Students who study abroad become explorers, of both their new surroundings and themselves. A benefit of studying abroad is the opportunity for students to self-explore while they gain an understanding of a different culture.
Derrick Belvin '17 was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He enrolled as a freshman Bloomfield College, roughly 12 miles from Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Academy, his former high school, upon graduation. A commuter student, Belvin began to realize that he was not as connected to his future alma mater as some of his peers who resided on campus were.
“The first two years I took classes and went home,” admitted Belvin, who is working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “I didn’t want the sole connection to my alma mater only to be the degree I receive at commencement.”
Belvin proactively began looking for ways to become more involved at Bloomfield College and signed up for the Sophomore Year Mentoring Program, which was founded by Dr. Patrick Lamy, Vice President for Student Affairs.
Belvin’s assigned mentor was Adam Castro, Vice President for Enrollment Management.
"Derrick is one of those people that can put you in a better mood just by being around him. He is understated but is always smiling and laughing. He is mature beyond his years,” said Castro. “When we first met, I encouraged Derrick to embrace the whole college experience, inside and outside the classroom. When I mentioned Study Abroad as a possibility, his face lit up.”
Bloomfield College is a member of CCIS, the College Consortium of International Studies (www.ccisabroad.org) and AIFS, the American Institute for Foreign Study, (www.aifsabroad.com), which sponsor international study programs in Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Past Bloomfield College students have studied in England, France, Italy, South Africa, Argentina, and Japan.
Soft-spoken, reserved, and having never traveled outside of the country without his family, Belvin never investigated the study abroad options offered by the College, but decided to take the leap and contact the Office of Advising on campus who assisted him in deciding where to study and who helped him with his application.
Belvin chose to study abroad in Italy, and enrolled in the American University of Rome. Located just down the street from the Colosseum, the University, which was founded in 1969, is the oldest American degree-granting university in Rome.
Belvin spent two days sightseeing in London, England before heading to Rome. It was in London where he met the other 23 students who he would be spending the semester alongside. The only Bloomfield College student, Belvin got to know college students from New York, Indiana, and Missouri. To this day, they still all text regularly on a group chat.
While Belvin spent his weekdays taking five courses, including Italian course, history of food, and a high renaissance art course, his weekends were spent traveling to different places.
“It was such an amazing, once in a lifetime experience,” expressed Belvin. “I got to travel to different countries within Europe on my free time with the other students. We got to really take it all in and see and taste the culture.”
While studying abroad, Belvin was able to visit Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, and Barcelona, Spain. Within Italy, he visited many different cities including Milan, Capri, Pompeii, Pisa, Venice, Florence, and Sienna.
Since returning to Bloomfield College for his final spring semester, Belvin has encouraged other students to study abroad.
“I hope other Bloomfield College students at least look into studying abroad,” said Belvin. “It will be the best time of their lives. I hope they don’t pass on the opportunity. There are so many options, location wise. Any place they would choose would have been amazing. I learned so much in my time abroad.”
Belvin will earn his bachelor’s degree in May, and finds this to be bittersweet.
“I’m very excited for the next chapter of my story,” said Belvin, who plans to attend graduate school and possibly medical school one day. “It came so fast. I remember coming here for Orientation. Now that I know the campus so well, I am going to miss it. I know graduate school won’t be like this…like home.”
Though no longer his official mentor, Castro maintains a close relationship with Belvin, who works part-time in the Office of Admission.
“I knew study abroad was the opportunity Derrick needed to really emerge as a student and build the confidence to complete his degree and start his career,” stated Castro. “He came back from the experience a changed man; more confident and excited about what the future holds. Playing that small part in Derrick's story is one of the highlights of my career.”