First years abroad: A brief on the class of 2018 Feb-Frosh

For Feb-Frosh who spend their first semester of college abroad in Salamanca, Spain or Dijon, France, arriving on campus in JanPlan and meeting new classmates who know much more about life at the College than they do can be intimidating. However, for many students, the First Semester Abroad (FSA) Program not only was an enriching experience, it also played a large role in affecting their college careers and approach to friendships once they were back on campus.

Many Feb-Frosh were initially disappointed with their conditional letters of acceptance. Lindsay Freter ’15 explained that Feb-Frosh do not get to decide whether they go abroad or not. She said, “Electing to go on the trip is an option when a student applies to Colby, but normally the offer comes with your acceptance to [the College], which was what happened to me.”

Speaking about her own reaction to the College’s offer, she said, “When I first got my FSA acceptance, I have to be honest and say that I was more angry than anything. I remembered… my interviewer [telling] me about the program when I [was] interviewed, and thought that it was an absolutely insane idea. I was just thinking about all the factors that everyone [ponders] when they hear about FSA, such as, ‘How do I meet people? How much on campus am I going to miss? So did I actually get accepted to Colby?’”

For most Feb-Frosh, this initial trepidation quickly faded as they immerse themselves in the foreign cities with small groups of about twenty classmates.
Jared Scharf ’15 described the unexpected influence that his first semester in Spain had on the rest of his undergraduate experience: “There are a lot of aspects of being abroad in Spain, but the one that stands out to me was having the opportunity to speak Spanish on such a consistent basis. After spending time in Salamanca, I realized that being able to communicate in a different language was something I wanted to pursue, and that lead me to one of my majors, Spanish.”

For many Feb-Frosh, perhaps the most daunting aspect of FSA is the issue of not being able to make as many friends as those on campus during that crucial first semester of college. However, Scharf said that beginning college abroad actually allowed him to meet a varied group of people from all over the world. “I made friends through my host family and classes from a variety of different countries and cultures, and learning about our differences definitely made for an eye opening experience from the beginning,” he said.

Freter echoed Scharf’s sentiments when she talked about the support system that she developed during her time abroad. For Freter, the ability to travel around with a small group of 22 students without “real life issues” to deal with was a huge factor in creating a network of close friends on which she could rely once she arrived on campus. “I think that having this close group of friends to start at Colby was an advantage…that outweighs the fact that we missed the big COOT trip and the first semester on campus,” she said.

When Feb-Frosh finally arrive on campus in time for the start of JanPlan, there is a period of chaos in which they are thrown into life on the Hill at the peak of winter in Maine and all of their classmates are curious to meet the “new students.” However, once the Feb-Frosh settle in, they are able to take their experiences and friendships from FSA and bring them to campus.

Freter explained the gradual process of settling into the College, “Coming back to campus was a tad weird, but really our classmates welcomed us with open arms. It has now gotten to the point where I feel like I never missed a semester and that I’m not labeled as a Feb Frosh, and I meet people that didn’t even know I was on the trip. So eventually, even though Feb Frosh wear that label for a bit, we’re completely integrated.”

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