An Appetite to Study Abroad
This semester, over 60 St. John Fisher College students are studying in Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Australia, marking one of the largest cohorts of students Fisher has sent abroad in one semester. The study abroad program has seen an increase in interest; in part, due to the expanded efforts of program director, Dr. Stella Plutino-Calabrese.
Plutino-Calabrese, who is also a professor in the modern languages department, took on the role of director of global education in 2016. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to promote study abroad opportunities to students and to encourage those who didn’t think the opportunity was within their reach, to think globally.
She credits the increased interest to a variety of factors, including a Study Abroad Club and the additional recruitment events.
“It has been a big team effort from the advisors, faculty, and staff promoting the importance of study abroad. I couldn’t have done it without their support,” she said.
One such event was born from an idea Plutino-Calabrese had last fall, which brought some of her current students together for a meal for what she called a Cultural Dinner. The hosts? President and Mrs. Rooney.
“Food brings people together. Many times, the ingredients you use to make a dish represents typical ingredients of the country from which the meal originated. It is a great way to discuss the culture, traditions, and history of a place,” said Plutino-Calabrese.
Over 20 students from Plutino-Calabrese’s two Italian classes gathered at the President’s Residence for the first of what she hopes will be many events designed to bring people together to learn more about the different cultures, languages, and of course, the food.
“It worked out beautifully and Dr. Rooney was very generous to offer his house. For the students, it was pretty cool for them to say they were going there for dinner,” said Plutino.
Together, they made 22 pounds of pasta from scratch making spaghetti, fettuccine, and linguine before sitting and enjoying the meal. Jared Saya ’20 jumped on the invitation as soon as he received it.
“The conversation was amazing. I love talking to other people that are passionate about the same things. It was a great atmosphere,” said Saya.
Plutino-Calabrese’s hope is featured Spanish, Greek, or even Australian-themed food at the next event.
“It created camaraderie among the students who didn’t really know each other from class; they had a chance to talk outside of class in a more casual setting,” she noted.
Additional events on the study abroad docket this spring include a Fulbright Lectureship, a global citizen project, and a global community engagement project.
The program’s first Study Abroad Fair will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Golisano Gateway Midlevel. Students who are thinking about studying abroad will be able to have their course and financial aid questions answered. She was also able to secure a grant from the American Institute of Foreign Studies (AIFS), Fisher’s global education partner, which will offer free passports to the first 20 students who attend the fair. Those interested should bring completed passport application documents.
In addition, students who attend the fair will be eligible to enter their names into a drawing for two $500 scholarships that can be used to offset expenses for their study abroad experience. It’s a win-win for students who may have the travel bug.
This fall, Fisher expects to send 14 students overseas, double the typical number of study abroad participants in the fall semester. Plutino-Calabrese says her favorite part of her new role is being on the students’ journeys with them.
“Getting to know the students before going and after coming from abroad and witnessing their transformation is my favorite part. When they come back they are more mature, more interested in local and global issues, and are more confident, patient, and flexible. In many cases they master a foreign language along with cultural awareness and appreciation,” she said.