Starfruit Story

How I Helped Solve Capacity Issues Through Study Abroad

How Maynooth University worked with University of North Carolina Wilmington to create a new programme that won a GoAbroad Innovation Award

Our Goal

My goal was to create an in-depth relationship between University of North Carolina Wilmington in the US (UNCW) and Maynooth University in Ireland. We were looking to go beyond a straightforward exchange and create a programme that would benefit both institutions.

Together, we created a successful exchange and study abroad programme which enabled UNCW's First Year Spring Admit (FYSA) students to spend their fall semester at Maynooth University. This UNCW "FYSA@Maynooth" programme brought 31 freshmen students to Ireland for their very first semester of university, and still continues to this day.

Our Starfruit

This story is from a little while ago, but I was working for Maynooth University in County Kildare, Ireland at the time.

While chatting to UNCW at various conferences and on university visits, it was clear to me that there was a huge demand for freshmen places in UNCW. They were almost over subscribed. What a great problem to have!

I had a chat with Denise, Mark and Kara at the time in UNCW and I also involved my colleagues in Maynooth, Larry and Jodi. We hashed through the idea of the students having their very first semester abroad in their freshmen year on Maynooth's campus.

Most students go abroad in their sophomore or junior year, so this was a very unique concept.

Given the uniqueness of the programme, we knew we needed to give the students extra support and attention. Not only were these students coming abroad (and for many of them, that alone was a first-time experience), they were also entering university for the first time, which can be daunting as well. At Maynooth, we customised the programme to cater to freshmen university students who would be studying abroad in their first semester, experiencing many things at once for the first time.

We set up a "Wilmington Centre" on campus with staff, which hosted special classes for them to integrate with Irish students. Visiting international students from America were also able to go on excursions to explore Ireland's culture, history, and natural beauty.

Students who came to Ireland received on-campus housing and a meal plan. Each one also had a dedicated Academic Advisor and there was an On-site Coordinator for the duration of the semester. The students also took a core Irish cultural heritage class and were immersed into Irish university life and life as a student, thanks to the guidance and support from both institutions.

Since a cohort of students were spending their first term in Ireland instead of Wilmington, this then freed up space back in North Carolina for more students to enrol. Thanks to the positive feedback from students, it also became quite popular for other students to want to visit Ireland during their freshman year. You can listen to some of the UNCW students describing their experiences in the video below.

The success of the programme has been overwhelming.

The students returned to UNCW prepared and ready to transition into life at UNCW's campus, and the relationship between Maynooth and UNCW has been strengthened immensely. Plus, in 2015, we were presented with a GoAbroad Innovation Award whereby we were judged in categories along with our peers and thankfully came out on top!

Furthermore, as a result of the growing partnership with UNCW, another new customised programme was developed which brought about 15 MA and PhD Higher Education students to Maynooth University in October 2015 for a two-week internship in various offices such as International, Residence, Disability, Student Engagement, Career Development and Chaplaincy.

I thoroughly enjoyed working for Maynooth University and working with University of North Carolina Wilmington to achieve this wonderful outcome to a long story of hard work but it all paid off. Tribute must be given to all involved and I'm glad we were able to create such a great programme that is still in existence today.

Pictured below: Jodi Killackey, Paul Mullally, Larry Taylor, Mark Gallovic. Missing: Denise DiPuccio and Kara Pike Inman.

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Frequently grown in Southeast Asia, starfruits can be either sweet or sour depending on the variety. Although the skin is a bit waxy, it is edible, along with the tiny seeds too.


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