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Currents: europe awaits

Global Beginnings Program Encourages Freshmen to Study Abroad

Going off to college: Tremendous.
Going to Europe: Not to be missed.
Going to college in Europe: An incredible opportunity for first-year Colby-Sawyer students through the college's new Global Beginnings program.

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What do New London, N.H., Florence, Italy, and Paris and Strasbourg, France, have in common? In fall 2009, all these locales will welcome Colby-Sawyer students for their first semester of college. Colby-Sawyer has established a partnership with Customized Educational Programs Abroad (CEPA) and American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) to offer an unprecedented number of first-year students the opportunity to study abroad.

Up to 60 members of the incoming Class of 2013 will have the option of adding a Global Beginning to their higher education career by spending the fall semester studying in Florence, Italy or Paris/Strasbourg, France.

First semester of freshman year is a good time to go abroad, say the college's senior staff, because it's easier to do before students select a major, and leaves plenty of time to complete internships as upperclassmen.

The Florence site can accommodate up to 40 students in centrally located apartments, while Strasbourg is limited to 20 students who will live and learn at Château de Pourtalès, a 250-year old castle. With 20 formal registrations received soon after announcing the program, interest has been enthusiastic.

“This program has great growth potential, and is another layer to the existing study abroad program, not a replacement,” says Tracey Perkins, director of admission counseling.

Global Beginnings is a vigorous escalation in Colby-Sawyer's ongoing goal of graduating students with global perspectives and experiences. In the past 18 years, Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah Taylor notes, just 175 students have studied abroad. “In the past, study abroad has really been one student at a time, and they weren't able to take their financial aid with them so it was very difficult to accomplish,” she says. “With Global Beginnings they can, which really opens up the door for students to take that opportunity.”

The cost of studying in Europe is exactly the same as attending Colby-Sawyer, and financial aid awards from the college will be applied to the cost of the program. With that provision, and no Italian or French language experience required, participation is open to nearly all on a first come, first-registered basis. Students from any major can participate, although Vice President Taylor says that Nursing majors will need to make substantial adjustments to accommodate the semester away. Academic programs are fully accredited and will include Colby-Sawyer first-year classes, two of which will be taught by an accompanying Colby-Sawyer faculty member.

With the multiple layers of adjustment involved with starting college away from their home institution, freshmen participating in Global Beginnings will come to campus in mid-August for an extensive orientation before travelling as a group to their European destination.

“They will get to know the campus, each other and the faculty member they'll be travelling with,” says Colby-Sawyer President Tom Galligan. “We've been assured that students can function just using English, and all the classes will be taught in English, but we'll give them some basic language skills through Rosetta Stone language software, as language will be a component of the experience. We'll also introduce them to software programs they will need to use throughout their college years. We want to prepare them both for the trip and for when they return so that they come back already acclimated to Colby-Sawyer.”

Academics Abroad

Though thousands of miles from their classmates in New Hampshire, the structure of a Colby-Sawyer education will remain largely intact for those studying abroad. A Colby-Sawyer professor will accompany each group and teach the required first-year Pathway seminar, plus another related course in his or her academic area of expertise that can be counted as an Exploration course. The Writing 105 course, required of all first-year students, will be conducted on-line with a Colby-Sawyer professor in New London. Colby-Sawyer's education partners, CEPA and AIFS, will locate local adjunct faculty for Colby-Sawyer's approval and they will teach courses that might include European history or government; literature, art, language and culture. This curriculum will keep those who participate in the Global Beginnings program caught up with their academic requirements.

Program participants will also return with a new perspective to share with their classmates. “That's one of our goals,” says Perkins. “We are not only trying to increase the number of international students who come here but also send more abroad in order to graduate more students with a global perspective.”

So far, says Perkins, those interested in taking part have been from both small towns and cities, with a variety of travel experience. One surprise has been how many international students accepted to Colby-Sawyer have shown interest in selecting Global Beginnings as a way to start their college experience.

In both Italy and France, students will be considered adults and able to travel on their free days. “It will be just like going to college in New London, in that respect,” says Perkins. “They're not going to be monitored, they're in charge of themselves.”

Living in Florence

While Florence, Paris and Strasbourg are all beautiful cities set on rivers (the Arno, the Seine and the Ille, respectively), there are a few differences between the two Global Beginnings options.

The Florence site, under the auspices of AIFS, will have a local staff member in the city to work with Colby-Sawyer's Assistant Professor of Humanities Ewa Chrusciel and a Colby-Sawyer residential life staff member on arranging cultural excursions and to be available in case of emergencies.

Professor Chrusciel holds a master's degree from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland and a doctorate degree from Illinois State University. She has been a Colby-Sawyer faculty member since 2006. An award-winning poet, Professor Chrusciel has presented papers and read poetry in the United States and Europe, including Italy.

Colby-Sawyer students will live in groups of four in two-bedroom apartments at the heart of the historic city that is the capital of Tuscany and home to 400,000 residents. The AIFS student center, which has Wi-Fi and classrooms, is within walking distance of the apartments. Meal vouchers offer the option of eating in local cafes in addition to cooking in the apartments.

Students will enjoy the luxury of having months to explore this city that receives 3 million tourists annually. In their new neighborhood, students will find landmarks such as the Duomo of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (built 1293-1436); the Galleria dell'Accademia with its famed David statue; the Galleria degli Uffizi; the oft-photographed Ponte Vecchio built in 1345, and shops, markets and hidden delights galore.

Daylong and overnight excursions throughout Tuscany and to Rome, Venice, Milan and Naples are included in the program.

Living in Strasbourg: First Stop, Paris

The fall semester in Strasbourg begins with a two-week cultural immersion orientation in Paris, where students will stay together in one hotel. Each day will bring an exploration of the City of Lights through CEPA-arranged excursions to museums, government buildings and galleries tailored to the accompanying faculty member's curriculum. Students will also begin a French language course.

CEPA Europe is part of the Schiller International University Travel corporation (SIU) and for over 40 years has organized customized study abroad programs. At the Strasbourg site, CEPA employs full-time staff to oversee residential life.

Colby-Sawyer's Professor of Natural Sciences Bill Thomas has been chosen to accompany the student group to France. Professor Thomas holds master's and doctorate degrees from Princeton University and joined Colby-Sawyer in 1991. He spent his junior year as an undergraduate student at Hamilton College studying in Paris, and returned in 1999 for a year-long sabbatical to conduct research at the Curie Institute in Paris. In the spring 2007 semester he spent a second sabbatical at the Curie Institute, and his work there continues for six weeks each summer at the invitation of colleagues.

In mid-September, the Global Beginnings group will head east to Strasbourg, a French city with a German-sounding name that is the seat of the European Parliament. Colby-Sawyer students will live and study at the Château de Pourtalès, a 250-year old castle brought back from the brink of demolition to its present magnificence in the 1970s. The Château can accommodate 100 people; most student rooms are doubles with a shared bath, though singles are available.

Six miles from the center of Strasbourg, the Château not only has classrooms, Wi-Fi access, computer labs, a library and laundry facilities, but also a variety of recreational options on the grounds.

A typical day will include morning classes, lunch at the Chateau, and time spent in the city center, which is accessible by public transportation, on a guided tour, followed by free time to explore. Strasbourg, with a university that can trace it roots to 1537, a Gothic Cathedral visible from the Black Forest, varied museums and Petite France – an area of medieval and Renaissance timbered houses along cobbled streets – can feel like a fairy tale come to life. From this base, Global Beginnings students will also enjoy day trips to Luxembourg, Heidelberg, and Freiburg.

Want to Go?

Accepted students interested in Global Beginnings can register here.

Contact Tracey Perkins, Director of Admission Counseling, with questions at (800) 272-1015 or (603) 526-3702, or email Tracey Perkins.

-Kate Dunlop Seamans, April 2009