DANBURY, Connecticut — Going away to college is exciting and living independently can be a huge growth experience. For some students, that’s more than enough. For others, the call of adventure on foreign soil is too compelling to ignore. In the past decade, more than 140 Western Connecticut State University students have made the leap to spend a semester abroad. Likewise, 70 foreign students have ventured far away from home to spend a semester at WCSU.
Among the countries our students have studied in are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bali (Indonesia), Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, England, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Norway, Puerto Rico, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and Uruguay.
The numbers would be higher, if you count the 11 WCSU students who set off for foreign adventures at the start of the spring 2020 semester, only to be called back because of Covid. After a brief hiatus in the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) because of the pandemic, students were once again studying abroad with the start of the spring 2022 semester. In spring 2023, WCSU has students studying in England, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland and Spain.
WCSU has hosted foreign students from Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, La Reunion (France), Morocco, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. Some inbound students have joined the swimming, men’s soccer, volleyball, women’s tennis and field hockey teams — even setting school records.
Junior Finance major Carmine Buffa, from Southbury, felt the call to study abroad, and just returned from spending the fall 2022 semester at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain.
“I had been to Italy before, but never to Spain,” Buffa said. “I thought it would be cool because it seemed like a fun and cultural country. UPF has a business school, so I was able to take Corporate Finance, International Management, Marketing and a Philosophy class — all of which were taught in English and I received credit for them from WCSU.”
Buffa said his classes weren’t any more or less difficult than at WCSU. “There is more public speaking in classes there,” he said. “Two of my finals were group presentations, and I get more out of that than memorizing and regurgitating facts on a test. The grading there is a little tougher, but it’s also really hard to fail a class.”
Buffa was one of about 60 foreign students that attended UPF through the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) last semester. He met students from Minnesota, California and Florida, but was the only Connecticut college student in his cohort. He said he quickly went from being dropped off in a city where he didn’t know a single person to making lifelong friends.
“I had no idea what to expect, and I am very pleased with the outcome,” Buffa said. “International Services Coordinator Donna Warner at WCSU and her counterpart, Maria, at UPF were very helpful and checked in frequently to see how I was doing. My family came to visit me for Thanksgiving in Spain, and to be honest, I missed them while I was away, but I was never homesick.”
Buffa, a licensed real estate agent, was able to continue working with clients while in Spain. “It’s six hours ahead over there, and I was going to classes and handling phone calls and emails the whole time,” he said. “My fellow team members were the feet on the ground in my absence.” In fact, the only thing he had to learn to do without while in Spain was Chipotle, and his biggest surprise was “how costly and time-consuming it is to shop and cook for yourself and have to wash your own dishes every time.”
When the semester at UPF ended in early December, Buffa took advantage of his time remaining in Spain to travel extensively. “I went to Portugal, Budapest, Slovakia and Austria with friends I met through ISEP,” he said. “I also took a solo trip to Amsterdam and Brussels before meeting up with friends in Berlin. It’s so easy to travel over there — going from one country to another is like traveling between states at home,” he added. “My advice to anyone who considers studying abroad is to say hi to everyone and leave the social anxiety behind. Everyone is in the same boat and nervous, but it’s really cool to explore new places with other people.”
Buffa said he would “One hundred percent recommend the study-abroad experience to another student. I’m happy I came to WCSU as a commuter to save money and have the opportunity to do a semester abroad. Now I’m back on campus and ready to go full steam ahead.”
Study-abroad deadlines are approaching: March 1, 2023, for Fall 2023 study abroad; Feb. 15 to mid-April for Summer 2023 study abroad; and Sept. 15, 2023, for Spring 2024 study-abroad. Participants must be enrolled at WCSU in good academic standing with a minimum 2.75 GPA and have completed at least one academic year of college study at WCSU at the time the exchange program begins.
To learn more about ISEP opportunities, visit https://www.wcsu.edu/isep/ or email Donna Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.