Chile, a native Vermonter, city shock, investigating special and multicultural education, playing countless hours of ninja with her Mapuche host brother, falling on the subway, extensive conversations about alternative education, finding herself in her second language…
…an adventure to be sure! A little while ago I got the chance to chat with Amanda Coviello, a second term junior studying Education, Anthropology and a good dash of Spanish. Instead of drinking in the fall colors of her home state, Amanda spent last term abroad in Chile with SIT's Comparative Education and Social Change program. Amanda chose this program not only for its good reputation but also because she was looking for an education intensive semester. Although Spanish professor Jonathan Pitcher encouraged her seek out more of an immersion experience, in a foreign university taking classes with locals, she opted for the field-study focus, small group seminars, experiential style education for which SIT is known.
Great question. Here’s my take on it.
Any adjustment is stressful: your routines are disrupted wherever you go and you have to cope with the unfamiliar and strange constantly. This school may be particularly strange to you. Vermont winter might also be! (plus we miss 7 weeks of it with field work term…) But being immersed in something unfamiliar is an incredibly enriching experience and it’ll turn you into an awesome person who can be two different people: old self and Bennington self. Bennington self can synthesize ideas in an interdisciplinary paper and immediately articulate eloquent intellectual critiques on a moment’s notice. It takes time to grow into this self and there are some growing pains, but why else go to college? Note: Bennington self might also get a tattoo. Consequently, old self will too.
Courses are immersive, too. And taught to all levels first-years to seniors as well as seniors who have never studied that subject matter before. Within that room, we’ll meet you on your level: I’ve found teacher’s assessments of my work to be relative to my progress, not to other students. (Thank goodness. Otherwise neuro this term would be deadly)
I’m not sure what ‘technical’ writing is, but Bennington is solid for all types of writing. We aren’t big test takers — we write essays and papers and fiction and poetry and such instead. Discursive psychology has some things to say on the matter of technical writing…
Bottom line: you’ll be immersed, make mistakes and grow — whether it’s a not so eloquent class remark (I’ve mastered the art of turning something pointless into something that sounds meaningful by concluding ideas with “I just think it’s worth noting”) or feedback on your first paper (sentence fragment, consider revising). This is a space where mistakes are okay and there’s a safety net.
Take care and take it easy.
Nope. All our courses — whether it’s ceramics or neuroscience — are rigorous so there is no escaping intense learning (especially since you’ve got to have enough credits per term.) Who are we to say what you need?
A few words of introduction:
Ever wondered who’s Selina ‘15? That name that appears close to the bottom of the sidebar but never pipes in answering questions or sharing her work? Well maybe if you’ve been reading this blog for a while now you’ll remember my obsession with food or my musings over FWT in Bolivia but it’s definitely been awhile. Last July I left the states passing through Ecuador to visit my first roommate and dear friend Andrea before traveling together to Buenos Aires. Once there we met up with our lovely and equally dear friend Nina for a semester exchange program.
Like FWT, study abroad is a chance for Bennington students to burst the bubble, immerse themselves in a different culture, language, maybe study something in depth that isn’t normally offered in the Bennington curriculum, and face the challenge of finding their voice, passion and academic focus in a non-Bennington classroom/setting.
For me, one of the hardest questions to answer is “so how was your FWT?” It’s easy say oh it was “great, pivotal, awful, life-changing, or nothing special….” but, in my experience, these one or two word answers don’t get anywhere close to summing up or expressing the enormity of those seven weeks. When that experience is amplified into a semester or whole year away, trying to express, explain, or share that period of maybe feeling lost, adjusting, exploring, meeting new people, navigating the unknown, studying and living day-to-day in a new place and culture is all that more overwhelming.
The idea of this series is to interview recently returned students about their time abroad and try to give anyone who is interested a little peek –something more than just a two word answer – into their adventures. Up first: Amanda giving us the lowdown on education in Chile.
Nina, Andrea and I enjoying springtime in Argentina.
There was an episode of the freakonomics podcast that compared the cost of a forged degree to that of an actual college education and asked which was the better bargain, and why college was worth it: don’t forget that the time you spend in college is valuable, not just the piece of paper that we call a degree. I mean that in two ways. First, I have found Bennington to be a remarkably enriching experience personally. I’ve learned about the world, I’ve learned about myself and the things I’ve learned in classes have helped me solve and understand the most mundane everyday problems. Learning has enabled me, I think, to be a better human being in everyday life. Secondly, you are going to develop some very employable skills while you are here. Students develop remarkable, highly-personalized original work: we don’t just learn we also do and make. That’s what our projects are about, and that’s what Field Work Term is about. Plus, it seems silly to me to blanket all Bennington graduates together to figure out what YOU will be doing after college. If its something you are worried about, you can do everything here. You can be one of those insane people who works multiple jobs during term, takes the most exhausting classes and always does extra. You won’t be stopped once you show us you’ve got the chops for it. (I am speaking from experience).
That’s my answer. Here is another perspective, that addresses your question more directly.
Unfortunately Bennington no longer offers this program.
~ Holly ‘13
Bennington does have education classes — I took one last term, actually, called Second Language and Culture Acquisition and it was thoroughly fascinating. Here’s the deal: our education classes are very conceptual and are very theory based. In the class I took, we read a variety of materials approaching education from different perspectives (research papers, overviews of theories, and also some lighter reading that I would have read on my free time because it just was that interesting). There is usually something to balance it out the class to keep it from getting too impractical. In the class I mentioned, we were required to tutor ESL students, for example, or maybe you will be sent to a local school to observe a class. I think its also worth mentioning that a lot of education students use Field Work Term as an opportunity to get hands-on in classrooms for a longer period of time. One of my friends is working right now at an alternative education elementary school in Boston, another is working here in Bennington at a middle school with teens at risk of graduating.
The sun majestically perforated the clouds this morning, striking one lone snow-tipped mountain. For some, these rays breaking through the windows of their sleepy dorm rooms stimulated their natural circadian responses, and they rose up like the rest of their animal brothers and sisters in the woods. For others, however, this dawn meant only that another hour had passed in their sleep-deprived delirium. Why, I sometimes ask myself, at a school where there are ostensibly no “requirements,” where we are free to design our own education, do we CHOOSE to do this? The answer, I think, is because we love our work so much.
Here’s what some of us are doing for finals. Check it out:
That seems like a pretty typical / doable Bennington Plan. The challenge for you would be to figure out what links those interests for you. Do you see music as a vehicle for public action? Do you see the processes of composing and learning as similar? Do you see public action as an inspiration for composition? etc.
As far as Field Work Term goes, often you just make a choice to explore one of your interests, but if you can find a place that has made a similar cross discipline connection to one you’ve made, all the better.
Here’s one thought for music/public action:
Bennington no longer offers a Master of Arts in Teaching, so you do not graduate certified to teach in any way.
The undergrad education curriculum is currently under reevaluation, so it’s unclear how big an area of study it will be in the future, but as of right now classes in educational policy and theory could form a substantial part of your liberal arts education, which would prepare you for a classroom certification course elsewhere.
But it’s all a bit up in the air right now. Sorry.
There’s all sorts of different things you can do! I know students who have worked directly in classrooms, tutored individual students, or worked with after school programs. The FWT office has an awesome list of past education related FWTs and it always happy to help you find and reach out to schools. Often Bennington students pursue FWTs with schools whose philosophies they’re interested in knowing more about. For example, if you want to see project-based or inquiry-based education in action you might pursue a FWT with a school that really practices one of those approaches. That way you can really get a handle on what those philosophies look like in an actual education setting. Hope this helps!