Goodbye “Old York!” Hello New Culture!

Studying Abroad is Part of Many Students’ Four-Year Plan, But Do Those Who Go Have Any Regrets?



Enjoying the art and culture of cities like Milan is only one of the many upsides to leaving NYC to go abroad. (Alex Palomino/The Observer)

Published February 18, 2010

New York City: The number one tourist destination in the world, with millions of places to see and things to do. It’s also a place where cultures collide. As residents of this metropolis, we are fortunate enough to be able to hop on a subway and experience Korea in Koreatown, grab Italian eats in Little Italy or venture uptown to Harlem for a taste of African-American culture.

But many students at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) have a hunger for more. Luckily, there are many programs through the Office of International and Study Abroad Programs (ISAP) that allow students to depart ‘Old York’ for a richer cultural experience in any country of their choice.

Going abroad is definitely a popular experience at FCLC, and ISAP has the numbers to prove it. This past fall, 21 students were abroad, 47 are currently studying abroad and so far 20 students have applied for summer programs, and this number is expected to double. Yet for those students who are still undecided when it comes to leaving the city to immerse themselves in a foreign culture, it can be hard to make the final decision and go for it.

So what do those students who made the leap have to say about their decisions?

“I’ve wanted to study abroad since I first traveled after my sophomore year in high school,” said Katy Corum, FCLC ’10, who studied in Scotland last year.

“I was attending the top university in Scotland (University of St. Andrews) so the classes were very demanding. That’s not to say that there wasn’t time for fun too. I did explore the pub scene in St. Andrews and had the opportunity to take weekend trips to London, Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Belfast, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Krakow, Rome and Florence,” Corum said.

Often, the most worrisome factor about leaving the United States is dealing with culture shock and adaptation.

“Studying in another country and in another culture is, or at least should be, part of the college experience,” said Amanda Sadlowski, FCLC ’11, who is currently studying at Dublin City University in Ireland. “Most of us will probably never get another chance to live in another country. We have to live it up and take advantage of a world away and do as much traveling as humanly possible.”

Catherine Richardson, a study abroad advisor at ISAP, said, “You may not expect it, but students will experience culture shock at first, even in English-speaking countries. But you get over it quickly.”

While their first priority is academics, many students find the social life to be the richest abroad, which includes mingling with the locals.

Currently studying at King’s College in London, England, Anne Wimmer, FCLC ’11, “was terrified of meeting new people and what the British students were like.”

Yet she found that her fears were not confirmed; in actuality it proved to be much the opposite.

“The locals are amazing! I was extremely worried that I would find myself spending most of my time alone. As it turns out, I spend less time alone here than I did at Fordham,” Wimmer said. “One night, there was a random knock on my door. I opened it to find six British kids, asking my name and giving me hugs. They ended up dragging me to a pub, where I got to know many of them and had a really great time.

“Most of my friends here are English,” Wimmer said. “And they recommend places to me and take me out to the hotspots. Every Sunday night my group of friends goes to this blues/jazz/R&B pub called the Blue Post. You’re experiencing a culture with people who actually live in it. And you’re learning about our world as one global entity. I feel like I’m really experiencing life.”

While all students seem to agree that studying abroad is an invaluable experience, many students noted the stress of the financial aspect.

“I ended up paying less than I would have for a semester at Fordham,” said Sadlowski. “And I’m trying to visit every worthwhile city in Europe, but we’ll see how that works out financially.”

“I’m still paying for it,” said Lauren Caminiti, FCLC ’11, about studying in Rome through Fordham. “But I would never regret it and I’d study abroad again if given the opportunity.”

For students studying in foreign-speaking countries, adapting to a language other than English is a crucial skill.

“I knew that I wouldn’t have any problem communicating,” said Chris Castro FCLC ’11, who is currently studying at Augsburg University in Central America. “I already knew Spanish, but I definitely needed a touch-up. After a couple of weeks of classes in Spanish, I feel very confident again.”

“I knew some Italian, but being [in Rome] did help me learn more,” said Caminiti. “Rome was pretty convenient for those who didn’t know Italian since it is a tourist-friendly city.”

There are even some programs in foreign-speaking countries that have classes taught only in English, according to Richardson. The only requirement is to take a course offering basic language skills to “get by” in daily life in that country.

Not only can students study in a wide variety of countries for semester or full year programs, but there are also short-term summer program options.

“I definitely got homesick,” said Nicole Zaager, FCLC ’10, who participated in Fordham’s summer program in London. “One of the reasons that I liked this program in particular was that it was only a month to live in another country; not for so long that I would miss home too much.”

“I didn’t think I could handle a semester away, but this summer program was perfect for me,” Caminiti said. “It was just one class through the art department and in Italy. It just seemed so me.”

Though experiencing life while studying abroad in another country is rewarding, some students feel that they are missing special moments at Fordham and with their friends in New York.

“I do feel sad that I’m missing out on a whole semester at Fordham, especially since I only have one year left. I miss New York like crazy and all of my friends there,” said Sadlowski. “But the experience is definitely worth it. I realize more and more that New York is the only city in the entire world worth living in. Every place has its own charm, but none of it even comes close to comparing with New York City.”

For students that choose to study abroad during their time at Fordham, trading in their New York City campus in order to open themselves up for the experience of a lifetime is the a choice they make, and most seem to agree that it was a choice well made.