An Immaculate Visit

At the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, Sacred Heart University welcomed their first exchange students to campus. Niamh Conlon and Emma Ryan are attending SHU from Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland. They are working towards a primary education degree through SHU’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education and Human Development.

Conlon and Ryan arrived at Sacred Heart in August, and are studying through December. Conlon said that it is part of her course load to go abroad.

“It is part of our curriculum, we get to go abroad for a semester,” Conlon said.

“I have cousins in the area,” she said when asked what moved her to choose Sacred Heart.

Ryan, however, explained that Sacred Heart was not her first choice, and she had more flexibility when deciding whether or not to Study Abroad.

“I didn’t originally intend to go to SHU, but their social media presence sold me, and that’s how I decided to come,” said Ryan.

They both said they have felt welcomed by the community and their friends. “We watch movies with our housemates every night,” Ryan said. “The staff have been so nice to us too, we have felt very welcome.”

They are excited to travel throughout the U.S.

“We are planning a trip to Chicago, and we went to New York,” Conlon said.

Micheal Alfano, Vice Provost for Strategic Partnerships, said he came to Sacred Heart and learned about the campus’s connection with Dingle, Ireland. However, he recognized that education majors mostly only went for a two-week intersession in either the winter or the summer. He decided to work to change that, which started with Conlon and Ryan studying at SHU this semester.

“You learn so much living abroad, you develop resilience and gain a worldwide perspective,” Conlon and Ryan agreed. “There are a lot of resources that you wouldn’t think of,” Ryan added. “There is more diversity, and you learn how to incorporate diversity.”

Studying abroad during the college years has become more popular over the years. Inside Higher Ed estimates that around 11% of undergraduates study abroad at some point during their degree program. In 2018, 341,751 students gained course credit in another country.

Alfano said that in the future, the goal would be to expand this program. “We could start a faculty exchange, and open the program up to graduate students and doctoral students as well,” he said.

“I think this is such an amazing program. I think it is so admirable that students abroad want to visit SHU, and I love that we are now giving them the opportunity to study here,” said junior Abby Wilk.

Conlon and Ryan also talked about some of the differences between studying in Ireland and America. “Classes are mixed with different grades here. In Ireland, we have our classes with the same people,” Conlon said. “You don’t have to do a fifth year, there are no placement exams and classes are smaller,” she added.

“I think it’s a great experience for people to study abroad. It’s amazing to experience another country, and gain different perspectives on the world,” senior Ashley Villare said. “The world is much bigger than we think, and it is good to gain a wider perspective on life. You can learn a lot.”

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