Marist Magazine

A First Year in Dublin

Leslie Bates

Students broaden their perspectives in the Freshman Dublin Experience as Marist expands its first-year abroad programming to a second country.




October 21, 2019—“Having a freshman year completely unlike one spent anywhere else was especially appealing,” said Alexandria Sanatore '22, a political science major. “Although it was a big first step, I can say with absolute certainty that I made the best choice by being a part of this program. I fell in love with the city of Dublin.”

Sanatore was one of 25 Marist students who completed the inaugural year of the Freshman Dublin Experience (FDE) this past spring. The group followed a similar curriculum to that of first-year students in Poughkeepsie, in courses approved by Marist faculty that are offered by the Dublin Business School. DBS enrolls more than 9,000 students from Ireland, Europe, and all over the world in its undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in business, the arts, law, and accounting.

“Ireland offers a welcoming and engaging experience that is both rich in culture and cosmopolitan,” said Dr. John E. Peters, dean of international programs at Marist. “While Dublin is a major capital city, students find Dublin approachable and the people they meet to be as interested in them as they are in Ireland.”

Alexandria Sanatore in Dublin
Alexandria Sanatore in Dublin

Building on the success of Marist’s first-year program in Florence, the FDE expands Marist’s first-year abroad programming to a second country, enabling students to select a program that best fits their educational goals, Peters said. “First-year abroad programs are rare, and full-year freshman abroad programs even less common. That Marist now has two full-academic-year freshman programs abroad points to our strong commitment to internationalization of the Marist experience.” 

The College offers more than 50 semester and academic-year programs abroad. According to the Open Doors 2018 report produced by the Institute for International Education, compared to other colleges and universities that offer master’s degree programs, 53 percent of Marist undergraduates study abroad. Marist is fourth in the nation in number of students who study abroad for a semester, and seventh in the number who study abroad for a full academic year. Marist also has been ranked 12th in the Study Abroad category in the Princeton Review’s 2020 guide, The Best 385 Colleges

Shane Duffy, director of the Freshman Dublin Experience Program (front row, far left), with the inaugural FDE class Shane Duffy, director of the Freshman Dublin Experience Program (front row, far left), with the inaugural FDE class: (left to right, front row) Erin Kiffney, Sophia Jordan, Elijah Bischoff,  Sofia Galvez, Breeanna Sharkey, Alexandria Sanatore; (middle row) Kaylyn Rehm, Geandry Rodriguez, Lauren Shand, Ethelle O’Mara, Willow Waltemire, Brooke Varnum, Kenya Bailey, Kathryn Deeter,  Sarah Urena-Clark; (back row) William VanNieuwenhuyze, Kevin Brown, Griffin Puc, Griffen Goldstock, Joy Hollinsed, Alexandra Douglas. Photo: Sam Bland/Foundation for International Education

Eighteen students are enrolled in the FDE this fall. The inaugural year of the program went very well, said Shane Duffy, FDE director. “DBS has been running semester abroad programs for American undergraduates for many years, so all necessary systems for dealing with students have been set up.” It was the first time having the same group return for a spring semester, he said, but it also represented a unique opportunity for the students and program.

Marist partners with the London-based Foundation for International Education to organize orientation, housing, and excursions for the FDE students. The students live in a residential building with FIE staff to support and advise.

Sofia Galvez
Sofia Galvez

FDE students recognized the unusual opportunity they had to take their first collegiate classes in an international environment. “It had always been a longtime dream of mine to study abroad at some point in my college career,” said Sofia Galvez ’22 from Mastic, NY. But as a double major in accounting and business administration, she felt study abroad might be difficult to fit into her schedule without delaying graduation. “Studying my freshman year in Dublin allowed me to complete all the basic required courses that I would be taking in Poughkeepsie but in a very beautiful and culturally rich country.”

Growing up traveling back and forth between family in Germany and the United States led Sophia Jordan ’22 of West Milford, NJ, to choose Marist because of its great study abroad programs, she said. She too chose a first-year program “because I would be able to take my general classes first while getting a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” She selected Dublin because it fit well for her major, political science.

Adapting to a new place is challenging no matter where in the world you are, Sanatore noted, but the program keeps the students busy with activities and study tours throughout Ireland. During academic breaks, she traveled with fellow FDE students to Italy and Spain.

Sanatore said although a few of her friends occasionally felt homesick, she did not. “With all that we have going on, there is little time to feel homesick.”

“There is something about being a small group traveling together that really unites us. We all know each other very well and generally look out for one another … I have had these unique experiences with people I have become very close with.”

They shared mundane moments too, she said. The program offers no meal plan, but a grocery store is a five-minute walk from the Marist housing, so many of the FDE students dined together. Sanatore often cooked for her friends. “In a way, we have become a family.”

Friendships formed with other international and Irish students as well. “Dublin Business School has a very diverse student body,” said Sanatore. “We have gotten the chance to interact with students from all over the world.”

Sophia Jordan in the town of Howth, County Dublin
Sophia Jordan in the town of Howth, County Dublin

Living abroad also has expanded their awareness of the world beyond the United States. “Being separated from American politics, culture, and society for so long has definitely given me a chance to see another side of the world, not as a tourist but as a global citizen,” said Jordan. “DBS has introduced me to many cultures along with Irish culture.”

Sanatore said the experience expanded her world view. “Being able to interact with people from so many different cultures has allowed me to develop a more global perspective,” she said. “My experiences in Dublin have influenced me in so many ways, and I will take those lessons with me throughout the rest of my life.”

To read the full fall 2019 issue of Marist Magazine, click here.

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