Bringing SLU Tools Abroad | St. Lawrence University

Bringing SLU Tools Abroad

Riley Whitney
2020

The Quick Comparison

  • Approximate St. Lawrence enrollment: 2500. Approximate University of Otago enrollment: 21,000 – over eight times that of ours at SLU. 
  • Majors available at St. Lawrence: 69. Programs of study available at the University of Otago: 195. 
  • Distance from Canton, N.Y., to Dunedin, New Zealand: 9,329 miles. 

Bridging the Gap

In a place half a world away with a drastically different academic setting, how do the skills we learn here help us find success abroad? The transition to a new place with large class sizes in an urban setting might seem daunting, or like an opportunity that necessitates the re-invention of the academic and social tools that prove effective in an liberal arts setting; however, I found that the skills I learned in our little corner of the world helped me spread my wings and broaden my perspective while studying in New Zealand. These are my top three SLU tools for success:

1. Finding your balance

At St. Lawrence, students find themselves involved at various levels all over campus – from varsity athletics to theme house living to Thelmo and more, we know how to balance academics with other aspects of our SLU experience that we care about. While abroad, students must remain invested in academics while also enjoying a new cultural experience. Many students also choose to travel and become involved in extra-curriculars abroad, but because St. Lawrence cultures time management skills and encourages involvement beyond academic commitments, students can take full advantage of all aspects of their off-campus experience. 

2. Building relationships

Your first days at St. Lawrence say it all. Beginning with FYP, students begin building relationships with one another, upperclassmen, and professors. St. Lawrence encourages students to seek each other out as friends, academic peers, and neighbors. Just as importantly, St. Lawrence professors demonstrate a commitment to getting to know students personally, so that they can act as mentors beyond the classroom and help students reach their academic goals. A St. Lawrence student’s ability to step into new situations and connect with those around them allows them to quickly meet and engage with people from varying backgrounds while abroad, enriching their experience and allowing them to foster lasting relationships while off campus.

3. Trying new things

St. Lawrence encourages students to take a chance on things they might not have ever considered – a night at the climbing wall, joining swing dance club, summiting one of the Adirondack High Peaks, or declaring a major they might not have anticipated. Because St. Lawrence students are given the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and try new things in the company of one another, traveling abroad feels less intimidating and allows students to immerse themselves in new cultures and places with excitement and willingness to learn. 

What it all means – and what it meant for me

It’s easy to say that a St. Lawrence education teaches you to think critically, embrace problems from varying perspectives, and engage with academic topics in a collaborative manner, etc., but studying off campus allows you to put this skill set to the test before graduation. Because of St. Lawrence’s commitment to helping students spread their wings surrounded by a community who helps you get there, students can travel abroad with the tools they need to maximize their experience and prevent themselves from shying away from unique opportunities. 

For me, this meant flying halfway around the world to a new city to study at a large research university. Because New Zealand’s semesters run to accommodate their southern hemispheric seasons, the semester begins in July and runs through November, so I found myself starting school at an unfamiliar time in an unfamiliar place. I walked into my flat, or apartment, and found myself standing in a room with two boys who I would live with for several months, but had never seen before. I learned to sport climb, eventually leading climbs, a skill I always felt daunted by, but took a chance on and loved. I made life-long friends and engaged with professors who taught from a profoundly different perspective. St. Lawrence taught me to exist in a new space and make it home, and for that reason my off-campus experience was everything I could’ve asked for and more.