But I would say that with the Field Work Term and a Bennington education, most students here graduate with a sense of self-advocacy (and at least 4 FWTs’ worth of job hunting/work experience) that seriously helps with the job hunt (it’s all about the interview!) as well as a network of both past employers and other professionals (even your teachers!) to call on.
Students also aren’t paying $200,000 during their time here. A large percentage (90%) of students receive both need-based and merit-based aid ($36,660 a year, on average!)
This isn’t the 80’s, pal!
While we talk a lot about the Plan Process on the blog, we just wanted to clear up what Bennington “requires” of our students.
In addition to successfully completing the Plan Process, Bennington students are required to earn at least 128 credits, and to complete four Field Work Terms (we talk about that on the blog a lot too.)
In order to allow students to successfully fulfill the intense academic discovery that comes along with the Plan, we don’t have any restrictions or requirements on what classes a student can and can’t take. The open curriculum is there to facilitate the needs of your personal academic narrative and to allow you the freedom to explore, to stumble upon new passions, to find connections between your work, and to make mistakes and learn from them. This allows students the freedom to pursue a plan process with rigor and merit, that successfully articulates your academic goals and how you’re going to reach them, that conveys who you are and how you think, what you’re doing with your time here, and where you’re headed. This all happens through a series of opportunities for reflection and evaluation which take the form of plan essays, plan meetings, junior reviews, senior work, etc. that are facilitated by the faculty and deans office.
While this process is seemingly simple on paper, it’s kind of revolutionary in its origins, and it asks a lot of every Bennington student. We don’t just ask you to do well in your classes, we require that can you explain why you’re taking them, why here, why now. And yes, all those “whys” can be taxing, but they make certain that your time here is spent wisely, ensuring that you receive a holistically grounded education with which you can enter the world equipped to share all you have to offer and prepared to absorb what the world has to offer you.
- Sarah ‘15
I’ll tell you as a graduating senior with a job that our Plan Process actually helps rather than hinders. Think about any job that you might want to work- maybe it’s a position at a newspaper or magazine, or maybe it’s an administrative role at a hospital. Then ask what skills you might need. Without a doubt, you need more skills than just ones you would learn in literature classes or classes on management or administration alone.
What I want to highlight in this is that a single job will incorporate numerous areas of interest or passion beyond one single major. I have studied Environmental Studies, using anthropology and natural sciences to help me understand the full picture of growing food for an increasing global population. Additionally, I study Italian. Throughout my time here, I have taken visual arts and art history courses, and my job after Bennington is at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, where I will be an assistant to artists in residence. This job requires near fluency in Italian, along with experience with the arts, both of which I learned at Bennington.
Finally, I’ll add that our 7-week Field Work Term period is the ideal time to test out potential jobs and integrate those experiences into your education at Bennington. You may work at an organization and realize that you don’t want to work a certain type of job, or that you do, and then you have that experience on your resume when you leave Bennington. Those 3-4 internships are also great places to look for a job when you graduate.
The last thing I will say is that when you have a conversation with a potential employer, I think it is significantly more interesting (for both parties) to talk about your studies (which are your passions) than a single major you pursued.
-Kate D. ‘14
It is **I, Chloe** - not that that individual really “exists” per se, as my ego is a complete illusion of itself. I am the universe instilled into a body.
Yeah that was probably one of my favorite periods of time. The monastery itself was in Upstate New York, though it felt extremely isolated and sacred - living among 12 Buddhist monks and nuns in a monastery in the dead of snowy winter was unique indeed.
Most days I would wake up and make breakfast for the members of the monastery (mostly monks and nuns but a few Just Practicing Buddhists). We would then gather and do the Breakfast chants, throw some offering bread off the porch, and eat together. The vibe of the community was sooooo friendly and welcoming and casual and comfortable - those Buddhists know what they’re talking about about.
Then I’d sometimes clean the shrine room or the kitchen, make event posters for upcoming dharma talks, drive around the area putting them up, go shopping for food for the community, convert a bunch of old takes into digital format (I got to watch hours of beautiful footage of the monastery members’ trips to Nepal, and one of the Dalai Lama’s trip to the monastery), scanning photos, or do other community-upkeep tasks.
Then lunch, more work and/or meditating and/or being peacefully alone and/or reading, then dinner, then what-the-heck-ever,
The greatest thing was getting free lessons in meditation and Buddhism (history, texts, philosophy, etc.), and being surrounded by so many inspiring, knowledgeable, and grounding people. Having that sort of retreat and nourishment after my first (kooky emotional confusing busy intense) term of college was incredible, and is something I’d like to do again either in or out of college. If you have any more specific questions, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s totally different for every student. I’d say start with the place. Do you want to go home (free housing and food)? Or do you want to go to NYC for example (rent, food, transportation, etc.)? If you want to fly somewhere, that’s also another consideration.
Our awesome Field Work Term office will help you find a job and housing through WorkLink, our online database of positions and housing options. Sometimes alums will offer students housing, or you could try to sleep on a friend’s couch/ in an extra room (I had a friend stay with me for 1 day a week to save her a day of commuting home and back from New Jersey to NYC). It’s all about being resourceful. There are always students going to major cities looking to split an apartment together.
So think about place, food, transportation, extra activities, and look for jobs that might have a stipend or some form of payment (they’re rare, but stipends for transportation or lunch are more common).
Check out the Field Work Term’s page on funding, and know that there are also grants that we can apply for to help fund our FWTs.
-Kate D. ‘14
I realized there are places you can go besides Bennington where you can over-intellectualize things while doing things, and I find that comforting.
For your first Field Work Term, your choice of location does not have to be based on your course of study, mainly because you will probably not yet have a strict direction to your work (not that you ever really do……. “just kidding”). However, whatever you intuitively choose will still probably weasel its way into your future studies somehow, just based on the fact that you chose it and will learn about yourself and your interests in the process.
In terms of your FWTs post-first-year, they do have to be somehow related to your Plan, but there are ways of finding connections between an organization and your studies that don’t have to be super direct. Also, because you design your Plan based on your personal interests, it doesn’t really feels limiting to have to choose something that connects to your Plan. ALSO your FWTs often shape your Plan as much as your Plan shapes your FWTs.
Congratulations, friend! We’re so glad to know we’ve made it into your top 3!
In answer to your question: Yes! Before Field Work Term begins, there is a generally two-or-so week period set aside for winter break, during which time students can relax and seek familial comfort before setting out towards the exciting work filled weeks still to come!
Much love from VT,
yo you wouldn’t BELIEVE the resources!!
But for real, don’t worry! You won’t just be thrust into the Job Hunt all on your own.
The go-to resource for most students is probably Worklink, a site run by the FWT Office where employers can upload positions which you can then apply to. All online! The FWT Office will even help you with things like resume and cover letter writing! So simple and easy!~
If Worklink don’t cut it, another (arguably bigger) resource is the network you’ll have simply by being a human among humans at Bennington. Whether it’s a Former Employer, Acquaintance, Friend From Home, or Someone’s Dad, most students and teachers know a bunch of people who could hook you up with a job if you’re cool and nice.
That being said, finding a job is still very much a self-driven thing. The resources aren’t going to be of any use if they’re not being used (ha ha ha.) As important as having connections and resources may be, no one is going to get you a job but you.
Don’t Drink and Drive!
<3 Kagan ‘16
The financial burden of FWT falls on you. And that’s part of the learning experience. In the same way that the process of finding your job might be as valuable as the work itself, the process of finding a place to live and budgeting for food and travel expenses (as depressing as it can be), gives you a great real world skill set.
Here are some the ways we cope.
Grants: The FWT Office awards grants to help offset expenses. They probably won’t cover all your costs, but they help a lot.
Paid internships: These can be few and far between, but if it’s at the top of your priority list, it’s definitely doable. A slightly less lofty goal is an internship that will help with room, board or transportation costs. Even a free metro card helps.
Work Study jobs: Get a campus job during the term and save save save.
Summer jobs: See above.
Parent swap: got a friend who lives in the city of your dreams? See if her parents might have a spare bedroom for 7 weeks.
Friendly alums: Bennington alums did FWT. They know how hard it can be and often make themselves available to students looking for places to stay.
Live w/friends: Going to NYC? So are 200 other Bennington students. You already live in dorms. Why not share a small apartment with five friends? It’ll be a little cramped at home, but you’ll have more money to spend when you “go out.”
Live w/relatives: You know that aunt in Portland who loves you and only sees you every two years? Wouldn’t she love to have you on her couch for the winter?
Did I mention Craigslist? I know, know, it’s creepy. But there are lots of nice, honest people out there who are going on vacation for a month and need someone to give them a little bit of money and bring in the mail every couple of days.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. It’s kind of like life.
If you need some inspiration, here are two lit-related FWTs just around the office:
Anushka- Random House, helping decide the initial round of possible publications to be looked at by editors.
Emily- Writopia Lab in NYC, helping to teach kids learn to read and write, and editing their literary magazine.
If you can’t think of anything. my advice would be to not confine yourself to just the field in which you think you want to study; it’s not uncommon for a first FWT to be a bit unrelated while still informative. Last year, I worked with a non-profit art organization in North Bennington, and while it had nothing to do with Chinese or Animation, it was still a cool experience to get to know the off-campus community and learn about the workings of a locally run and funded non-profit.
So if you’re having trouble imagining a FWT in the realm of creative writing, try thinking of another job you’ve always wanted that may not have much to do with your current area of study. And there’s no limit to where you can go— there have been FWTs all over the world. Just thinking within the office, we’ve got Jeremy going to Japan, and Julia to Mexico.
Don’t worry~Happy Holiday~
<3 Kagan ‘16
My advice would be to think of your dream organization. GO BIG. or go small! Last year I worked at a tiny comedy theater in Chicago. Their smaller manpower meant that I had more responsibility and was a more integral part of the team. Go anywhere you want! The question is totally hypothetical, no one will hold you to the answer you put down. Interested in literature huh? Think about your favorite literary journal or bookstore or a children’s literacy organization. Really think about the work you’d like to do (this is YOUR fantasy, you don’t have to do the coffee runs!) Maybe you’ve got a burning (itching?) curiosity in a totally different area. FWT can be a great time to explore that as well. In the end, it’s an experience to help you find what satisfies you, and no one besides yourself can dictate that.
Gossip Girl (Emily ‘16)
A lot of my friends have worked as volunteers for their FWTs. So many great organizations can’t afford to pay us! On the bright side, the FWT Office offers great grants every year. So, if you demonstrate the need for a certain amount of money (fees, airplane tickets, housing, etc) the college will do its best to support you. Almost all students will receive money if they apply for a grant. Just recently a friend of mine went to work as a volunteer in an orphanage in China, and his trip was financed in part by grant money. The FWT office is all about supporting you in the things you love to do, and so in cases like this they always try their best to help you make it happen.
Hope that helps!
Sylvia M, ‘16