Holyoke students can study virtually anywhere in the world. The College
has run its own program in Dakar, Senegal, since 1992, and this year inaugurated
a second program abroad, in Montpellier, France. Mount Holyoke also cosponsors
the Associated Kyoto Program, under which students can study at Doshisha
University in Kyoto. In addition, through the Office of International
Affairs, students can apply to a vast array of study-abroad programs.
The College also has many of its own exchanges with universities around
Erica Swenson '00
spent a semester in the Senegal
program, and says that it is truly a world apart. "It was the opposite
of Mount Holyoke in every way. The culture, religion, housing, the way
people relate to each other--you name it." A history major with a minor
in French, Swenson says life in Senegal was an education in itself. "I
was interested in how this would test my French, but a lot of people only
spoke Wolof--and my Wolof wasn't great." Classwork was sometimes tricky
with the language barrier, but she managed: "Everyone was so helpful.
People are very open there." At the University of Paris, where she studied
for a semester, Lidet Haile '00 (at right above)also warmed to
her fellow students, whom she describes as "totally approachable."
Holyoke students have an excellent record of winning study-abroad fellowships
and awards--from Fulbrights to Rotary scholarships. Women's studies major
Mary Hidajat '00 (at right)spent two months in Indonesia on a
Weed Ford Mellon fellowship, researching policies and attitudes there
toward reproductive rights. Her stay came on the heels of riots that toppled
former President Suharto. "Talk about education," she says. "You take
politics for granted here. There, it really counted." Hidajat had
one particularly meaningful educational experience. She assisted at a
birth, proving so helpful to the
mother that she became the infant's godmother. "It's the most amazing
thing I've ever seen," she says. "It lent perspective. I was focusing
my research on birth-control methods, but it's crucial to remember that
there are new lives in this issue too."
Out Closer to Home
Of course, not all off-campus programs require students to go abroad to
get a taste of something new and different. Mount Holyoke's affiliation
with the Five College Consortium affords access to neighboring Smith,
Hampshire, and Amherst College, and to the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst. Participation in the Twelve-College Exchange enables Mount Holyoke
students to study for a semester or a year at such schools as Wellesley,
Dartmouth, and Vassar Colleges.
much of the world, Biosphere 2 is still remembered as an unsuccessful
attempt to simulate a full earth environment in an underground, sealed,
live-in setting. But Biosphere 2, as it's known (Biosphere 1 being earth),
gained new life after Columbia University took over the Arizona installation
in 1995 and transformed it into an educational lab for science
students. Becky Smith
'00 and Li Dorothy Wong '00 (at right)were among a select group
of seventy-two students who spent a semester at the Biosphere last spring,
working respectively on geology and environmental studies.
Smith says that the
academic environment was far different that what she was accustomed to
at Mount Holyoke: "It was a different mind-frame. There were four professors,
but they all worked together so closely that it had more of the feel of
a seminar." Wong says she enjoyed working with Frank von Hippel, a conservation
biologist whom Wong rates as one of the best teachers she has ever had.
one-on-one with a faculty member off campus is among the most beneficial
experiences a Mount Holyoke student can have. Ali Feinberg '00 (at
left) joined geology professor Al Werner and graduate students Yarrow
Axford '97 and Laura Levy '98 for four weeks of research this summer in
the Alaska wilderness. During their expedition, the team collected samples
from glacial lakes, and the professors and students are now studying the
sediment as an indicator of climate change in the region. Feinberg, a
self-designed environmental geology major, valued her work as Werner's
"junior colleague" of sorts. "Actually 'doing' geology gave me a new appreciation
for the classroom activities we have done," she says. Feinberg will do
her honors thesis this year on cores retrieved from one of the glacial
It's not just the
student who gets something back from working one-on-one. "It's always
rewarding to have students in the field. It's not just classroom concepts
for them anymore; they're actually seeing things and trying to interpret
them," says Werner. The blurring of defined roles is also beneficial for
everyone, according to Werner. "Out in the field, there's not so much
of a student/teacher hierarchy. It's more fluid. The students become more
like research associates; we work side-by-side, we kick around ideas and
we make decisions as a group."
They Come Home
Students who pursue studies beyond the College's gates return to Mount
Holyoke with an increased sense of confidence. "I feel now that if I want
to do something, like graduate school, I can. I just need to take the
steps to do that," says Gail Ballantyne '00, who spent 2 months touring
European cities last summer as a recipient of the College's Karen Snyder
Sullivan Memorial Travel Award. Most students also mention the cultural
impact of their experiences. "It used to be that everythingfor
me was about independent thinking. In Senegal, that's never the case!
Everything is about community," Erica Swenson says.
Students who leave
the College for a spell come back with a worldview that is wider than
the one they had when they left. And that's what it's all about.
alumna's travels lead her to a peacemaking effort