Study Abroad Program Offers Great Learning Opportunities Overseas

News Story: September 1, 2012
SHU Study Abroad in Ireland

Like most things at Sacred Heart University, the Study Abroad program has seen enviable growth in recent years. What was once a divided, albeit dedicated, effort is now a cohesive agenda encompassed within one umbrella. In the past two years, the number of overseas educational opportunities for SHU students has kept growing (including three new programs just approved for 2013), and the number of students participating has risen approximately 20 percent to about 180.

“Each year there are more and more programs and places for students to go,” says Francesca Schenker, coordinator of the Office of Study Abroad. “We have two international campuses in Ireland and Luxembourg and a variety of short-term and semester programs. Each program is very different, and some programs vary from year to year. So students have a wide variety of options.”

Students can currently study in Luxembourg; Rome; Dingle, Ireland; Berlin; Bermuda; Bimini, Bahamas; Fremantle, Australia; Granada, Spain; India; Venice, Italy; Kiel, Germany; and The Netherlands.

Senior Sara Gerrity, who is double-majoring in business administration and sports management, knows a lot about the many Study Abroad options — she took advantage of two of them. She studied in Luxembourg in May 2011 and in Dingle last January, each time for two weeks.

“Both were great trips, but they were different in their own ways,” Gerrity says. “Luxembourg was in a city environment, whereas Dingle was a small Irish town with small stores, where you got to know the locals. But they were both awesome.”

Erin MacDonald, a graduate student in the SHU Master of Art in Communication program and an English major who graduated in May, spent a semester of her undergrad days in Dingle. “It was by far the best decision I made as a student,” she says. “It added a whole new dimension to my college experience, and I can’t imagine what my four years would have been like without it. It opened my eyes to a whole new culture that I would have never seen otherwise.”

Programs are offered all times of year — during the spring and fall semesters, over the winter break and in summer. For SHU-sponsored programs, both credits and grades will factor into students’ SHU transcripts/GPA. In addition, all financial aid and academic scholarships can be applied to SHU-sponsored semester programs (Dingle, Rome, Australia, etc.) Welch College of Business students who are enrolled in the Welch Experience may use a one-time study abroad tuition waiver for a three-credit SHU business course in Dingle, Luxembourg or Rome. Other outside funding is also sometimes available for programs abroad. More information about these options can be found on the Study Abroad Website.

No matter how they pay for it and where they go, the one thing Schenker advises every interested student is to start planning early in his or her college career. “Figuring it out ahead of time is always better for everyone,” she says. “Even if you don’t want to actually travel until you’re a junior or senior, it’s best to start thinking about the options as early as freshman year, especially if you want to go for a semester. It takes a bit of thought and planning to maximize the experience.”

Count Gerrity as one person who believes every freshman should consider traveling during college. “It’s such a great opportunity that Sacred Heart offers,” she says. “The Study Abroad program keeps growing, and it just keeps getting better with the various programs. So I think if you have the opportunity in front of you, you should absolutely take it.”