Choosing a college was not easy for me. I visited at least twenty colleges, applied to eleven, got scholarships to seven, interviewed at three, and found my place at one. I’ve been on dozens of college tours. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for in a college until I found it. I applied everywhere from Vermont to Florida. Each school had something different to offer.
I made a spreadsheet of quantitative and qualitative data from each of my college visits. I thought that a bunch of graphs were going to help me make my college decision. I had all of the statistics from each college: student population, professor to student ratio, four-year graduation percentage, transfer rate and tuition. I also had all the words that I would use to describe the college and I rated each of the campus services like dining, janitorial services and employee interactions.
After analyzing my extensive collection of data, I realized that the school that had the highest scores was the school that I least wanted to go to. I realized that just because the schools had great scores didn’t mean they were the greatest schools for me. I couldn’t base my college decision off of numbers; I had to base it on how I felt.
After my epiphany, I started narrowing down my potential colleges. I knocked out the ones that were obviously not the place for me. Then I looked at the student population. I didn’t feel like I was the big school kind of person. I don’t like getting lost in the crowd. Then I looked at location. All of the choices I had left were in a five-hour radius of my house so that didn’t help. I ended up thinking of the college tours and my experiences with admission counselors. Which one left me with the best impression?
This gave me my final two schools: Washington College and Juniata College. Washington was only an hour away from my house and they offered me a great scholarship, an amazing apprenticeship, and great opportunities. Juniata was a four-hour drive from my house, offered me a pretty good scholarship, the ability to individualize my P.O.E. and explore countless topics, as well as an incredible community with people who were focused on helping me achieve the most for my future. As cheesy as it sounds, Washington had the money but Juniata had my heart.
Juniata was the college where I felt most comfortable during my visit to campus. The students were welcoming and friendly. The professors that I met made me feel like they actually wanted me to be successful. The concept of the P.O.E. rather than a normal major was extremely appealing because I had big dreams and I’m not sure I could have graduated from normal college without a quadruple major.
When I arrived at my orientation I knew I had made the right choice. I felt at home instantly. The people I met were wonderful, my orientation leaders showed me the ropes, my fellow incoming freshmen made me feel comfortable about my transition into college. When I came to Juniata, I knew I found my place.
Everyone at Juniata sells living abroad, and I have to warn you, I’m going to sell it as well.
Ireland seemed picturesque before I came here. It is rolling green hills, friendly people, good music, good beer. It is all of those things, but it also has its low points. I’ve gotten splashed by a car driving through a puddle (yep, it actually happens), I’ve gotten soaked inside and out by rain, I’ve gotten sick, and I’ve spent too much money on that good beer they have. But all in all, it has been an incredible, real experience.
Living abroad is an opportunity to truly experience life in whatever country you go to. That includes the good and the bad. It’s not always as picturesque as one might imagine, but it teaches you more than a semester of classes at home ever could.
I spent this semester in Cork, Ireland doing an internship at their Environmental Research Institute with UN Environment GEMS/Water Capacity Development Centre. What that really meant was that I wasn’t really a student. I’m using my Environmental Fellows scholarship from Juniata to cover my cost of living and now that I’m done, I’m using my savings to explore a bit of Europe. It was odd working every day and not going to class, but I got to experience Ireland all the same.
Cork has become my home in the past 3 months. This small little city has definitely taken a piece of my heart. The River Lee is always flowing past me. I can see farm fields on my walk home from work (and sometimes smell them). I have housemates who are kind enough to drive me to town when I need it. And the best part? All of the pubs have fireplaces. Now, I’m still 20, so I can’t drink in the states, but if anyone finds a bar with a fireplace there, let me know. Nothing is better than drinking a good beer and sitting in front of a peat fire.
Overall, studying abroad has been an amazing experience. I’ve gotten to live with people from Ireland, and one of my best friends from Juniata. I’ve gotten to travel around the country to Kinsale, Killarney, Dingle, Dublin, Cobh, Waterford, and more. I’ve experiencing living outside of dorm life, buying groceries, making dinner every night, and working every day. I’ve gotten to live a different life.
I love Juniata with all of my heart, but I am also so thankful for the opportunity Juniata provided me to live abroad. It’s no vacation when you’re studying abroad, that’s for sure. It’s definitely life with work, bills, bad days and good days… But it is also creating a whole new life for yourself in a whole new place. It’s not just limited to Ireland, either. Wherever you go, be it France, Australia, New Zealand, Spain – it’s an experience of discovering yourself and growing as a person.
Wherever you go, if you ever go abroad, jump into growth. See what part of yourself traveling will reveal. And if you’re lucky, have a good beer by a peat fire.
Long before I applied for colleges, I yearned to travel. While I was drawn to Juniata College by its community feel, beautiful campus, and flexible POE program, an important factor in my decision to attend the school was the excellent study abroad opportunities it offers. With the help of my academic advisor, I chose from the many countries and schools with which Juniata is connected. Now, as a junior I am studying at the University of Leeds in England and fulfilling my dream to travel.
Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. While the pre-study abroad meetings that occurred during the semester before I departed were essential and extremely helpful, there was nothing that could prepare me for the reality of studying abroad. Coping with culture shock, missing my family and friends, and acclimating myself to city life and a university with a student population nearly twenty times larger than Juniata’s were all issues that I could not previously understand. Amidst the struggle to cope though, I found new people, new places, and a new sense of self that could only be gained through study abroad.
Once I adjusted to living in England and attending class for only six hours a week, I began to travel with my roommates. The public transportation in England makes its beauty and history easily accessible. My roommates and I have spent weekends in Scotland and Germany and have taken day trips to many places including Bath, Oxford, and London. Less than two months ago, I stood before Stonehenge marveling at a man-made miracle I thought I would only ever see on a screen. In Berlin I touched history when I visited a site where part of the Berlin Wall still stands. As a Museum Studies and Art History major, I have spent countless hours strolling through museum exhibits and gazing upon masterpieces by artists such as Manet, Rothko, Ernst, Dali, Rodin, and others.
Despite the importance of these experiences, the life lessons I have learned while abroad are the greatest benefit of this program. I have set my own budget, carried groceries for miles, and dealt with the consequences of my professors striking for nearly a month. I have learned to plan ahead, manage bus and train schedules, ask strangers for directions, and laugh at myself for foolish mistakes. I have opened up to the once strangers who also live in my flat from Chicago, Holland, and Australia, and they have become some of the closest friends I will ever make. I have figured out the importance of family and community in my life and in the process learned that I have a strong support system at Juniata and at home even though I am an ocean away.
Studying abroad is as much a way to discover yourself as it is an opportunity to discover a new part of the world. It is an educational experience that cannot be measured in credits or dollars. I know it will be one of the greatest lessons I carry with me after graduation from Juniata College.
“Are you coming home for this spring break?” My parents ask. “Not this year, sorry mom and dad.” I respond. As someone who lives 500 miles from home, distance is usually the reason why I might not return home for breaks or long weekends. It’s an unavoidable day spent doing nothing but driving, and tends to get old quickly. But this year, I had the chance to go farther… 1000 miles further.
Nobody ever expects a small, rural, inland college to have a SCUBA club. Most people expect it to be a novelty, a space for misplaced sea-folk to commiserate about the trials of being landlocked. But at Juniata, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Along with events that introduce people to the joys of diving and yearly dive trips over spring break, SCUBA club also certifies divers with classes and pool dives. With more than 10 divers certified this year, SCUBA club had to go big.
Our travels took us to midland Florida, where we dove and explored for a week. Most of our dives were in limestone caves and caverns which allow for beautiful, if somewhat harrowing diving. The dives are perfectly safe so long as you stay out of the more dangerous cave systems which are easy to get lost in; fortunately, all of these are well-marked and mapped. While bad weather forced us to cancel our ocean reef dives, we spent that time cavorting with manatees and paddling the beautiful Ichetucknee River in northern Florida before the long drive back.
The opportunities you’ll find at a niche place like Juniata are surprising, from research presentations in Oklahoma (where I’ll be headed the week after next) to diving in Florida. The mark of a true Juniatian, however, is how they face these opportunities. After a week with a dozen of my peers camping in hammocks, I’m happy to say that all of them deal cheerfully with the dreams that come with following one’s dreams—like in this case, the endless mosquitos and cold weather for camping.
–Written by Zach Hesse ‘18