Irish Eyes Are Smiling — at Saint Leo University

November 20, 2014

Study USA Program Student Feels at Home at University Campus


Gemma Gibson, 22 of Annahilt in Northern Ireland, felt right at home when she laid eyes on Saint Leo University–via the Internet.The university website “caught my eye straight away,” said Gibson, a college junior. She is attending courses at Saint Leo this academic year as a participant in Study USA, a study abroad program offered by the British Council.

“I started the process about a year ago and I felt fortunate to get my first choice,” she remarked.

In Ireland, she attended Belfast Metropolitan College, which is about 30 minutes from her home village. “My college at home helped prepare me for this experience. I was ready for the small class size and like the idea of being able to get to know your professors, tutors, and classmates,” stated Gibson.

Gibson is studying tourism at home so the International Tourism & Hospitality Management degree program at the Donald R. Tapia School of Business is custom-made for her professional aspirations. “I like to travel and see places so having an opportunity to study it at the same time is ideal,” she said. She’s a member of the International Tourism Club and attends meetings of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality.

She also enjoys the variety of activities, clubs, and organizations that the campus offers. Such activities–combined with the options of communicating with her family at home via Skype and through texting–allow her to enjoy America and keep home sickness at bay.She recently rushed Theta Phi Alpha national sorority, and has since been accepted into membership of the Beta Upsilon chapter. “That was something completely different for me. It will allow me to meet new people and stay active on campus,” said Gibson. She’s also a member of the Intercultural Student Association.

This is not Gibson’s first trip to America. Last year, on holiday, she and her best friend visited 22 states during their five-week odyssey. That included Florida, with stops in Miami, Orlando, and Panama City–but no visits to Florida’s west coast. Since coming to Saint Leo, she’s also been to Universal Orlando and Clearwater Beach, which she loved.

School vacations will allow her to see other destinations, as well. For Thanksgiving, Gibson plans to join a large group of Study USA program studentsin Chicago.Her family will visit for two weeks during Christmas. She also intends to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square in New York.

Gibson will return home after the academic year ends in May. She will recommend the experience to other college students in Northern Ireland. “I’m so glad I did it. It is totally worth it and I would encourage others to do the same,” concluded Gibson.

The Study USA program, originally called the Business Education Initiative, was established in 1994. It is a successful program which offers undergraduate students studying in Northern Ireland, the opportunity to study business for one academic year at church-affiliated universities and colleges in the U.S.A.

For more information about the Study USA program, visit here.

As a way to thank their U.S. colleges and universities for hosting Study USA students, the Northern Ireland institutions offera limited number of study placements on the Irish American Scholars Program each year. This program enables a limited number of American students from Study USA-supporting colleges to spend one or two semesters at a university or college in Northern Ireland, tuition free. For more information about the Irish American Scholars Program, visit here.