Rethinking studying abroad as a freshman

Jenna Kuczkowski

This semester marks the first time Kent State has allowed freshmen to study abroad in Florence, instead of beginning their college career stateside. Fifteen incoming students from the Honors College volunteered to be the first group to go to Florence; for the sake of future freshmen, I hope they’re also the last group.

Kent State is very proud to have one of the few freshman study abroad programs in the country, but as a junior in Kent State’s Florence program, I’m beginning to realize why these programs are so scarce.

My initial concern with the program is the drastic change in lifestyle that is shouldered by the freshman students. Now, not only do they have to adjust from their familiar high school classes to the college style curriculum, but they have to adjust to an entirely new nation and way of life.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to overwhelm myself like that.

Studying in Italy involves learning a new language, culture and, even more importantly, gaining more responsibility for yourself. I feel at that point in their lives, freshmen have a hard time handling everything and still might need a little outside support.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way; look at Kent State forcing students to live on campus with meal plans their first two years to make sure they’re safe and have enough money to eat. I just don’t understand how it’s reasonable to have six or more freshmen living in an apartment in a foreign country.

Eventually, the fall semester will end and these freshman students will have to return back home to attend classes in the spring semester at Kent State’s main campus. I feel that this puts them at a huge disadvantage since they will miss the many freshman activities — like Welcome Weekend in the fall — to help make these new students feel at home in Kent.

They’ll also miss out on those prime chances to make friends and socialize with other students in their class.

While I’m confident they’ll make friends from Kent State in Florence, it won’t be nearly as many as they might have made had they spent their first semester in Kent, where there are thousands of other students they can get to know.

Sure, studying abroad is an amazing cultural experience and something, I feel, every college student should experience.

But my question is, why now? Why so soon in their college careers?

I believe a student’s freshman year on campus is the most important year of school because of the pure joy and awkwardness that comes with experiencing it. It’s just one of those experiences that, like studying abroad, can change your perspective entirely.

Since freshmen can’t be in two places at once, I think students should opt to spend their first semesters on Kent State’s main campus enjoying that experience before jetting around the world to have a new foreign experience.

Jenna Kuczkowski is a guest columnist currently studying abroad in Florence, contact her at [email protected].