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SMC students return from abroad

Kristen Edelen | Friday, January 18, 2008

Forty-two students have returned from a semester abroad in Italy, Ireland and Spain, while 29 of their classmates who are studying abroad for the full academic year remain overseas.

The Saint Mary’s Rome program had a fall 2007 enrollment of 51 students, with 12 of them staying for the academic year, and 47 students joining them putting enrollment at 59 for the spring semester.

“For the past 37 years, returnees have invariably remarked that studying in Rome is indeed a life-changing experience,” Peter Checca, Italian professor and director of the Rome Program said.

He believes the program’s strengths are the interdisciplinary aspect of classroom instruction and on-site visits, as well as the connection between courses and Italian culture.

Lisa Anderson, a junior who returned to the College from Rome, agrees with Checca and says she especially enjoyed her Italian cinema class.

“I saw the effects of World War II on Italy [through film and lecture] and that was a new perspective for me,” Anderson said. She credits her family roots in Italy with sparking her decision to participate in the Rome program.

Sophomore Maureen Healy’s decision to study in Spain was made with a more academic purpose in mind.

“I chose the Spain program because one of my majors is Spanish,” said Healy, who is also majoring in Business.

Four Saint Mary’s students studied in in Spain for the fall semester, said Gerald Gingras, coordinator of the Spanish section of the Department of Modern Languages. One returned and three will remain for the spring semester as well. Also, eighteen more students joined the program for the spring semester. The students study in Seville.

Different from the four-star hotel style living experience offered by the Rome program, Healy lived in complete cultural immersion with a host family.

“I loved living with my host family and was able to greatly improve my Spanish because of it,” Healy said. “Since all of my classes were taught in Spanish, I am now able to understand fluent Spanish and have much more confidence in speaking it.”

The idea of a language barrier was not a problem for sophomore Katie Ineich who returned to campus from a semester abroad in Ireland.

“I picked Ireland because of the fact that they speak English and I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland,” Ineich said.

Without a language barrier, students can participate fully in student life at the National University Maynooth, where Saint Mary’s students live and attend classes, said Karen Chambers, Saint Mary’s Ireland Program Director.

Nineteen students participated in the 2007 fall semester, 14 are staying the entire year, and on January 29, eight more students will arrive in Maynooth for the spring 2008 semester, Chambers said.

Ineich says her experience at the large university, located 20 miles outside of Dublin, led her to a greater appreciation for the smaller atmosphere of Saint Mary’s.

But, she said, “I’d go back in a heartbeat.”