When thinking about Arcadia and what’s most impacted my experience here, I immediately think of our FYSAE (First Year Study Abroad Experience) program. FYSAE is one of our flagship study-abroad programs, which takes about 80 freshmen each year to study for a semester in Stirling, Scotland or London England. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see the world straight out of high school.
For those interested, here’s how FYSAE works. A select group of incoming freshmen are asked to interview for the program based on SAT scores and GPAs. If you’re admitted to the program, you will spend either fall or spring semester at a London university (mainly humanities courses) or the University of Stirling (more science-based courses).
Right now, I’m spending the spring semester at the University of Stirling in Scotland. FYSAE was actually one of the main reasons I ultimately chose to attend Arcadia. How could I pass up the chance to spend part of my freshman year in another country? (Of course, the Castle, great social sciences programs, and a beautiful campus were major factors in my decision as well!)
The decision was the right one. Living in a foreign country is having a large, measurable impact on me. I’ve had to learn the London Tube system lightning fast to see the most of the city during my three-day trip. If you’d seen me in action using Philadelphia’s public transportation system, you’d be amazed at my progress. I’ve dealt with so many mini-crises around travel delays and mishaps that I would have freaked out over before, but now I take in stride. I’ve pushed myself to keep going while I explore when I normally would have given up.
Exploration has been a huge part of my experience here so far. As I write this, I’m traveling by train from London to Hever Castle, one of the settings in Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. I’ve also visited Stirling Castle, Melrose Abbey, Edinburgh’s shopping-heavy Princes Street, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and a sprinkling of other amazing places.
Feeling ready to travel around cities as huge as the ones I’ve found here didn’t happen overnight, of course. Arcadia prepares FYSAE students a lot for what we’ll encounter in Europe. On campus, we had 3 or 4 orientation sessions, topped off by a three-day in-country orientation. In addition to that, we all have a mentor who also went through the FYSAE program and can share their experiences. Most of us have never studied abroad, so this extra layer of support is essential to our experience.