Typically about half of the junior class at Sarah Lawrence embarks on either a semester-long or yearlong study abroad program. There are seven programs to choose from during the academic year: Oxford, Paris, Italy (Florence or Catania), Cuba, Peru and Sub-Saharan Africa. Sarah Lawrence also partners with the British American Drama Academy (BADA) for a conservatory acting training program. Although Sarah Lawrence runs all the programs, they differ greatly. Whether you’re a sophomore looking to go abroad next year, a first-year starting to consider the option or just curious about the different programs, here is a breakdown of SLC’s International and Exchange programs.
Perhaps the most popular program is Sarah Lawrence College in Oxford. Available only as a yearlong program, students have the opportunity to study just like Oxford University students at Sarah Lawrence’s affiliate, Wadham College. The students have two one-on-one tutorials with experts (or tutors) in whatever field it is they’ve chosen. In tutorials, students study a separate topic within the course and produce a paper, each week. So, for example, if a student is taking a tutorial entitled “U.S. Foreign Policy”, they might write a paper one week on foreign policy of the U.S. during World War II pre-1941 and write a paper another week on foreign policy during the Berlin airlifts of 1948.
In addition to tutorials, students enroll in the Core Programme, which is a series of lecture and events designed to enhance the academic and cultural experience. Students are housed in flats (apartments) in Merifield, Wadham College student housing. Students receive their own private rooms with a shared common area that includes a kitchen, a living room and two bathrooms.
Past students who have completed the Oxford program concede that the program is intense, but advise to not let this fact overwhelm current study abroad students.
“The one thing you’ll learn about Oxford is that you need to schedule time for your studies as well as yourself,” said Lauren McKarus ’15 who completed the Oxford program last year. “Writing your 8-page paper and reading those 10 novels are important – but so is dancing all night and eating Hassan’s good truck chicken nuggets at 3:00 a.m.”
The second program in England is the London Theater Program, where students study at BADA for either the fall or spring semester. A yearlong Advanced London Theatre Program is offered for students who wish to pursue their training more intensely. Through a combination of classes, tutorials, master classes and performances, students learn the craft of acting from leading artists in the world of British theatre. For housing, students live in apartments located within a 20-30 minute walk from Gloucester Gate. where the school is located.
For student students looking to study French, Sarah Lawrence offers the SLC in Paris program. At the beginning of the year, students take a pledge to speak solely in French during program activities and while at Reid Hall.
Reid Hall, owned by Columbia University, is a university center shared with American, French and English university programs. Here, courses are conducted solely in French and students are required to take four classes, two of which must be taken at Reid Hall, one seminar of choice in the humanities or social sciences and an advanced French language course. Students with a higher level of proficiency in French also have the opportunity to take classes at institutions such as Universities of Paris IV and VII, the Institut Catholique, and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po).
“I really enjoyed taking classes at Paris IV because it was cool to experience another educational style and such a wide variety of courses,” said Brenna Rice ’15 who completed the yearlong program last year. “We were given the opportunity to take classes that don't even exist at SLC.”
To help students adjust to the new educational style, students attend bi-weekly tutorats (conferences) with professors, or a separate instructor, for further help and clarification on lecture topics.
As for living accommodations, students have three choices: their own apartment, a host-family, or the Cité Internationale Universtaire de Paris, an international university residence located about 20 minutes from Reid Hall via public transportation.
There are two Italy programs for Sarah Lawrence students to choose from: Sarah Lawrence in Florence and Sarah Lawrence in Catania.
The Sarah Lawrence in Florence program is open to students with all levels of Italian proficiency, with a spring program available for students who have taken at least a year of college level Italian. The program keeps the typical Sarah Lawrence style of education, with small classes and individual tutorial study. And classes gradually shif from English to Italian over the course of the year. Students live with host families during their time in Florence.
“[Living with a host family] was a great experience,” said Allie Rosenthal ’15 who was in Florence for the spring semester. “I loved eating dinner with my host family every night and it definitely improved my language skills.”
The Catania program, on the other hand (only offered in the spring), is meant for students with a more advanced level of Italian. Students take three courses at the University of Catania Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia and meet one-on-one for weekly tutorials with faculty members, much like Sarah Lawrence conferences. Here the professors discuss the weekly lecture topics with the students in greater depth and help them prepare for end-of-semester exams.
Unlike other study abroad programs, the two Sarah Lawrence programs for students looking to study in Spanish are only semester-long.
The first Spanish program is Sarah Lawrence in Havana, which is designed for students with an advanced level of study in Spanish. Students take mandatory Spanish, two electives, and a core seminar course, with the latter through the Centro de Estudios Demográficos (CEDEM). Students also have opportunities to study at the University of Havana, the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latino-Americano (FNCL), and the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA). Students reside in a residence belonging to the National Small Farmer's Association (Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños).
From the Havana program’s inception in 2001, its mission has been “to expose American students to a culturally and politically unique society about which much has been written, but of which far less is widely known.” This has helped draw many students to the program, including Zoe Kosieradski ’16. “Cultural presentations of concepts such as gender, sexuality, and identity stereotypes will certainly differ in Cuba when compared to the United States,” she wrote in her blog, chronicling her semester abroad. “No doubt I’ll come back from Cuba having seen the world in a completely different lens.”
The second Spanish program is Sarah Lawrence College in Peru, only open to students with a high-level of fluency in Spanish. While studying at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú (PUCP) in Lima, students reside with host families. Similar to Sarah Lawrence conferences, students meet with instructors bi-weekly to produce a research project directed by the instructor. Students are also encouraged to do volunteer work, either on campus or in Lima, as a way to become more aware of Peru’s culture and social issues.
Sarah Lawrence is continuing to grow and expand upon their study abroad program, adding a new program in Spring 2015: the Sub-Saharan Africa program. Students will spend five weeks each in Rural Tanzania (Kitongo, near Mwanza), Urban Malawi (Blantyre) and Rural Zimbabwe (the Matobo Hills region, near Bulawayo). Under the instruction of a member of SLC’s psychology faculty, Dr. Kim Ferguson, with whom they will live, work and travel, students will focus “on understanding and effectively addressing human development in Sub-Saharan African contexts.” In addition to the coursework, students will be required to spend 15-20 hours per week performing fieldwork in local community organizations.
Of course, students are not required to study abroad with Sarah Lawrence programs. Students can study with a variety of external programs so long as the International Programs and Exchange office approves the program/course of study in advance.
Elizabeth Emery ’15, for example, studied in Bath, England with the Advanced Studies in England (ASE) program. “ASE really stressed cultural immersion and community involvement and that really spoke to me,” she said.
Who says study abroad has to be during the academic year anyway? Sarah Lawrence also offers a number of intensive programs during the summer: Summer Arts in Berlin, Germany; Borges: Night and Books, in Argentina; and Geography of Faith: Greece and Turkey. Lasting for about a month each, students immerse themselves in the cultures of these countries and focus on specific disciplines. The Berlin program focuses on students with an interest in the Contemporary Arts. The Argentina program in Buenos Aires will focus on reading the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges and learning about the art of translation by working in intensive writing workshops. Sarah Lawrence faculty member Cameron Afzal teaches “Geography of Faith” and focuses on religion and how Christianity came to Greece and Turkey.
If none of these programs seem like your cup of tea, Sarah Lawrence also offers exchange programs with Eugene Lang College, California Institute of the Arts, Falmouth University, Pitzer College, South India Term Abroad, Tsuda College in Tokyo, Japan, and Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan.
While not all students are able to study abroad for various reasons, Sarah Lawrence offers a multitude of ways for its student to immerse themselves in new cultures and come away with life-changing experiences. So whether the goal is to fully master a foreign language, polish a craft, or just experience a new culture, consider any of the above programs (or one of your own choice!) for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
by Mary Kekatos '15