‘Tis the season to study away. At least, it is if you are a sophomore like me.
In doing my own planning, I had assumed that “study away” was just another name for “study abroad,” but I recently learned that there are a handful of people every year that give it a twist: studying away, but not abroad.Sometimes, the goal for these students is to expand the college experience beyond the liberal arts curriculum. You don’t have to get physically far away to achieve this, either. Eric Mann ’09 spent a semester at Dartmouth studying engineering as part of a dual-degree program that allowed him to achieve both a liberal arts and an engineering degree in five years.
Mann found Dartmouth (perhaps unsurprisingly) to be similar to the College in a number of ways, including the courses, the campus and daily life. The social scene, however, provided something of a contrast. “The social structure around the campus was different, primarily because of fraternities and sororities,” he said.
Most who study away in the U.S. tend toward schools that are less similar to the College, of course. Estefany Reyes ’12 attended school in California for her junior year, with one semester at California State University at Long Beach and the other at USC. Having found out that she was pregnant, she lived at home with her family and commuted each day to school, mucking through L.A. traffic.
“It was a really early start [each day] because of the drive,” Reyes said. “And the parking issue was horrible.”
Even once she got to the campus, the logistical challenges continued. “They’re huge, huge campuses – one of my main issues was getting to class on time. Literally you have to run across campus,” she said. For students used to the warped sense of Williamstown distance, where the seven-minute walk from Paresky to Water Street really does feel “far,” this could be quite an adjustment.
Though Reyes is a native of the urban area, she found that trying to go to school in a busy metropolis presented other challenges, too.
“There were a lot of distractions,” she said. “Personally, I’m the type of person that, if there’s a mall next door, I’ll go there.” Returning to the College this year, she has appreciated the quieter small-town life. “Especially now, I’ve been able to spend more time with the baby,” she said.
On the flipside, there are others that find that they need to get away from the College for a period to have more time and freedom. Adrian Mintzmyer ’12 took some time off from school and then decided that a year studying away at another U.S. school would allow her to pursue greater independence in her area of study and daily life while also putting her closer to completing her degree in preparation for medical school.
At the bigger University of Oregon, Mintzmyer also enjoyed having freedom in her living arrangements. “Since I had been working and supporting myself for a few years at that point, I also was relieved that the U of O expected me to find my own housing and meet my basic needs,” she said. “My housemates were not students, and so my life was much much less school-oriented than when I was at Williams.”
The decision to study away in the U.S. was not as obvious for all students, however. Leslie Chong ’04 wanted something new for her junior year, especially when so many of her classmates would be away, but since she did not speak a foreign language, she decided to look closer to home. “Also, I perhaps wasn’t adventurous enough to dive into a completely foreign environment abroad where I didn’t know anyone. I wanted to be in a city where I’d already have an established social circle,” she said. She decided to go to New York City, where she found her daily life faster paced and more varied.
Abdullah Awad ’12, who is currently attending Columbia in New York City, has also appreciated big city life, particularly for the people. “I think what I enjoy most about Columbia is how diverse people are,” he said. “People at Williams come from a lot of different places but end up conforming to a certain type. At Columbia, difference is sustained. No one is really conforming to a preset type.”
Though when it comes to people the city may have an advantage in numbers, Reyes pointed out that the small town has its benefits, too. “I really haven’t experienced unhappy people [at Williams]. In a big city, it’s a lot tougher,” she said. “There’s just so much going on. People are still friendly wherever you go, but there’s so much more of it here at Williams.”