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Parent Information

Freshman Fall Abroad Semester Programs

Freshman Fall in Dingle • Freshman Fall in Rome

Information for Parents

The FFA program is a great fit for students who would like to engage in a challenging and academically integrated experience.  Spending the first semester abroad is an exciting and rewarding opportunity, and the FFA program is committed to maintaining an intellectually challenging, safe, and stimulating environment for all students.  Before committing to this program, both students and parents should take the time to gather the information they need by visiting the Fairfield campus, speaking with our staff, and evaluating their own goals and feelings towards studying abroad.  While this is a unique and exciting opportunity, it is designed for a certain type of student, one who is open to change, both culturally and academically, and to the possibility of new experiences. 

Why Students Should Participate

There are countless reasons to participate in FFA program.  Student are part of a signature SHU freshmen cohort of students participating in a customized program of study, with the added benefit of having an international experience early in their college careers.  Not to mention, recent research suggests that studying abroad is also beneficial for their brains, their careers, and their lives!  A study abroad experience can be incorporated as an international element to a cover letter/resume, enhance communication skills, and is an opportunity to learn about and from various cultures.  We offer the FFA program so students can discover his or her own talents, abilities, strengths, character, and dreams, which is the most valuable outcome we strive for as educators and mentors. 

Parent Testimonials

As a parent or guardian, you may wish to hear from other parents/guardians who have sent their son or daughter abroad.  We asked them to complete a survey and here is some of their feedback:

One of the first programs we saw when looking at SHU was the Study Abroad Program in Dingle.  Dingle looked so quaint and serene, that it just invited visitors.  In addition to it being in Ireland, we knew that there were many opportunities for our daughter to travel to other locations in the country, and around Europe during breaks in the semester.  This was an added bonus, and the cost of transportation was very affordable.

Of course [we were initially apprehensive about letting our daughter study abroad].  However, we knew that this was the best thing for her to do. The fact that it was a SHU sponsored program, and that the students would be under the auspices of the SHU faculty made the fit even better.  I looked at the SHU Dingle website many times, and used Google to explore the area.  We talked to our daughter many times about the proposed experience, and we all came to the conclusion that [the program] would be a great idea.

It was difficult sending a young adult to a foreign country where she knew just a fellow student or two, but after getting all of the information, talking to Sacred Heart, and verifying the security of the location, [our] doubts were overcome.

I was uneasy about having my daughter 3000 miles away from home for four months; however, after researching the program it was evident that [it] was well organized and supervised.

[The Program] was unlike the study abroad experiences of my other children.  It was much more personalized and she became involved in the town, the community, and the culture.  Her education was not only in the classroom, but also in the community and working with the people.

I would strongly recommend parents encourage their children to [abroad] for a whole semester if the kids are interested.  The whole semester is so much better than the short programs because the students have more time to be involved [and]… culturally immersed.

Enrollment

The early enrollment deadline is April 15th.  The enrollment deadline is May 15th.  Applications open in December.

There is no confirmation fee required for enrollment in the FFR program.  To enroll in the program, students must submit all paperwork by the deadline of May 15th.

Once a student confirms their enrollment in the FFA program, there will be a few more forms and documents to submit.  Important items include visa application, an online health and safety orientation, a wellness form, and a housing application.

General University Enrollment

To confirm general University enrollment, students must submit a $1500 deposit to Sacred Heart University.  $150 of the deposit is for the spring housing security and the remaining amount is credited to the fall term bill.

Orientation

Students have several opportunities to meet other FFA students and to become oriented to the program.  They participate in the general freshman orientation, held in early June, as well as a FFA-specific orientation.  They also meet with the SHU faculty and staff responsible for the FFA program, and are able to discuss the practical academic and travel details of the FFA program.

In addition, students participate in an in-country arrival orientation.  During this orientation, students are familiarized with to campus resources, personnel, as well as the campus and larger community.  Activities span several days prior to classes.

Academics

One of the many benefits of the FFA program is that the academics students take abroad are integrated into the overall Sacred Heart University curriculum.  While abroad, students enroll in courses that fulfill core degree requirements.  All courses are taught in English.  Students take 15-16 credits during the fall semester.  That’s 5 courses.  All courses fulfill foundational core degree requirements, so participating in the FFA program does not delay graduation.  Once a student is enrolled in the program, the Office of Global Affairs assists them with registration.  All courses count towards students’ Grade Point Average, as well as towards their general graduation total. 

All students are assigned an Academic Advisor, who assists them in developing a spring semester plan of study.  The Academic Advisor also assist them in registering for spring courses in Fairfield.  

Technology

Students should bring laptops with them on the FFA program*.  Make sure the laptop (and, for that matter, all electronic devices) are compatible with European voltage (220V).  Students may need to purchase a voltage converter, in which case students should contact their laptop service provider for more details.

*Please note: All incoming freshmen are required to purchase a SHU-approved laptop through one of Sacred Heart’s preferred vendor websites.

Travel and Culture

A round-trip group flight is provided on behalf of the FFA group.  Students depart from one of several airports near Sacred Heart University.  A faculty or staff member from SHU accompanies the group to their destination.  

If students are worried about going so far away, fear not!  Experiencing homesickness is completely normal.  Just as a transition to college can produce homesickness, so can adjusting to life in another country.  There may be days when students feel no homesickness at all, and days when being far from family and friends can take its toll.  For many first-time college students, in the U.S. or abroad, the first two or three weeks are typically the hardest.  Things tend to get easier as they start to adjust to their new surroundings, make new friends, explore their new city, and get involved on campus.  Of course, if students ever need to speak with someone about homesickness, they can reach out to our faculty and staff.

Passports and Visas

Students need to submit a copy of their valid and signed passports during the application process.  The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the study abroad program end date.  If the passport do not meet this requirement, it must be renewed immediately.  Students may visit the U.S. Department of State website for more information on obtaining or renewing a passport.  In addition, students also need to apply for a student visa.  The only exception is if they have a valid passport issued by the European Union.  SHU staff assist students in applying for student visas.

SHU Support Services

Students’ main point of contact prior to departure is the Office of Global Affairs.  If parents or students have any questions about the FFA program or studying abroad in general, please do not hesitate to contact Undergraduate Admissions or the Office of Global Affairs.  Our advisors have traveled widely and can gladly share with you information and advice about traveling, academics, and adjusting to different ways of life.  We are also available during students’ time abroad, as well as when they return to Fairfield.  

Students are assigned a SHU Academic Advisor who assists them in developing a plan of study in line with their personal, academic, career, and life goals.  In addition, students are introduced to some of our SHU Global Ambassadors.  Global Ambassadors (GAs) are former study abroad students, who have volunteered their time to advise incoming freshmen about their time abroad.  These students are wonderful sources of information on what it is like to live and study abroad as a SHU student.  GAs are available to answer questions before departure, while abroad, and upon arrival in Fairfield.

Housing Abroad

While abroad, students live either in apartment style housing (Italy) or townhouse-style residences (Dingle).  Each residence includes a fully appointed kitchen, washer, bathrooms, internet, and more.  Meal plans vary based on location, however all students have use of a full kitchen and amenities while abroad.

Returning Home

Returning to the U.S. after the FFA program can be an exciting, yet bittersweet experience.  At the beginning of the spring semester, students are invited to attend a re-entry orientation to discuss life back at SHU and making the transition from abroad to Fairfield.  In addition, they meet with their Academic Advisors and have a personal meeting with the Director of Student Activities.  During this meeting, students map out a spring semester social and activities plan, including campus clubs, sports, and other activities. 

Communicating with your Student

Communication is an important part of studying abroad.  However, remember that your student is now participating in a unique experience and constant communication can also be used as a safety net to "back home".  For students to get the most out of their experience, they need to learn how to adapt to their new environments.  While this may be difficult for some parents, try and give them a chance to figure things out for themselves, and to experience their new life.  While you may normally talk to your student every day, realize that this may not be realistic, practical or possible when he or she is abroad!  However, you can stay in touch sufficiently, if you are flexible and patient. 

Cell Phones

Students may choose to rent a cell phone through arrangement with Sacred Heart University prior to departure or upon arrival.  Alternatively, they may choose to use their own cell phones and purchase a local SIM card.  Individual cell phone carries can provide further information.  Of course, the cheapest way to call the U.S. from abroad is to Skype or use a phone App such as Viber or TalkBox.

Health and Safety

Students’ health, safety, and security are critical to a successful and worthwhile study abroad experience.  While it is impossible to anticipate every contingency, it is essential that both parents and students are informed and knowledgeable concerning studying abroad in today’s world of ever-changing challenges.  After confirming enrollment in the FFA program, students participate in a mandatory online health and safety orientation that covers important health and safety topics to prepare for them for the term abroad.  In addition, 

International Health Insurance

Sacred Heart has contracted with HTH Worldwide, a leading global health insurance provider, to provide students with service and protection in the event someone becomes ill or injured during their program.  The Office of Global Affairs automatically enrolls students into this plan, and the cost of insurance is included in the program fee.

If students need medication while abroad, the HTH Worldwide website includes a list of pharmacies.  Not all medications are available (i.e. ADD and ADHD medications) abroad, so students need to bring enough medication to last the entire semester.  If a prescription is needed while abroad, an appointment with a local doctor must be made (students are encouraged to bring a list of the generic names of their medicine).  HTH Worldwide can assist students with finding an English-speaking doctor online.

Cultural Adjustment

Experiencing homesickness is completely normal.  Just as a transition to college can produce homesickness, so can adjusting to life in another country.  There may be days when students feel no homesickness at all, and days when being far from family and friends takes its toll.  For many first-time college students, in the U.S. or abroad, the first two or three weeks are typically the hardest.  Things tend to get easier as you adjust to their new surroundings, make new friends, explore their new city, and get involved on campus.  Of course, if students ever need to speak with someone about homesickness they can reach out to our faculty and staff.

Adjusting to a new culture is a learning process – at times it can be exciting and at other times frustrating – and those who can "go with the flow" are the ones who succeed best in study abroad.  Overall, it is a process of maturing and growth.  What parents can do to be prepared is simply to listen.  Often, just talking about the difficulties of the adjustment is sufficient to aid the student in completing the transition to the new culture (or back again).

The most detrimental thing a parent can do to a student's success potential is to panic when hearing about difficulties or frustrating experiences, to try to take action on their behalf and to encourage aborting the program when troubles arise.  It may seem from the way the student tells their woes that it is indeed a terrible thing that is happening to him or her!  However, in almost all cases, it is very normal and can be addressed through overseas support.  The student – when encouraged "to deal" and to use the local resources at his or her disposal -- will make the adjustment and be better and happier for it.

Most often, the challenges that students have on the FFA program are the same challenges that students on the Fairfield campus experience!  Things like roommate issues and adjusting to college academics are experienced by freshmen nationwide in the fall semester!  Our faculty and staff are equipped to help students navigate the transition from the U.S. to abroad AND from secondary to higher education.

Expectations

The safety of students depends on their behavior while abroad.  If a student's physical or mental health status may be placed in jeopardy by being away from current support systems, he or she needs to have a thoughtful discussion regarding early travel abroad.  It is also common for those far from home to feel invincible, ready to take on new challenges and risks.  Participating in certain risky activities, whether that be riding a Vespa and hang-gliding or taking photographs of a political demonstration, can pose much a greater risk while abroad than at home.

Europe has a lower legal drinking age than does the U.S.; alcohol use can be a problem for many students when far from home, either because they are unaware of their personal limits or because they're "breaking loose" from the restrictions imposed in their home country.  Obviously, we are not happy when students drink irresponsibly.  If you feel that such a conversation might be appropriate for your student, a frank discussion prior to their departure of risky personal behaviors while abroad would certainly be in order.

Program Cost

The following will be included in the FFA experience:

  • Program orientation
  • Arrival airport transfer
  • Round-trip airfare from an airport near Sacred Heart
  • Housing in shared accommodations
  • Tuition and fees
  • On-site course fees
  • Mandatory basic international health insurance

The following will not be included in the FFA experience:

  • Meals
  • Major medical insurance
  • Visa/resident permit fees
  • Personal expenses

Most, if not all, of students’ SHU financial aid packages apply to FFA programs.  Students are encouraged to speak with Financial Assistance for further information about how their specific financial aid apply towards a study abroad experience.  Financial Assistance can also assist students with additional loan opportunities.  In addition, multiple scholarship opportunities are available.

Please note: Students receiving scholarships for participation in varsity athletics are not eligible for the program.  Students receiving a merit award for participation in performing arts programs will not receive their participation grants during the fall semester abroad.  Non-scholarship varsity athletes should discuss with their coaches the impact that participation in the FFA program may have on involvement in the sport upon return to campus.