The Patriot

Francis Marion University's award-winning student newspaper

The Patriot

The Patriot

Students spend semester abroad

Recently, nine Francis Marion University students traveled overseas to begin their time studying abroad in a foreign country.  Eight students are spending their semester in England, and one student is living in Ireland.

Ashley Humphries, a junior majoring in English – professional writing, is one of the students studying in England.  She is living in Leicester and studying at De Montfort University (DMU). Humphries said that she was homesick soon after arrival, but she grew accustomed quickly.

“I felt physically sick – missing home, my family and friends,” Humphries said. “But the more I busied myself with doing things outside of my room and found more international students to hang out with, the better I felt about being away from home. I’ve already learned so much from my international friends.”

Humphries noted that she has already developed friendships with people from six different countries, and she has prepared herself for what is to come.

“Because I’ve had two to three weeks to get used to not only the culture shock of England, but also the harsh transition between a university of 6,000 students to a university of 30,000, I think I’m prepared for classes and for whatever else this country throws at me,” Humphries said.

Alyssa Hardy, a junior mass communication major, said just before she left to fly to England that she was having strong feelings about going to another country.

“I’m very excited, but also very nervous,” Hardy said. “I’m definitely looking forward to Leicester and DMU. Even though I’m super happy I’m going, I’m also sad because I’ll miss my friends and family back home. Everyone says I’ll have the time of my life, and I can’t wait to prove them right.”

Humphries and Hardy, along with seven other students, are attending foreign schools through the International Studies Program at FMU. Dr. Jon Tuttle, Professor of English at FMU and Coordinator of International Programs, said that students interested in applying for the exchange program need only stop by his office, Founders Hall 146.

“They can come get an application from me and hear a pep talk,” Tuttle said. “A student would need to have completed 30 semester hours and have at least a 2.7 GPA.

Then he or she would need a recommendation from a faculty member based on maturity and academics so that we know they can handle a foreign environment.”

A student who is accepted would choose the school he or she wanted to attend and begin the process of preparing to depart from the U.S. In nearly every case, tuition is a one-to-one ratio. That is, a student pays the same tuition to go to school in Germany as he or she would to go to FMU for a semester. Tuttle said that there is also a Quality Enhancement Program at FMU which helps with air fare for exchange students.

“QEP enhances the educational experience,” Tuttle said. “The university pays the airfare for most or all exchange students, so that studying in England for a semester would not necessarily be any more expensive than studying at FMU for the same semester.”

De Montfort University is the most popular choice of FMU students when studying abroad. The university has an enrollment of more than 27,000 students and is located about 100 miles north of London.

Dr. Mark Blackwell, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at FMU and the liaison to DMU, said that FMU students usually make friends with other exchange students while abroad.

“Our students tend to make friends with other international exchange students,” Blackwell said. “They live on campus, usually very near each other, in sponsored housing. Some have even gotten riverfront rooms.”

Blackwell, who earned a doctorate in biblical studies in 1997 from the University of Sheffield in England, described the extracurricular scene of Leicester as a lively one. The school stands near an international rugby stadium, and the city is home to the Leicester City Foxes professional soccer team. Blackwell listed a local art museum and a 700-year-old marketplace as two key landmarks to visit.

The seven other main exchange programs that are available to FMU students include the National University of Ireland in Maynooth, Schmalkaden University of Applied Sciences and the University of Trier in Germany, the University of Northern British Columbia in Canada, the University of Caen and Ecole Supérieure de Commerce Et Management in France. Sessions are also available at the Wildsumaco Biological Station in Ecuador. An exchange program in Spain may be available for application as early as this upcoming spring semester. Other, shorter, opportunities to visit foreign countries are also available.

“It’s really not that difficult,” Tuttle said. “It is more within reach than most students believe.”