The Charger Blog

Resident Assistants Serve as Source of Support for Students Studying Abroad in Italy

Just as on the main campus in West Haven, resident assistants at the University’s Tuscany campus are committed to ensuring a positive, fun, and inclusive environment for their fellow students.

November 8, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Gabe McGaw ’23 (left) and Sean Flatley ’23 in Pisa.
Gabe McGaw ’23 (left) and Sean Flatley ’23 in Pisa.

When Sean Flatley ’23 was a first-year student, he spent a semester abroad at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy. It was an experience he enjoyed so much that he returned as a senior. He’s now spending much of his final semester as a Charger in Italy – this time, as a resident assistant.

For Flatley, who will graduate this winter with a bachelor’s degree in national security, it is his first time serving as an RA. He wants to help ensure a positive experience for his classmates abroad.

“As a first-year student, I really enjoyed the food, the traveling, and the experience of living abroad,” he said. “Coming back and being an RA is more responsibility, but it was a smooth adjustment.”

Flatley is one of two students serving as RAs in Italy this semester. Much like RAs on the University’s main campus, RAs in Prato are trained to assist the students who live on campus, serving as a source of support and helping to build a sense of community and inclusion.

Gabe McGaw ’23 says serving as an RA in Italy does present some unique challenges, and it is a position he enjoys.

“You have students who are feeling homesick, and you have to balance taking care of others with taking care of yourself,” explains McGaw, an international affairs major. “We’re also learning about a new culture and we’re surrounded by non-English speakers. People respect me as an RA. I can balance enjoying my time here while putting students’ safety first.”

Sean Flatley ’23 plays table tennis during a sports night event.
Sean Flatley ’23 plays table tennis during a sports night event.
‘I’ve gotten to know everyone’

As RAs, McGaw and Flatley alternate weeklong shifts on duty. They make sure the residences are taken care of and pass along any issues to staff. They can still travel when they are off-duty – Flatley has visited Switzerland this semester, and McGaw went to Oktoberfest in Germany – and they say their weeks on duty are a good opportunity to get their schoolwork done.

“There’s so much to do and see while abroad,” said Flatley. “It’s very enjoyable, and I’d encourage any student considering studying abroad to go for it.”

While they are leaders and sources of support for their classmates, Flatley and McGaw still regularly take part in campus-wide events, such as weekly excursions. McGaw says his time in Prato has enabled him to get to know the other students abroad while playing an important role in making sure everyone has a positive experience.

“I’m an introvert, and I’ve gotten to know everyone,” he said. “There are no faces I don’t know. I hope everyone has fun, and I make sure of that. My mindset is that everyone here wants to be here, and they should be able to enjoy it.”

Gabe McGaw ’23 (center) and his classmates in Siena.
Gabe McGaw ’23 (center) and his classmates in Siena.