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Getting Immersed In A New Community

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Growing up in an international family, I always knew I wanted to study abroad in college. I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout my life, mostly going to France and Switzerland to visit my extended family. Both of my parents moved to the United States to study, where they then met each other and found their new forever home. My older sister also studied abroad for a semester in college, and after her rave reviews of becoming a Parisian for a few months, I knew one day I would similarly love to immerse myself in a new culture. Being surrounded by positive experiences about the benefits of cultural immersion and the amazing life lessons that can come from moving abroad, I decided to apply to the IFSA Pembroke College, Cambridge program.   

I chose the Pembroke College program because I wanted to feel fully immersed in another university. This program was not only welcoming to international students, but took us all in as full Cambridge students. In our first couple of weeks at Pembroke, we had our own convocation, got to sign our names in the college book, and partook in many orientation and welcome events. I am very grateful for the support of the IFSA abroad team, and heading into the academic term with the community of IFSA students and staff was greatly reassuring and exciting. Not only did this program allow me the stability of a great abroad program that had genuine care and interest in its students well being, it also provided me with great friends from other U.S. universities to experience the semester abroad with. 

 This program allowed me to feel fully immersed in both the Cambridge student life as well as the greater Cambridge city life. At the University, all of the clubs and societies were open to join, even just for the one semester. Many of my friends and I took advantage of the societies, joining the hill walking club and heading out for fun rows with the Pembroke College Boat Club. In addition, one of my favorite societies that I joined was the Cambridge Union. Heading to the Union for the interesting and thought provoking debates on Thursday nights was one of my favorite parts of my weekly schedule. The city life of Cambridge was also amazing, with many fun events being held weekly such as plays and art festivals.  

Another aspect of the program which contributed to my feeling of immersion in the University life were the classes. While at Cambridge I took English courses to contribute to my English major. Not only were there a vast amount of classes in many subjects to choose from when applying, but the courses were fantastic. Set up in a Cambridge supervision style, my English classes consisted of meeting one-on-one with Professors who are experts in their field. In addition to the weekly meetings were lectures which students are allowed to attend no matter the subject. Overall, I feel that I gained a lot from partaking in the Cambridge teaching and learning style. I was able to walk away from my courses having completed a dissertation focused on the representation of women in Chaucer’s texts, which in itself is just as immersive in British history, literature and culture as I could have ever imagined.

 From the opportunity to join clubs to the outstanding academics, this program allowed students to absorb as much of the Cambridge life as we wanted. Some of my favorite memories at Pembroke range from meeting new people at formal hall dinners to late night walks to Jack’s Gelato after an evening in the library with friends. While the opportunity for cultural immersion was one of my main priorities when choosing a study abroad program, reflecting back on my time in England has made me realize that it was only one piece of the puzzle. Some other really important aspects of my time abroad which stemmed from the opportunity to be immersed in the community are the friendships I made with both other study abroad students and full-time students, as well as the opportunity to travel, the academics, and the many wonders which come from living abroad for the first time. 

 I am so grateful for everything I learned through this experience and would not trade my time abroad for anything. The friendships, life experiences and lessons which can come from a program such as this one are unmatched and I would recommend the Pembroke College program to anyone and everyone interested in studying at Cambridge. 

Juliette Gaggini is a student at Bucknell University and studied abroad with IFSA at the University of Cambridge in the Fall 2022 semester. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.