I am infinitely happy that I decided to attend school in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is a great change of pace from my hometown in New York, and it is undeniably comical and exciting to run into an 18th-century Continental soldier on my way to English class. Yet sometimes, I believe that it can be all too easy to get caught up in the “Williamsburg bubble” and forget about the bigger world around us. This is why I am a big supporter of the COLL 300 requirement, which asks students to experience the greater world around them by studying abroad, studying “away” from campus, attending the DC Semester Program or attending talks on campus given by speakers from around the world.
When I was looking for colleges, I knew that a good study abroad program was a requirement for finding “my” school. As much as you might love one place, it can get rather monotonous and exhausting to stay there for four years. It is always beneficial to get off campus for a few weeks and study the subject you are most passionate about in a new environment with different professors and classmates. The fact that the College of William and Mary has literally built this requirement into the student curriculum is encouraging because it signals a deep commitment to understanding cross-cultural issues. At some schools, it can be quite the hassle to study abroad or study “away” and complete your requirements at the same time: but here, going away is one of the requirements.
The College’s dedication to encouraging study abroad opportunities is not just surface level. The College is ranked as the top public university for student study abroad participation, with 55 percent of the student population choosing to study outside of the country. The Reves Center for International Studies is now sponsoring a St Andrews First Abroad Scholarship, which provides one student with a fully funded, weeklong trip to the University of St Andrews in Scotland and a $1,500 scholarship for a future study abroad program.
This scholarship is meant for students who are new to the College and have never studied abroad before, and more specifically, it is geared toward students who have never traveled internationally and are studying a subject which is traditionally underrepresented in study abroad programs. This program is a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the benefits of studying internationally at almost no cost, and it is encouraging to see that the College is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to international study.
But sometimes, it is simply impractical for a student to leave the country for a semester or even a summer for any number of reasons. As a result, the College provides ways for students to fulfill the COLL 300 requirement that do not require international travel: staying on campus and listening to speakers, studying “away” and completing a research project or internship, or even studying at the Washington Center in Washington, D.C. for a semester. These programs can accomplish many of the same things that studying internationally can, as they encourage students to hear the perspectives of new and different people with diverse life experiences. The COLL 300 requirement is a blessing, not a curse. It forces us, as students, to break away from the normal humdrum of Williamsburg during any academic year and listen to diverse ideas. Studying abroad (or “away”) is one of the best chances for a student to expand their horizons: and after all, isn’t that why we’re all at college?
Email Kimberly Lores at firstname.lastname@example.org