Why you should ditch the typical freshman year experience & study abroad instead

Whether you’re coming to FSU knowing the Tomahawk chop and reciting the fight song in your sleep, or had to Google the lyrics while you stood in the stands at your first football game Freshman year, you made it! Congratulations. Chances are you’re a little nervous, confused and anxious about how to make your time at Florida State University the best it can possibly be.  

You’ll most likely get similar advice from anyone you talk to about how to make the most of your college years — “Make new friends!” “Join a club!” “Have fun!” “Take interesting classes not related to your major!” “Keep an open mind!” “Go to office hours!” And while all of these are great tips, oftentimes people forget to mention (or don’t even know about) the one opportunity you have as a college freshman to ensure you do all of these exciting things, plus many more: study abroad.  

Newly admitted Noles have two primary options to study abroad with International Programs during their freshman year. These are known as our First Year Abroad and First Semester Abroad programs. Aside from being two of four special admission options offered through the newly designed Seminole Pathways programs, both of these programs are offered to any and all Florida State University freshman. In addition to the many benefits that come with studying abroad, out-of-state students who take advantage of our FYA program can earn in-state tuition at FSU for the rest of their college career after the completion of their year abroad. After earning 14 credits in a semester, in-state students with a cumulative FYA GPA of 3.0 or better also qualify for scholarship opportunities. Cool, right?

Before we look at the programs themselves, let’s talk about why anyone would want to spend their entire freshman year or first semester of college abroad. Isn’t your freshman year when you’re supposed to live in the dorms on campus, meet all of your future best friends and go to football games every other weekend? Well, yes, that’s what an ordinary freshman at FSU would do. But who wants to be ordinary nowadays? At a school with over 40,000 students, it can be hard to stand out, especially as a freshman. Spending your first semester or year abroad is one of those extraordinary qualities that will set you apart in the best way possible.

Such early exposure to an international education allows students to start college with an open-minded perspective and a handful of unique experiences they will remember for a lifetime. When you study abroad, the world is your classroom — literally. Most of our overseas faculty opt for a non-traditional academic setting during their lessons, and oftentimes students will find themselves in public spaces such as museums, parks, galleries and historical landmarks more often than in the actual classroom. Students who have never completed a full semester at our main campus will certainly arrive to Tallahassee with a more comprehensive understanding of what a “learning environment” is. Learning is no longer confined to a classroom or lab, but rather exists all around them. Critical thinking skills, creativity, personal confidence and so many more personal and academic qualities are strengthened during a students’ time abroad. Not to mention, they’ll have a blast the whole time, complete credits toward graduation and make fantastic friendships.

Sound good? Now, let’s take a closer look at each program.

First Semester Abroad (FSA)

FSA programs run during the Fall semester at all four of our study centers. These are located in Panama City, Panama; Florence, Italy; London, England and Valencia, Spain. Students participating in FSA will choose one of these four locations and will spend the entire semester — departing in August and returning in December — living and learning at the study center.

During their semester abroad, students will experience a fast-paced schedule of classes, group excursions and local events. Depending on their choice of location, students will enroll in specific courses designed to keep them on track with their graduation requirements. Something we really want students and parents to understand is that participation in FSA or FYA will NOT impede on their graduation plans. The courses available to students fulfill requirements of the Liberal Studies program, which all students at FSU are required to complete. Many classes may even be used toward students’ minors and majors! Science majors, however, are limited to the London, Panama City or Valencia locations, which are all excellent locations to learn and practice science.

All specific information about First Semester Abroad including details about housing, course lists, excursions and fees can be found on our website.

First Year Abroad (FYA)

FYA programs are different in a few ways. For one, they run for a full 12 months, and satisfy the summer residency required of all Florida State students. Additionally, students may choose to complete their summer semester at a different study center than the one they choose for their spring and fall semesters, though visa restrictions may apply.

One of the biggest differences between FSA and FYA is that out-of-state FYA students who hold a 3.0 or higher GPA and are in good judicial standing with the university after their year abroad are granted in-state tuition for the remainder of their undergraduate career at FSU. For a typical four-year degree, the savings could total up to $40,000! Florida residents with a cumulative FYA GPA of 3.0 or higher receive a $1,500 scholarship toward their next semester, which adds up to a savings of $3,000 if earned for both the Spring and Summer semesters.

Students in the FYA program may take up to 49 credits over the course of three semesters, starting in the fall. Similar to FSA, courses offered to students satisfy requirements for the Liberal Studies program, many minors and almost all majors offered at Florida State. Again, for specific information on this program, visit our website or contact our office via phone at 850.644.3273, via email at ip-info@fsu.edu or on social media @FSUIP.

Thanks for reading! We wish all newly admitted freshmen the best of luck on this upcoming adventure and hope you will consider going abroad with us during your time at Florida State University. Whether you choose to get your first taste of Florida State University abroad or here in Tallahassee, we are happy to welcome you to the Seminole family!

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