Preparing to Come Home

Preparing to Come Home

Posted by: on December 11, 2014   |Comment (1)|Florence

With five days left in our study abroad experience, “bittersweet” is truly the only word I can use to fully encapsulate the emotions we are all feeling. Florence has been my home away from home for three and a half long months and its hard to know exactly what I’m “supposed” to feel leaving it behind. When moving in, I never imagine that 111 days would go by as fast as they did. Although thoughts of American flags and seeing my family are hard to keep out of my mind, enjoying my final days in Florence hasn’t been too tough!

The last few days have been filled with excitement around the holiday season here in Florence.  The streets are lined with Christmas lights and festive holiday décor. Tonight was the annual tree lighting at the Duomo. It was an amazing gathering for the Florentine people to celebrate the Immaculate Conception, a national Holiday here in Italy. While waiting for the tree to light, I took a second to really appreciate Florence- a city that for four months has let me truly embrace in their culture and celebrate their traditions.

Although the holiday ambiance has been unavoidable, I am still trying to stay focused during my last week at Fairfield and FUA. With three finals and one lesson keeping me from Boston, I can almost taste the Dunkin Donuts coffee! As we’ve been finishing our last classes, one assignment that I know all of the education girls really enjoyed doing was our EDU Diversity journal, “10 Golden Rules” for the girls coming abroad next semester. It was such a bizarre feeling giving advice on something like studying abroad. So much of what you learn here is through experience and I feel it was two days ago when I was hearing advice from last year’s study abroad students. We all were excited to share our own perspectives on what we thought the most important rules to follow were.  The ideas ranged from “budget your money” to “travel anywhere and everywhere.”

As excited as we are all to be getting home to America, one of the hardest parts about leaving will definitely be leaving our classrooms. Each week I enter the class I am overwhelmed by the excitement and love that the students have for our time together. The Italian students and teachers have truly been a pleasure to work with and taught me so much about myself as a teacher and a person. I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to have worked with such a great class. Although it was so much different from anything I’ve ever done, the reward of listening to them speak a sentence in English because of what I had taught them was one of the best feelings I’ve had in the classroom! I can speak for all seventeen of us when I say that we are going to miss being teachers here.

Florence has been the best home I could have asked for. The character of the city is incomparable and its authentic Italian roots are hard not to fall in love with. The next five days will be filled with “lasts”—last pictures, last gelatos, and last classes, but the memories and experiences I will be taking home with me are truly unforgettable.





–Kristin Wheeler

With five days left in our study abroad experience, “bittersweet” is truly the only word I can use to fully... MORE

The Final Few Weeks

Posted by: on December 4, 2014   |Comments (0)|Florence

It’s so hard to believe that we are already winding town to the tail end of the semester. Only 18 more days until we will all be USA bound! I think I speak for everyone when I say leaving here on December 13th will be the most bittersweet feeling we’ve ever experienced. I am so excited to go home to see my family, be in the comfort of my own home again and enjoy one of my mom’s home cooked American meals; but at the same time, I never want these exciting adventures that I have had here to end. I have had an absolutely incredible experience here so far– I don’t even know how to begin putting into words how amazing this semester has been. We have all traveled to places that in the past I only could have dreamed about: Croatia, Germany, Budapest, the Amalfi Coast, Greece, Paris, London, Switzerland and so many more. I am constantly thinking about how to respond to people who ask me how my abroad experience was when I get home, because it truly is so difficult to explain to anyone the ups, downs, fun times, scary experiences, new friends, immaculate views, and beautiful places that we’ve seen and been to.

Since finals week is rapidly approaching, all the Education girls are preparing final lesson plans, working tirelessly on our big Lesson writing projects and our Social Studies unit project, as well as trying to stay on top of our work for our other classes. Although the work has been tough and some nights have been late, the fun times we’ve had inside and outside the classroom will make all of it worth it. Many people have friends and family visiting this week for Thanksgiving as well, and we are all looking forward to the Thanksgiving dinner that Professor Hayes is hosting for us on Thursday evening. Many of us are planning Thanksgiving lessons for our classes this week and all the Italian students are eager to learn about this American holiday. All I know is that I have a LOT to be thankful for this year, and although I cannot be home with my family on this special holiday, I am sending all my love and thanks from the beautiful city of Florence. Happy Thanksgiving!!!


-Maggie Schmidt

It’s so hard to believe that we are already winding town to the tail end of the semester. Only 18... MORE

Final Month in Belfast: Travels, Holidays and Goodbyes

Posted by: on January 4, 2014   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

We can’t believe how the time has passed so quickly especially in the month of November. Once we returned from our respective travels in Germany, Italy, Holland, and Copenhagen, we only had a week to our next adventure week and till it was December. Before we could travel again, we celebrated Thanksgiving with the Stranmillis college, ISFA- Butler and Michelle’s parents. The dinner was enjoyable and the meal filled with all the traditional Thanksgiving foods. There was turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and apple pie. After dinner, everyone Skyped or Facetimed with their family while they had Thanksgiving dinner back in the United States. Afterwards everyone packed a bag for Paris.








As our last big adventure in Europe, we tried to soak in everything Paris had to offer. We were all able to take the sight seeing bus around the city and see all the main attractions even the Eifel tower. We spent our night wandering around the Paris Christmas Market trying food and looking at the booths. The next day, Maggie, Michelle and I went to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art. Then we went to the Shakespeare book company to buy copies of the book Madeline. While, Colleen traveled to see the Palace of Versailles It was great trip to end the month of November.

With our days numbered in Belfast, we tried to make each day count! Between our placements and classes we continued to venture around the city. Both kept us very busy! Final papers, and lesson plans were being written.  We even returned to the restaurant we went with Dr. Skawinski, the Crown Bar. Additionally, multiple trips to the Christmas market occurred with filling up on all the delicious food.  There were so many different foods from around the world for us to try. Some our favorites were the burgers, the Dutch pancakes, and the churros.  Then we went to St. George’s market for art souvenirs. Also in the holiday spirit ISfA- Butler took us to winter Wonderland Park in Belfast. All the ISFA-Butler students were able to ice skate, have a hot chocolate and go on a carnival ride. Everyone got into the holiday spirit and had a great time!



As the departure date grew closer, our days become busier! We passed in our final papers. Stranmillis University and ISFA- Butler hosted a graduation for all the American students studying in the fall semester.



Ger from ISFA, professors, the international office, student union international advisor, and our placement vice principal were all at the lunch.  After a great meal, the Principal of Stranmillis began the ceremony. Everyone received certificates and graduation stoles. For dinner that night, we went to eat with our flat mates for a farewell dinner.  Ironically we began our first night at an Italian restaurant in Belfast and ended it another Italian restaurant near campus.  As a group we reminisced, about all our great adventures, and time at Stranmillis. It has been a great three months! We learned, we laughed and took on Europe!  It’s bittersweet leaving this amazing country! But we are excited to see our friends and family back home!


Happy New Year!   Kati, Maggie, Michelle and Colleen

Elementary Special Education Belfast Year One

We can’t believe how the time has passed so quickly especially in the month of November. Once we returned from... MORE