Students opt to spend a full year abroad
On the Hill, February means snow, a new schedule, a new semester and a reminder that time flies. It’s also a time for decision making. While seniors are thinking about life after Colby, first-years have realized their first year has nearly passed them by, and rising juniors find themselves on the second half of their Colby education. Additionally, many sophomores are choosing whether they will take advantage of a major part of the college experience: studying abroad.
With Colby students in over two dozen countries this year, study abroad has once again proven to be a popular option on the Hill for juniors. Many will have to say goodbye to the Hill for a semester while they have adventures both foreign and domestic, but others will spend an entire year away from Colby, taking full advantage of the opportunity they have to explore the world.
Deciding to stay off the Hill for both semesters of their junior year is more common of language majors and students in area or global studies, according to Nancy Downey, director of off campus study at Colby. “A full year off campus is only guaranteed for language majors, area studies majors and those applying to the dual-degree program in engineering at Dartmouth College. Everyone else has to petition and have a strong academic justification for wanting to be away for a full year,” she explained.
When studying abroad for a full year, students have the option of staying in one program or splitting their time between two different ones. Most students studying a language choose to do the former, but others try to incorporate all of their interests. Ruth Frank-Holcomb ’12 did just that, spending the fall of her junior year in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Semester Program at American University, and the spring at King’s College in London, England.
An American studies major and education minor, Frank-Holcomb participated in a program that “centered around a seminar, called Transforming Communities, which brought speakers from various Washington government programs, non-profits and businesses to speak to our class about topics affecting urban communities,” she said.
Her experience was also unique in that she was able to have an internship during her time in D.C. “I ended up interning at an educational non-profit called CentroNía, with its tutoring program. Both the seminar and the internship provided a more hands-on look at the topics I had been learning about in American studies and education classes at Colby,” Frank-Holcomb said.
When faced with the realization that she had to start narrowing down her list of possible programs, Frank-Holcomb said the more research she did, “the more impossible it became to choose one. I loved the concept of the Washington Semester, and I knew it would be a great addition to my major, but I also really wanted to go abroad and have the experience of living outside of the country on my own....I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to choose.”
Splitting the year between programs is also something Sarah Boneysteele ’14, a theater and dance major and Italian studies minor, has decided to take advantage of. She will be attending both the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and the University of Bologna next year. Boneysteele explained that her two main goals are to have an experience with theater in London and to become fluent in Italian, “so two programs were necessary.”
According to Downey, 25 students made the decision to go abroad for the entire 2011-12 year. Downey explained that while there are definite benefits to being abroad for a full year, the number of students who choose to do so has not increased. “In fact the trend is now [to study abroad for a shorter length of time]. Many students have double majors or play a sport, and it can be difficult to be away for an entire year,” she said. Even though the majority of Colby students gravitate toward a single semester of study abroad, the rising sophomores still take advantage of the opportunity for the 2012-13 school year.
Kyle Wehner ’14 will be studying at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford in England next year as one of 10 visiting American college students. He described the biggest appeal of studying abroad as having “an experience of total immersion, of arriving with the other new students at the beginning of the year; of getting involved in Oxford life and becoming more fully absorbed in British life and culture generally.” He added that a new international experience is something he’s looking for. “Aside from a few ski trips to Quebec as a kid, my international exposure is pretty much nonexistent. So when I decided I wanted to study abroad, I knew I wanted the real deal, the full year instead of only a semester.”
Wehner shared his excitement at the idea of having “the simple experience of being in another part of the world for an extended time...[but] I’m really going to miss Colby and the people here,” a sentiment echoed by past students who have had to face the idea of spending a full year away from friends and home on the Hill.
The transition back is sometimes difficult, Frank-Holcomb explained. However, “taking the full year gave me enough space from Colby to be really excited to come back for senior year,” she added.
Wehner showed that this outlook remains no matter what your class year, saying, “I’m really going to miss Colby and the people here,” but adding happily, “this is when Skype becomes a godsend.”