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### Embracing a Fresh Perspective: A Study Abroad Student’s Transformation

Isabella “Bella” Cronin ’25 recalled being in her Whitefield, New Hampshire classroom during middle school when she first learned about the Syrian refugee crisis. Now a junior at Saint Michael’s College, she revisited that moment while describing her firsthand experience at the Za’atari Refugee Camp, the largest camp for Syrian refugees globally.


Upon her return to the St. Mike’s campus this semester from studying in Amman, Jordan with SIT Study Abroad, Cronin shared that she visited Za’atari multiple times during her internship with an NGO operating a clinic at the camp. She gained insights into the sexual and reproductive health services provided to women at the clinic.

An International Relations major with minors in Peace and Justice, Philosophy and Ethics, and Health Equity, Cronin reflected on the positivity and resilience she witnessed among the camp residents, especially the children who warmly greeted her during her visits.

She remarked, “The firsthand experiences I had there will always hold significant power.”

Approximately four weeks into her study abroad program in Jordan, an armed conflict erupted on Oct. 7, 2023, involving Israel and Palestinian groups led by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This event, unfolding near Jordan’s borders, prompted Cronin and her cohort of seven students to reassess their educational journey, including their planned trip to Switzerland.

Cronin emphasized how witnessing real-time events reshaped her and her peers’ perspectives on education and the study abroad encounter as a whole.

“It alters your viewpoint and prompts you to consider where your information is sourced from,” Cronin stated.

She further mentioned her shift towards consuming news from Middle Eastern and Gulf-based media outlets, emphasizing the importance of diverse perspectives.

During her internship, Cronin delved into the challenges faced by aid workers in Gaza, particularly focusing on aid restrictions imposed by Israel and the attacks on medical personnel and hospitals.


Reflecting on her time in Jordan, Cronin highlighted the importance of asking questions and seeking understanding, even when answers may not be readily available.

She praised the supportive environment of her program, which was led by women, and the kindness of the people she encountered in Amman.

Cronin shared her feelings of safety in Amman, contrasting it with her experiences in larger U.S. cities like Boston and New York.

Living with a host family comprising parents and siblings, Cronin embraced the new dynamic of having host siblings, which she found enjoyable and enriching. Despite being an only child, she quickly adapted to the familial setup and appreciated the opportunity to engage with her host family members in Arabic and English.

Her experience in Jordan not only enhanced her academic participation upon returning to campus but also provided her with a fresh perspective and a positive personal transformation.