Need to Know: Study Abroad (Part 2)

From Celine Chen

 

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, my semester abroad was the best time of my life. I studied abroad in Stockholm, Sweden from January to May 2018 through DIS. I knew I wanted to study abroad in Europe since I had never been and it’s a great opportunity to have easy access to travel to other European countries.

Stortorget — the famous square in the middle of Old Town, Stockholm.

Now, I’m sure many of you are asking “what’s the benefit of study abroad?

  1. Independence. Not only did I gain independence being so far from home, but I also learned to navigate a new country and explore landmarks, local treasures, and other countries on my own. When I first arrived in Sweden, I was so nervous about figuring out the train system (since it’s really extensive and my route to school involved a transfer at the central station). But by the end of my semester, I was taking the train by myself and checking out local cafes and museums based on recommendations I found online.
  2. Cultural knowledge and understanding. We live in a global world and I think it’s so valuable to gain a new perspective on not only the country you study abroad in but also of the United States. You learn so much being immersed in a new culture and participating in local activities. You also learn a lot about the worldview of where you are and how they view the United States and American society.
  3. Perspective. Sweden really values the idea of lagom roughly translated to “just enough; not too much, and not too little.” I really loved this concept, especially when you compare it to life in America that is so focused on over-consumption and making everything grand. Swedes apply lagom to all aspects of life: fashion, food, decorating a home, the way you spend your time, and more!
  4. Personal growth. (read on!)

With friends at a lookout point in central Stockholm.

The subway station near campus. The Stockholm subway system is the world’s longest art exhibit (110 km long!)

I feel that study abroad was truly a life-changing experience. I gained so much perspective on life by immersing myself in Swedish culture. It also helped me open up to the world around me and encouraged me to disregard hesitation and, instead, make the most of each moment and experience.

I explored Stockholm so much more than I’ve explored Philly. Your study abroad GPA does not transfer back to Bryn Mawr, just the credit. So while I was taking a full course load of five courses, essentially my classes were pass/fail which allowed me to focus on personal growth, and taking the time to explore my surroundings instead of perfecting every piece of work that I was turning in. Let me share some of my favorite personal growth moments.

  • Most Spontaneous Moment: As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, I ended up hopping on a last-minute trip to Copenhagen in the middle of the semester; something that I would have shied away from previously by worrying about all the logistics. Two of my friends had already booked their plane tickets and an Airbnb and asked if anyone was interested in joining them. Three days before the trip, I bought my plane ticket and decided to join them, having no official plan for the three days we were spending there. It ended up being so cold in Copenhagen, but I had so much fun exploring Nyhavn and The Little Mermaid, and eating one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

Twilight view of Arkosund.

Arkosund

  • Favorite Cultural Experience: I knew I really wanted to meet locals, but it was going to be a challenge because I’m a shy person who doesn’t like to “make the first move” and Swedes are known for being reserved. I ended up befriending a local by joining a local soccer club and we became close friends. I went over to her house all the time and basically got the experience of living in a homestay and observing Swedish family roles even though I was living in an apartment with other American students from the program. My friend was even nice enough to take me to her family’s summer house!  I figured I’d never have the opportunity to see a Swede’s summer house, so I took her up on her offer. Since I didn’t have class one Wednesday, we took off in the middle of the week to the “countryside,” two hours from Stockholm, and stayed the night before returning for my Thursday class!
  • Best Travel Story: My program offered pre-arranged trips where you pay an additional fixed price that covers housing, flights, and most meals for a variety of travel tours. I participated in a culinary tour of Southern France and had so much fun! The trip was also available to the DIS students who were studying abroad in Copenhagen, so I was basically going on a trip with complete strangers since only three other students from Stockholm went. I was a bit nervous about trying to make friends and spending so much time with people I barely knew for five days straight. I was pleasantly surprised when everyone was so nice. I became even closer to the Stockholm students, and made many friends from the Copenhagen program. The trip involved lots of bonding over delicious food, wine tastings, and us breaking off into our own groups to explore Nice!

Hanging out in Nice, France.

 

I could write about study abroad forever. A lot of the experiences I had while abroad helped me come out of my shell and open myself up to being more outgoing and not worrying over uncontrollable elements of my life. It really changed my perspective and attitude coming back to Bryn Mawr too! In previous years, I would stress out over school work and would spend more and more weekends on campus rather than taking a break and exploring Philly. This year, I’m trying to go into Philly more and take advantage of my time on the East Coast to discover all it has to offer. I also decided to take a class at UPenn now that I’m somewhat used to commuting to get to class. It’s also another great opportunity to take some time away from campus and put myself into new and potentially uncomfortable situations.

I would definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone who even has the slightest interest in it! I’ve also attached some honorable-mention pictures of my adventures abroad 🙂

One weekend I went to an art museum outside of Stockhom that was on its own island!

 

We went to Geneva on a class trip to visit public health organizations like WHO.

Went to see a free Macklemore performance at Stockholm’s amusement park, Grona Lund.

Need to Know: Study Abroad (Part 1)

From Celine Chen

 

As a high schooler, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in college. Both of my siblings studied abroad and could not stop raving about how much fun they had and how it broadened their view of the world. I also figured that study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when you can be a young, carefree college student exploring a new country and city bonding with others going through the exact same stage in their life.  Although my program was based in Stockholm, Sweden, I had the chance to travel to Paris and meet-up with my aunt while she was on vacation, vacation to London with my sister, and hop on a last minute trip to Copenhagen with some friends!

So what should you know before studying abroad?

Questions to ask your prospective college:

If you’re like me and study abroad programs really factored into the decision of what college to chose, here are some questions that are important to ask your prospective college:

How is study abroad funded? At Bryn Mawr, you pay the price of tuition (not room and board since you aren’t living here) to Bryn Mawr and they are responsible for paying your study abroad program or university.

How many and what kinds of programs do they offer? There are different types of study abroad programs (3rd party programs, American universities abroad, or directly through a university). Each type of program offers a different experience so it’s important to understand your options. Get a gauge of the different programs and what works best for you.

  • 3rd party programs do the most “hand-holding.” They usually help you find (or provide) housing, help with obtaining a visa, have support networks like homestays, or affiliations with local clubs you can join. (Ex: DIS, IES, IFSA, etc.).
  • American Universities abroad are typically “sister” schools that have locations abroad. That have some “hand-holding” since there is a lot of support at the American university and the institution follows the American college credit system. Ex: (Lewis and Clark College in Strasbourg, Temple University Rome, etc.).
  • Direct study at an international university requires the most independence, especially during the application process. Sometimes international universities will help with your visa, but you are usually responsible for finding housing, etc. (Ex: University of Melbourne, London School of Economics, Oxford).

Studying abroad as a STEM major:

“There’s a stereotype that STEM majors can’t study abroad, but that’s not the case here.” That’s a common phrase you hear when you ask different colleges about study abroad, but it’s important to hear the details of what they have to say.

At Bryn Mawr, it depends on which field in STEM you decide to major in, how far in advance you know you want to study abroad, and how many course requirements you have for your major.  When looking at colleges, it’s a good idea to ask about popular study abroad programs for your major of interest (since it’s likely that students are getting credit towards their major for courses they took through this program).

Otherwise, plan your courses so you complete all of the major and general education requirements while you are at Bryn Mawr so you can complete general course credits while you are abroad.

You also have to consider that you might study abroad at an “unconventional” time. Bryn Mawr is pretty strict about only allowing juniors to study abroad because they want Most students go abroad for the fall semester of their junior year. For certain majors at Bryn Mawr, such as math, it is common to go abroad in the spring because of the way classes are offered. Some courses that are required for the major are only offered in the fall, so unless you take upper level classes your sophomore year you may end up going abroad in the spring. This didn’t end up being a problem for me because there are still plenty of people who are abroad in the spring, so you’ll make lots of new friends and you are not alone in missing your spring semester at Bryn Mawr.

For any and all questions regarding meeting requirements before, after, or while you’re abroad you can ask your major advisor, dean, the office of study abroad, or the registrar! Also, past study abroad students are a great resource – that’s what really solidified my choice to study abroad with the program that I did!

Choosing a Study Abroad Program:

This is an article I wrote for Her Campus talking about different ways to narrow down what study abroad program to choose (within the context of being a student at Bryn Mawr).

Hope this helped! For more information on study abroad check out the Bryn Mawr study abroad website and here for specific information regarding financial aid.

 

Lantern Night 2018

Each fall, the Bryn Mawr community gathers in the Cloisters to welcome the first-years into our academic community during one of our most hallowed traditions, Lantern Night. Lit only by the light of student lanterns and surrounded by the crisp autumn air, this tradition has an ethereal quality that is hard to explain. Students don black robes and sing Greek hymns, swaying their lanterns back and forth. First-year students are entrusted with their own lanterns, symbols of wisdom and knowledge, from sophomores. The ceremony revolves around the idea of passing knowledge from generation to generation.

Even though there is a special emphasis on first-year students, everyone benefits from Lantern Night. We asked Andrea ’22 and Celine ’19 to share their thoughts about the tradition.

Q: What were your expectations for Lantern Night?

Andrea: I didn’t know what to expect other than that I knew I would come home with a lantern at the end of the night. Lantern Night, for me, meant I was officially part of the community. I’ve completed my first quarter of college and now I’m starting the second. This event marked a transition from being a brand new first-year to being a full-fledged college student. 

Andrea ’22 getting ready for Lantern Night!

Celine: I feel like it will feel really surreal that the next lantern night will be introducing the green class (my class color). Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but every year I see the exchange of what the other Bryn Mawr classes represent (light blue is 2016 and 2020, red is 2017 and 2021, dark blue is 2018 and 2022) but I’ll never see the next green class because I’ll have graduated!

Celine ’19 receiving her lantern as a first-year in 2015.

Q: What was your favorite part of Lantern Night?

Andrea: My favorite part was lining up and walking into the Cloisters itself because I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I would go home with a lantern, but I didn’t know what awaited me within the Cloisters. The most beautiful part was standing in the Cloisters under the starry sky. It was a picture-perfect event – runners bringing lanterns to each student in the dark, upperclassman singing a song in the background, and being surrounded by my class.

Dark blue lanterns await the Class of 2022.

Celine: My favorite part of lantern night is definitely seeing all the lanterns lit up in the dark. The first-years all line up and as each lantern gets individually delivered to each first-year, the group is slowly illuminated. Lantern Night also features all of Bryn Mawr’s class colors, but the first years’ color is really emphasized to celebrate them and welcome them to campus.

Q: How did you feel after Lantern Night?

Andrea: I felt at home. Lantern Night is amazing because it brings everyone together. Not only are you surrounded by your entire class through the process, but you’re also welcomed by upperclassman, which is extremely heart-warming. The entire experience is magical – receiving your lantern, taking pictures with your friends outside of Taylor, and waiting for your lantern’s light to finally go out. I genuinely can’t believe I’m here at my first year of college. I’m officially a Bryn Mawr College student.

Andrea holds her dark blue lantern. Anassa kata!

Celine: There’s a moment at the end of lantern night where seniors walk through a tunnel of underclassmen. It’s sort of a way for people to send off the senior class and celebrate their last year at Bryn Mawr – that was probably the point in the night where it really hit me that I’ll be leaving Bryn Mawr. It also hit me that I’ll really miss how Bryn Mawr traditions bring the community together and create a really special bond among those who have/are attending the college.

Q: What role do you think Lantern Night plays in the Bryn Mawr community?

Andrea: On Lantern Night, hundreds of us first-years gathered in the Cloisters to receive our lanterns, to be welcomed into the Bryn Mawr community. Lantern Night symbolizes the passing of the light of knowledge from one class to the next. This year, Class of 2022, my class, received dark blue lanterns with notes saying, “Welcome Home,” attached with dark blue strings. Lantern Night brings everyone together. Every year, the first-year class is welcomed, and it’s amazing to think about how many students have worn the black robes before you, how many classes Lantern Night has welcomed, and how next year, you’ll be welcoming a new class yourself. It’s an amazing continuous circle.

Celine: Lantern night represents the passing of the light of knowledge to each new class at Bryn Mawr. The lantern is also one of the many iconic symbols of Bryn Mawr (see the picture below of sophomore year me posing with a giant Bryn Mawr lantern during our Defy Expectations picnic). It’s also a really special tradition that simultaneously welcomes the first-years to the Bryn Mawr community and says goodbye to seniors as they begin many of their “lasts” at Bryn Mawr.

Celine and a giant lantern at the Defy Expectation picnic.

Click here to see more photos from Lantern Night 2018. Anassa kata, Class of 2022. Welcome home!

Freshman Year vs. Senior Year

From Celine Chen

 

Arriving at Bryn Mawr in August of 2015 as a freshman, I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and simultaneously terrified. This was such an exciting new chapter of my life that would allow me to grow so much as an individual, but I was also scared of the challenge it presented — transitioning from attending high school and living at home to being across the country living by myself. It’s definitely a process, but I’ve learned and grown so much over my past three years in college. I wanted to share some of the differences between freshman year me vs. senior year me.

Consortium

The Blue Bus transports students between Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.

Freshman year
I was pretty nervous about the idea of taking a class at Haverford and Swarthmore when I was a freshman. I was just starting to figure out life as a college student, far away from home, at Bryn Mawr and trying to navigate another college seemed like too much. I did go to Haverford for a couple of events but every time I went I felt nervous and like I didn’t belong. So, my freshman year, I took only Bryn Mawr classes.

Senior year
As a senior, I don’t see much of a divide between the two colleges. I think part of it is attributed to the fact I’ve been here for so long that I feel really comfortable. I only started taking classes at Haverford my sophomore year. I took Chinese, which is actually a Bi-Co department so half of my classes were at Bryn Mawr and half were at Haverford. It was a nice introduction to what it was like taking a Haverford class because the class had a lot of Bryn Mawr support (I had 2 professors and one was BMC based while the other was HC). My junior year I took 2 classes at Haverford and it was no big deal: I would eat lunch in the dining hall between classes, go back for office hours or TA sessions, and it just became part of my routine.

Summary
I would say I’ve learned not to be intimidated by the fact that Bryn Mawr is one institution and Haverford is another. The colleges have their similarities and differences, but what’s important is making the most of your college career. Take classes that interest you and are helpful and take advantage of the variety of events that are held at either college!


Classes

Views from my Math 295 class (senior year).

Freshman year
I came into college thinking I was going to be a Biochemistry major, but over time my major interest has changed a few times. I remember logging onto Bryn Mawr’s course catalog and seeing so many classes that sounded incredibly interesting and thinking “wow I can’t wait to explore some of these different classes even though I’m a STEM major” (one of the beauties of a liberal arts curriculum). I had a fairly well-rounded freshman year first semester course load (I took Poverty, Affluence, and American Culture, Greek Sculpture, General Chemistry, and Calculus 2). I was a little intimidated by the idea of taking two lab courses at the same time which was why I chose to only take General Chemistry and not Chemistry and Intro to Biology. In retrospect I think this decision worked out well for me because I got to explore different academic disciplines at Bryn Mawr, and I also knocked a few General Education requirements out. That being said, I know a lot of people who took two courses with lab components at the same time and they lived to tell the tale.

Senior year
Now that I’m a senior, I’m taking more specialized classes for my major. However, I still have room in my schedule to complete my major and take one “fun” class outside of my major if I choose to. As a STEM major I like to break up my schedule a little bit with a non-STEM class to make things a little interesting. My “fun” class for this semester is an Anthropology class on agriculture and farming which has been pretty interesting so far!

Looking back at my freshman year, I think taking a variety of classes also helped me decide what I wanted to change my major to later on in my career. Since I had inadvertently taken courses that set me up for my current Math major, it seemed like a natural path to choose that was still in STEM but was about a subject matter that was more suited for me.

Summary
Feel free to explore all types of classes, especially during freshman year. I think taking a variety of courses your first year can help you really solidify on a major that you feel confident in when the time comes. Also take advantage of “shopping week” the first week of classes where you can check out as many classes as you’d like before finalizing your schedule.


Philly

Taking advantage of the Restaurant Week menu at Chez Ben in Philly.

Freshman Year
I think you can sense a pattern here, I was a bit of a scaredy cat my freshman year. There are certainly plenty of Mawrters who were more outgoing and adventurous as a freshman than I was. I went into Philly a handful of times my freshman year, but I wish I had gone more. I really enjoyed going to Campus Philly my first weekend (ever) of college to get a brief introduction to Philadelphia. I also went into Philly during Restaurant Week which happens two times a year in which select restaurants offer a fixed menu for discounted prices!

Senior Year
Since this is my last year in college, I really want to take advantage of the fact that Philly is such a big city and explore the culture and social scene there. My friends and I plan to do at least one fun thing off campus each weekend. Coming back from a semester abroad, I have a fresh perspective and new appreciation of Philadelphia. There’s so many places to eat, see, and visit! There are also a lot of resources (such as Visit Philly) to stay up to date on events going on in Center City.

Summary
Keep an eye out for interesting events in Center City. There’s a big chance you’ll be interested in a lot of events on campus but feel like you don’t have time to go to everything, which is okay. It’s all about striking the right balance between exploring Philly and managing your school work. But keep in mind that taking time to go out with friends or by yourself is an important form of self-care 🙂

Personal Growth

Freshman year vs. Senior year.

Freshman Year
I definitely came into college wanting to be open-minded to new experiences and possibilities. But, I think I was overwhelmed by the amount of decisions you make every day as a college student (should you just skip class and catch up on sleep? Should you go to that event today that might be useful for career development or finish up an assignment? Should you go out with friends or stay in and watch a movie?). The possibilities for talks, events, and things to do are endless and it was difficult for me to strike the right balance between self-care, social life, and career/academic life.

Senior Year
My semester abroad really changed my perspective of who I am as an individual and how I want to present myself and live my life (but more on that in another post). As a senior, I have become more reflective and, I think it took some time, but I am finally open to new experiences in a way that I was too cautious to truly be before. I have also taken on a few different leadership positions this year which has been a fun way to meet new people and see people outside of an academic setting. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s okay to prioritize something that you want to do over school work, because otherwise you may end up burning yourself out early in the semester.

Summary
It’s okay to come into Bryn Mawr/college life nervous. It’s also okay to come in with a plan and have a sense for what you want to do and accomplish. I think my past three years have taught me to be really open to change. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs throughout my college career, but I think those experiences have really shaped me into who I am today. I have also really appreciated how warm and welcoming the Bryn Mawr community is. If you’re willing to put yourself out there, there is always someone at Bryn Mawr who will support you.

Secret Perks of Being a Bryn Mawr Student

From Celine Chen

 

I wanted to share some fun, and maybe unknown, perks Bryn Mawr provides its students. Here are some fun facts that you might not have known about Bryn Mawr:

Free Laundry: You don’t have to worry about stocking up on coins because laundry is free at Bryn Mawr! There’s no excuse to let your laundry pile up to the point where it’s overflowing 😉

Free Printing: Bryn Mawr also has free (unlimited) printing (within reason)! This is so great for people who don’t like reading on their computers. Sometimes it’s also nice to print out your readings so you can really mark them up. Also, some professors ask that you print and turn in physical copies of your homework/essays, so you don’t have to worry about those assignments depleting your printing quota.

Free bus to Trader Joe’s: I first heard about this as a prospective student, and I’m not going to lie, it got me pretty excited. Near Bryn Mawr we have a shopping center called Suburban Square that has Trader Joe’s, Urban Outfitters, Starbucks, Sephora, a ton of restaurants and more. On Saturday mornings a bus takes you right from Bryn Mawr’s campus to the shopping center, so you can get your weekly groceries or take part in some retail therapy!

Transportation to Haverford and Swarthmore: The Tri-Co (Tri-college consortium) makes transportation between the colleges really easy by providing free transportation to Haverford and Swarthmore. We have the Blue Bus, which takes you to Haverford, constantly running throughout the day, 7 days a week. The ride to Haverford is a short 10 minutes, so it’s super convenient to go to Haverford whenever you need to. We also have the van to Swarthmore. The trip to Swarthmore takes a little longer so the van does not come as often, but it’s great having transportation taking you directly to Swarthmore rather than having to take public transportation which would take longer.

Reimbursement for Penn Courses: Although Bryn Mawr does not provide its own form of transportation to U Penn, taking SEPTA (the train) is easy and accessible. Since you are paying for train tickets out of pocket, Bryn Mawr will reimburse you for the cost it takes to get to Penn!

Free Movie Nights: I love the Bryn Mawr College Film Series! It’s a student run club that screens a variety of movies throughout the year for free. The movies are usually popular and fairly new so it’s a great way to catch movies you might have just missed in theaters! This semester we’ve had some notable movies like Oceans 8, Incredibles 2, and Mamma Mia 2!

KCass Teaches and holds Office Hours: Our beloved president, Kim Cassidy (AKA KCass), teaches a psychology class that students can take! She spoke about it at our Fall Open House. She also holds office hours for her class and for all students to drop by and chat or discuss questions and/or concerns. She’s also super nice and always says hi if you pass by her on campus 🙂

 

Job Search Resources

from Celine Chen

 

As a senior, post-graduate job and internship searching has been almost a 5th class for me given that amount of time and effort I’m putting into it. I wanted to reflect a bit about my experience job-searching and share some important resources Bryn Mawr has to offer that can make the process a little less daunting.

The Career and Professional Development Office

Our Career and Professional Development (CPD) Office is open Monday-Friday 2-5 PM and Monday-Thursday 7:30-9:30 PM for career advice, resume/cover letter reviews, and so much more. There’s really no excuse when there are so many available hours for you to take some time to make sure your cover letter and resumes are ready to go.

Handshake

Handshake is our CPD resource where job postings are located, and where you can set up appointments with career peers, CPD staff, view upcoming career-related events, and more. The job postings on Handshake are particularly helpful because they are often coming from recruiters that reached out to Bryn Mawr and are looking for Bryn Mawr students to work for them. It’s always helpful to say that you found a job position through your college’s Career and Professional Development website when applying to jobs!

Take advantage of Campus Events

The College is constantly holding career and professional development events that are great opportunities to network and learn more about your field of interest. In my first month back on campus I’ve attended “She Started It!” an event featuring women in entrepreneurship, “Invest in Her Future” an investment management career panel, and participated in an on-campus interview with a national bank. There are many more opportunities to learn about a variety of career paths, whether its networking with Google or Amazon, an information session on Harvard law school, or learning more about the Peace Corps.

Consider taking “Intensives”

Bryn Mawr offers “intensives,” or mini CPD courses, during school breaks that allow you to practice career and professional development. The intensives take place during at the end of summer and winter break and during fall and spring break. They are typically five days long and comprised of 9-5 days learning to network and develop your skills. I’ve participated in two intensives in my college career and although they are intense, I have left with a great appreciation for how much I learned in those five days. The topics of some of the intensives change from year to year but some of them include: Entrepreneurship Intensive, Job and Grad School Boot Camp, Leadership Development Intensive, Women in Data Science, and more.

 

 

Meet Celine Chen

Hi, my name is Celine Chen and I’m a senior mathematics major at Bryn Mawr College. I was born and raised in Portland, OR so coming all the way across the country to a city where I had no support network in was definitely a fun challenge.

Ultimately, I chose to come to Bryn Mawr because I wanted to be able to explore the east coast. College is a great opportunity to experience what it’s like to be young and live in a completely different place. On top of that, I’ve noticed that being so far away from home has allowed me to grow a lot as an individual and practice responsibility in everything I do. Besides the geographical location of Bryn Mawr, which is suburban (a quick 20-30-minute train ride from the cultural, and historical city of Philadelphia), Bryn Mawr’s focus on empowering young women really appealed to me. The campus is all about creating a tight-knit community with your peers that fosters growth and long-lasting relationships.

I’m excited about participating in this Admissions internship position to share all that I have learned and loved about Bryn Mawr my past three years attending the college. Additionally, there are a lot of fun and quirky facts about Bryn Mawr I think can only be shared by someone who has lived through life as a “Mawrtyr.” I hope you find this blog useful. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!