my grandmother. It was really nice to be able to communicate with them a little more fluently than when I had seen them before.”


Wilson said, “It was nice to go and not only get the academic experience and live independently in Lisbon, but it was also nice to get back in touch with a part of my culture that I don't really get to see much of.”


She said the biggest difference she noticed between a faculty-led program and a study-abroad program was the amount of “direct help” she received.


“When you go with faculty members, you're most likely living in the same place, or you have very close access to them,” Wilson said. “They usually have experience with going to that place.”


She said when she went to Portugal she was “a little more independent.” 


Wilson said, “People should look into study abroad, even if it's for a month or a couple of weeks.


“It's worth it and you're not really going to get to do it again as easily in the future,” she added.


[Editor’s Note: Maddison Behringer is Interim Associate Editor for The Gatepost.]

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