IFSA (Institute for Study Abroad)

Program Reviews

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Vineeta
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Seeing India in a Fresh Light

Studying with IFSA in Pune, India, was an experience of a lifetime. I chose this program because my college mentor had recommended it to me when I struggling to find a program in India that fit my needs. Pune isn't always the first city people think of when they think of India, but it's definitely the best place to study abroad. The city itself is easy to travel around but is packed with enough places to visit that you'll never be out of things to do. There's a huge local student population so there's plenty of chances to make new friends.
The program staff in Pune were amazing, all of my program mates and I became very close to them especially our program director. Uttaraa was extremely attentive to our needs and if we had any questions about volunteering or tutoring she was always on top of it to find us the best options. Not to mention, the classes were steeped in a level of academic rigor that was similar to my home university, which I really appreciated. I genuinely felt like I was learning new and nuanced facts about India that really informed my view of the country as a whole as well as enhancing my view of the world overall.
My homestay experience was also amazing, I was housed with 2 other students in an easily accessible location and a more than welcoming host. Our host treated us like family and even bought 2 of us cakes on our birthdays and celebrated with us. She provided us tea before we would leave for school (IFSA program site provided breakfast, lunch was up to us) and amazing dinners in the evening. She would make something new everyday and it was yet another way for us to learn about Indian culture through our everyday interactions.
Continually, I grew really close to my friends in the program and since it was a small program, it made it easier for us to go out and experience this city together. We were all lucky to have gotten so close and we cherished our time together, but that would not have been possible without IFSA and the amazing resident staff.
I think IFSA really cares to make every part of your study abroad experience meaningful and tailored to your needs. There's not a detail that's overlooked and spending time in the vibrant cultural hub that is India is something I'll never forget! If you're looking for a program that is supportive and really challenges you to learn about the world around you, look no further. This is the program for you!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I would say that you should try a new thing every *other* day. I say this because it can be easy to become overwhelmed with activities, social events, and navigating a new city. While you should welcome new opportunities with open arms, it's important to take time for yourself and do things that are comforting for you or remind you of home so that you can feel refreshed and ready for the adventures waiting for you.
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Bridget
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Empowering and Supportive

I studied abroad at Trinity College Dublin with IFSA in the spring of 2015 and had an extremely transformative experience. From the beginning, IFSA provided outstanding support. I remember being so sick that I had lost my voice during our orientation-- yet the IFSA staff was sure I was cared for and included in those initial days when community building with my cohort was so important. 

Throughout the process, IFSA taught us the value of being independent in a foreign country while always ensuring that we had staff to rely upon. Notably, the IFSA Ireland Community and Culture Seminar provided me with the resources to understand culture shock, identify my own learning curve, and process the new cultural information I encountered on a daily basis. The experience enabled me to feel confident and empowered as I went about my daily life in Dublin.

Of course, IFSA-sponsored excursions were also a highlight. From our trip to Belfast to our outdoor adventures in Killary, we were able to experience different regions of Ireland and make lasting friendships in our cohort. I have many memories of exploring streets in Belfast, running obstacle courses in bogs, and frolicking in Ireland's renowned landscape. One tip for anyone considering this program: jump right into that bog and immerse yourself!

What would you improve about this program?
Living and studying in a cohort of other American students on the IFSA program had many benefits, such as being able to connect and support each other through our shared experiences. However, it was sometimes challenging to make similar connections with Irish students, who knew our time in Ireland was temporary. I found that joining clubs and societies at the university was crucial, and IFSA encouraged us to do so. I always wondered if additional opportunities like homestays would have rounded out the experience. 

In all, I would not trade my study abroad journey for the world!
Colin Murchison's headshot
Colin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Study Abroad in New Zealand With IFSA - Everything I Needed for an Immersive Experience Overseas

As a young adult who had little experience with travel and zero experience with international solo travel, I sought out a program provider that offered on-the-ground support and guidance through all the logistics of living and studying abroad for a semester. IFSA was the perfect option for what I needed. From finding student accommodation to working through jetlag -- the staff was friendly, supportive, and clearly had our best interest at heart. I had the opportunity to witness how they helped friends through adversity, and we all knew that if we needed someone, they were just a phone call away. The program size was small enough to be intimate yet forced us to make connections outside our fellow program participants. While a seasoned solo traveler likely wouldn't need the level of support IFSA provided, I would highly recommend this program to nearly all prospective study abroad students. The knowledge and assistance they provided throughout the program allowed me to avoid many of the stresses of traveling and quickly adjust to being abroad, improving my immersion and helping to create a meaningful and impactful experience I will cherish forever.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
One of the excursions that IFSA provided through the program was spending a night on a boat. During this, we kayaked, fished, and went scuba diving. We caught urchins and were shown how to eat them raw.
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Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Living only blocks from the Malecon!

The IFSA staff was amazing! No matter what, the resident director was always available to help; whether it was a restaurant recommendation for lunch to accompanying me to the clinic when I got sick to organizing excursions to the rest of the island, Rose Ana always knew what to do. It made me feel much more comfortable, especially at the beginning of the semester, knowing that someone was there for me. Also, I spent my birthday there, and the IFSA staff and my homestay family organized a birthday party for me with a cake, croquetas, and ensalada fria. My birthday fell on one of the first days we got there and I couldn’t believe how much they did for me even though I was a virtual stranger.
Something else I liked about the IFSA program was the academics. We were the only program in Cuba for US students that let us take only classes at the University of Havana with Cuban students. Other programs made their students take courses that were specifically for their group and thus didn’t get to meet and befriend Cuban students to the extent that we did. Speaking of which, make sure you go to the FEU parties that the student government runs! They are really fun and the entrance fee is only 10 pesos cubanos (which is like 40 cents).
I agree with one of the other reviews below saying that they wish they could do it all over again. I'm getting nostalgic just thinking about it! Also, random side tip: make sure to check out the cafeterias that line the University of Havana for a quick lunch. One of our personal favorites was La Colina.

What would you improve about this program?
I would add more excursions to the rest of the island! I understand that it can be difficult to travel to other provinces in Cuba because of US regulations, but I would have loved to see more of the island with the IFSA group. We went to Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Las Terrazas, and a farm in Sancti Spitirus, but I would have loved to see the eastern part of Cuba (El Oriente) or Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón).
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Quinn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

What Could've Been the Abroad Trip from Hell

In February 2020, I was packing my bags, excited to embark on my semester abroad in Shanghai. Days before my flight, it became clear that I would not be able to travel to China as planned due COVID-19. I was crushed and panicked, not knowing what to do. Luckily, IFSA staff reached out and allowed me to switch to another one of their amazing abroad programs. Within days, I was on a flight to Rome. I was amazed at how well IFSA organized an amazing experience in which I lived blocks away from the Vatican, took interesting classes with Italian professors, and even got to travel.

A highlight of my time abroad was IFSA's planned trip to a small Italian city called Orvieto and Florence. We had a guided tour of the caves in Orvieto and a personal cooking class in Florence (in which we made the most amazing homemade bruschetta, bucatini all'Amatriciana, and tiramisu). We stayed in an authentic, quaint hotel and had plenty of time to explore Florence on our own. I couldn't believe this was all organized and included by IFSA! Another weekend I had the chance to visit my cousin in Milan with a few friends from my program.

While my time in Rome did get cut short due to the pandemic, I have countless memories from my time there that I will cherish forever, like getting a private tour of the Colosseum or making new relationships with an Italian family that IFSA connected me with. While no one could've totally prepared for an unexpected global pandemic, IFSA did an amazing job rolling with the punches and providing me with an unforgettable time in Rome. I created what I believe will be lifelong friendships with other American students as well as Italian peers and professors.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't worry about where your friends and fellow peers are studying abroad. I was nervous going into a program in which I didn't know any other students, but it turned out to be an amazing opportunity to make friendships with people across the country and the world. I still keep in touch with my friends in Rome and American students (with many post-pandemic plans to visit each other). Getting out of my comfort zone facilitated a lot of personal growth in getting me out of my shell more and building confidence in my social as well as academic abilities.
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Megan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Mile from the Royal Mile

In the Fall of 2019, I spent a magical 4 months just a mile from Edinburgh's famous royal mile. Before stepping on the plane from JFK to Edinburgh airport, I had no idea that this study abroad experience would completely change my life. The whole entire way I was supported by IFSA's incredible staff in both the states and while in Scotland. IFSA helped me find the perfect housing just minutes from the University of Edinburgh, as well as to the heart of Edinburgh. The staff of IFSA in Scotland scheduled several meetings throughout my time to make sure that I was keeping up with my studies and enjoying my time abroad. I would absolutely recommend this program to ANY student. The academics at the UoE are rigorous and one can find almost any course to fit within their home school course requirements. OR if you have the time you can always take a course in the bagpipes!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Of course I HAD to try the haggis! To my surprise this was actually quite a delicious sausage like food! Maybe just don't ask for the ingredients list before you try it...
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Halle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Best, Life-Changing Experience

My experience in this program was incredible. IFSA staff was so supportive and was always available to help me with any problems I had. My housing situation was perfect and I loved where I lived. The IFSA trips they offer are incredible, too- I got to visit the Lake District and meet other IFSA students who have become my best friends. Academically, I grew the most in my semester abroad than I ever had and have decided to return to UCL to pursue my masters. I cannot recommend this program enough!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take full advantage of all of IFSA's excursions! I went to the Lake District and got to hike in the hills and meet other friends that were living in my city too.
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Claire
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

IFSA made the adjustment so easy!

I have traveled to Europe before with my family but had never lived in another country for a semester by myself. I was nervous that I would have trouble getting around the city, adapting to a new school, and immersing myself in another culture so quickly. The staff at IFSA and my point of contact, Heather, made me feel safe and supported at all times. She was quick to answer my whatsapp, whether it was a question about transportation or a pub recommendation.
The excursion planned by IFSA was also incredible. Unfortunately I was only able to go on one, because the other one was planned for the week after COVID hit Ireland. We went to Belfast as a study abroad group, and learned about the history of the Troubles, walked over a rope bridge and explored the culture in the city. The accommodations were terrific and the activities were diverse and exciting.
The English classes I took were necessary for my major at home. The classes were pretty difficult and required a lot of reading. However, the teaching was incredible, the classes were small, and the professors made the material very engaging. The professors were very responsive to my constant stream of questions over email and I am so grateful for my classroom experience. Registration day is hectic and stressful but luckily it all worked out.
I chose to study abroad with IFSA because I could only study abroad in either England or Ireland because of my major, and IFSA had well-established programs at both. I very much wanted to be immersed in the culture and attend an Irish institution, rather than travel with a study group from my home university. IFSA has worked with my home school for years and the study abroad director spoke highly of them. Overall, I loved getting to know locals, traveling to small Irish villages, attending pubs, meeting other students on my program and even attending class!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Put yourself out there and talk to locals!! Everyone is so nice and friendly, and happy to engage. You'll be happy you did it!
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Lauryn
5/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Exploring Blackness in London

As a Black Africana Studies major, I was ecstatic to see IFSA at SOAS and immerse myself at a school where non-Western perspectives are the default. In my classes, Language in Africa and Contemporary African literature, we explored African voices and stories that have been severely lacking in my studies even as an Africana Studies major due to a US-centric approach. Connecting with such knowledgeable professors was invaluable and their lessons stick with me still as I casually bring up Africa’s incredible linguistic diversity and find lessons from African literature continue to follow me. I explored my Blackness further outside of the classroom as I traveled around South London after a 20 minute bus ride. It felt amazing to be surrounded by Black communities both long-established and newly formed as they create boisterous communities full of life and joy. I felt so seen walking around and felt so full after eating the amazing food there was to offer. An added bonus was that South London was much cheaper than King’s Cross where I lived. There were also a number of museums that featured work from artists of the African diaspora that left strong impressions both as a member of the Black community and as an artist that focuses greatly on identity. I have brought much of what I learned back to the classroom here and continue to de-center the US in discussions of Blackness because of my time in London.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Particularly for those who are low-income, I would suggest avoiding restaurants and, instead, choosing to cook with groceries that are often much healthier than those in the US, much cheaper, and locally grown. For special nights, traveling to South London to eat will allow you to stretch your money and have far tastier food. While the tube is convenient and quicker, it is also more expensive than the bus. Taking the bus allows you to see more the city and note places you might see from the bus to travel to later! For souvenirs, avoid touristy areas and go to markets, such as the Camden Market, to get great gifts!
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Julia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Study Abroad Experience

Studying abroad in Barcelona, specifically through IFSA was an amazing experience, to say the least. If it weren't for IFSA, my study abroad journey would not have been possible. Since my original plans of studying abroad in Asia were affected due to COVID-19, IFSA worked with me around the clock to help me find a city that fit my needs and make a study abroad trip possible. The teachers and program staff at the IFSA center were incredibly helpful and accommodating, and they implemented many field trips and excursions that gave us the opportunity to learn more about Barcelona. The city itself was incredible and has many attractions for study abroad students. Overall the experience was amazing and was one of the highlights of my college years.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The first day I arrived in the city I was incredibly nervous, but the staff at IFSA made me feel incredibly welcomed and gave me all the information I needed so I would know what to expect.