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Freshman Fall Abroad

SHU Freshman Fall Abroad Programs

Freshman Fall in Dingle • Freshman Fall in Rome

Starting college – and moving away from home for the first time – is already a big step.  Students may wonder if they are ready to consider studying abroad.  For students who are open to meeting new people, curious about the world, and interested in bonding with a core group of SHU friends through a shared experience, we encourage them to learn more about the program.  They just might surprise themselves!  One thing is for sure, students who study abroad learn as much about themselves as they do the larger world.  They find confidence, maturity and independence that they didn’t know they had.  Developing these qualities early on, and becoming comfortable with new people and experiences, will help students to get even more out of the entire SHU undergraduate experience. 

The Freshman Fall Abroad Program

The Freshman Fall Abroad (FFA) program is a signature experience of Sacred Heart University.  During the FFA program, we challenge our students to be fearless in their curiosity by making the world their classroom.  A semester studying abroad is an exciting and intellectually stimulating way to begin one’s college career.  FFA students spend their first semester enrolled in SHU classes, in either Italy or Ireland, and then enroll in classes on the SHU Fairfield campus in the spring semester.  

The FFA program provides students with an international foundation early in their academic careers.  With programming that supports a broad range of educational, professional, and personal objectives, there is no better way for students to learn about themselves, expand their worldviews, acquire marketable skills, and develop the habits of mind, heart, and spirit that will prepare them to engage purposefully in a global world.

This program provides:

  • An opportunity to forge strong bonds with fellow SHU freshmen

  • Small class sizes and specialized curriculum tailored to SHU core graduation requirements

  • Carefully-chosen, university-managed living arrangements

  • The opportunity to travel, volunteer, and to participate in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities

  • Full-time staff members, in both Fairfield and abroad, to assist with your transition to college life abroad

Students may be a good candidate for the Freshman Fall Abroad program if they:

  • Wish to study abroad immediately, rather than waiting

  • Possess intellectual curiosity and are ready for a transformative experience

  • Love to learn through seeing and doing

  • Have a keen interest in international travel

  • Are open to immersing yourself in a different culture

  • Have the maturity to balance academics, travel, and living abroad


FFA students spend the first semester of college in one of two places - Dingle, Ireland or Rome, Italy - before enrolling in classes on SHU Fairfield campus in the spring semester.  

Freshman Fall in Dingle

At our Dingle campus, students have the unrivaled opportunity to dive into Irish culture in the heart of the Irish-speaking Dingle ‘Gaeltacht’ region.  They not only read about Ireland; they live the Irish experience through hands-on seminars led by accomplished scholars and local experts using Dingle as the campus classroom.  All of our courses feature active participation and immersion – both in and out of the classroom. 

Freshman Fall in Rome

Our partner campus in Rome is at John Cabot University (JCU), located in the historic center of Rome along the Tiber River.  JCU has a long history of hosting study abroad students from the U.S. and around the world, and offers the small classes and hands-on education that SHU students are seeking.  It is an American University, as such students have access to all campus resources in English, and all classes are taught in English as well.  Campus facilities include a library, Wi-Fi, digital media and studio art facilities, computer labs, a cafeteria, and a student center.

Student Testimonials

  • I chose to participate in the FFA program because I wanted to experience something ‘different’.  As I am a pre-med student, it was a very good opportunity for me to study abroad [because] I [may] not be able to study abroad later.

  • I was fully supported [during my time abroad].  Even though I wasn’t there in Connecticut, I believe I knew almost everything that was going on there because of all the emails I got from [SHU].  I was adjusting well here and I was getting prepared to adjust back there as well.

  • Studying abroad changed me as a person because I learned to be an independent person, learned ways to manage money and most importantly, I was able to find my inner self and realize what I actually want in life.

  • Studying abroad changed me as a person because I learned about the city and about myself.  I found more self-awareness or self-confidence.

  • I benefited from studying abroad because I had to be responsible for everything.  I feel that I was not only benefit academically, but personally as well.  No matter [your] year of college, you should think about studying abroad.

  • The FFA program was the best experience of my life.  My freshman year started with a blast!

  • Any incoming freshman thinking about participating in an FFA program should just do it.  Don’t think much.  It will be one of the best experience of your life.  You will never be a freshman again.


With a few exceptions, students who are accepted to Sacred Heart as an incoming freshman are automatically eligible to participate in an FFA program*.  All they need to do is complete the FFA enrollment process for the location of choice. 

To learn more about Sacred Heart’s FFA programs please contact Undergraduate Admissions or the Office of Global Affairs.

We look forward to speaking with you soon, and the entire Sacred Heart community looks forward to the start of your SHU undergraduate experience, wherever in the world that may be!

*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 an FFA program may have on involvement in the sport upon return to campus.

Program-Specific Information

FAQs are available on our program brochure web pages:

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.

Additional information for parents is located here.

Register Now!

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