The Office of International Education Announces 2023 Faculty Led Study Abroad Programs



The canals of Venice, from a previous faculty led trip to Italy.

Ava DePasquale, Staff Writer, Social Media Manager

The Office of International Education has announced the faculty-led study abroad programs for 2023. Several trips will be offered during spring break, including trips to the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland, a course studying luxury brand management in Milan, Italy, and an English studies trip to Montreal, Canada. Several other faculty-led trips are planned for May and over summer break and will visit Peru, Japan, and Verona, Italy, among other countries. 


 “It opens your mind and allows you to see another country not just on a map, you get to go and actually see what you are learning about,” said Nicole Salerno, Assistant Director of Study Abroad at Fitchburg State. Each study abroad course is carefully curated to correspond with the location so students can get the most out of their trip both educationally and recreationally. The courses are taught by Fitchburg State’s own professors who are knowledgeable in the course materials they are teaching. As Salerno puts it, “ You are learning from people who spend their lives studying this stuff.” On a previous faculty-led trip to Ireland, students studied the history of conflict within the country through an Introduction to Peace Studies course with Professor Eric Budd. “Had they been traveling on their own, a lot of the history would be lost on them.” Said Salerno. 


Paula Fuentes, a former Fitchburg State student who now works in Fitchburg as a community liaison, attended a faculty-led trip to Italy during her time here. “It was nice to have someone there to guide you on your first solo trip, however, I felt like the whole time I was chasing after the professor, not really getting to be in the moment and experience every city as we should have,”said Fuentes. Fuentes took the opportunity to visit a country she had been admiring from afar. “Anyone who knows me knows that Italy is my favorite country in the world. I love their beautiful architecture, food, art, and the sense of freedom you get when you’re there.” mused Fuentes. 


Faculty-led study abroad trips give students a chance to travel internationally while earning course credits. Each trip typically earns three academic credits and is automatically applied to a student’s academic program without having to be transferred as with some other study abroad programs. The courses offered on these trips cover a wide variety of subject matter. Students on the upcoming trip to Peru will be studying environment and GIS mapping with Professor Jane Huang, while students traveling to Verona this summer will be learning about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle with Professor Monica Maldari. Students interested in game design can study contemporary arts and culture in Japan with professors Jeff Warmouth and Jon Amakawa. There are programs offered for students in any major, and students who are new to international travel may find it useful to join a faculty-led trip as they have the built-in support of a faculty member, fellow students, and local tour guides commissioned by the Office of International Education. 


Andrea Charpentier is a former Fitchburg State Student who attended a faculty-led summer trip to Verona, Italy in 2016 during her time at Fitchburg State. “I learned how people’s lives are different than in America, like here, we think everything needs to be done for the week, meal prep or we die and fall off routine, but in Italy, they don’t do that and they don’t work like Americans do, they don’t take life as seriously as we do,” Charpentier said about her first experience being immersed in European culture. 


These trips are made accessible to a wide range of students, especially novice or first-time travelers, many of whom are “learning how to travel, how to board a plane, how to room with somebody you haven’t roomed with before, especially for commuters,” said Salerno. The shorter duration of the faculty-led trips versus the traditional semester abroad allows for a wider range of students to attend. “Some of our students work, some of them have children and they may only be able to get away for the ten days.” Said Salerno. 


“As a commuter, you never feel like you’re getting the full college experience, so being in Italy on my own for a month gave me a glimpse into that life. It made commuter life a little more exciting and a little more fulfilling.” Said Fuentes, who was a commuter when she attended Fitchburg State. “It was the first time I had to make decisions on my own and take care of myself without the guidance of my parents,” recalled Fuentes. 


While most semester-long study abroad programs do have GPA requirements, “the short-term programs don’t have a GPA requirement,” says Salerno. The Office of International Education often sees students who are struggling academically go on these trips and according to Salerno, “A lot of times we see students’ GPAs improve after they come back from the trip.” This may again be attributed to the built-in support from faculty and fellow students. Charpentier, who majored in Education, talked about how she struggled during a semester abroad in Australia, “I failed two out of the four classes in Australia, and none of the classes fit my major anyways.” Her advice to future study abroad students is to “try to plan it so you’re not only left with education classes or your major classes to take and have some electives left.”


Finances can also be a hindrance for students looking to go abroad, but there are several options for students who may need help in this area. For the faculty-led trips, students are encouraged to apply for the Global Ambassador Scholarship or the Center for Italian Culture/AVGC Scholarship, depending on which trip students are applying for. After applying to join the program of their choice students can apply for one of these scholarships online through Fitchburg State University’s AcademicWorks from Oct. 1, 2022 – Oct. 15, 2022. This allows time for students to find out if they have received the scholarship before payments for these trips begin in November and December of 2022. According to the Fitchburg State website’s page on The Global Ambassador Scholarship “ When fully implemented, the fund is designed to boost the number of students in our faculty-led international programs by 30 percent over its first six years.” While students from all majors are welcome to apply, this scholarship will be limited to sophomore, junior and senior class students. 


Ultimately, Salerno says, “Whatever you can do, you should do; if you have the chance to go for the semester, we as an office always encourage that.” She points out that the Office of International Education hosts multiple cultural events each year, “So even students who can’t get to another country have a chance to experience other cultures.” All students can look forward to the upcoming Diwali “festival of lights” event that will be put together by the international students and will take place this October.