Mind the Gap: A Look at First Semesters in London and Saratoga
To spend first semester at Skidmore or to spend first semester in London—that is the question. Skidmore first-years are given the option to spend their first semester of college on campus or abroad in London. This year, 34 first-years opted to go to London while the remaining 645 spent their first semester on campus. Geraldine Santoso ‘22, who came right to Skidmore, and Lizzie Bourdelais ‘22, who was in London, both shared their taste of college life in two different countries in an interview with Skidmore News.
Santoso, originally from Indonesia, studied at a boarding school in India before coming to Skidmore. Having previously experienced studying away from home, her transition into college life has been smooth.
“Frankly, I didn’t find it as stressful. Moving to the U.S. was definitely hard, but academically I don’t think it was that bad because my high school’s workload was similar,” Santoso said.
Her highlight of first semester was taking courses that allowed her to delve into her inquires about the world.
“The philosophy course I took was very thought provoking because it makes you question your place in the world, and even your presence on campus. I think I learned so much and so many light bulbs lit up in my head,” Santosa said. She discovered that a lot of questions she had had growing up while reading books finally made sense.
In addition to classes, part of being in college means participating in clubs that pique one’s interest. When asked about the clubs that she joined, Santoso listed “Asian Culture Awareness Club, International Student Union, and the Christian Fellowship Club.”
Currently, Santoso is a member of the Christian Fellowship club E-Board as the media outreach coordinator. Her role entails using her artistic abilities of graphic design to promote the club events and social media pages. “I spread the news about specific events through Instagram and Facebook posts for the club,” Santoso explained.
As for her weekends, Santoso spends her time occasionally going downtown where she enjoys the pastries at Mrs. Londons, browses the selection of books at Northshire, and hits the streets for a nice stroll.
For her future plans, she hopes to study abroad at the University College of London for the art history and archaeology program. As of right now, Santoso is happy with her decision to spend her first semester on campus, as she got to know the community and everything it has to offer.
Bourdelais ‘22 has quite a penchant for travel. After graduating from high school, she took a gap year, teaching skiing lessons in Mammoth, backpacking through the Himalayas, and walking the pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain: “It was wonderful; I had a great time and I met a lot of people,” she reminisced.
Continuing on her interest in travelling, she chose to study in London for her first semester.
Originally from New Hampshire, going to a bustling city like London was a change for Bourdelais. Similar to most experiences living abroad, hers was filled with its ups and downs.
“I knew it was going to be super out of my comfort zone because I never lived in a city, so initially living in London was really exciting,” explained Bourdelais. “But I went through a period where I didn’t like the vibe. However, I went way for the midterm break and when I came back I had a new way to look at the city.”
The perks of being abroad are exploring the city and experiencing the culture studying. Bourdelais’ favorite aspect was the multitude of field trips that she took to museums in different parts of the city. Class meetings were not confined to one classroom, instead the whole city was the classroom.
“The cool thing about about all my courses were that they all had to do with London in some way. They connected you with the city, and you would go on field trips around the city,” she said.
The students were able to learn by paying visits to sites that pertained to the topics they were studying. She shared that once her history course was held in an “old operating theater” which allowed for a change of scenery and a more immersive experience to understanding the material.
Bourdelais, an avid learner of languages and traveler of the world, is open to studying abroad again in the future. Currently, she is taking German and plans to study abroad in Freiburg, Germany.
“I’m really interested in learning languages and I just think they’re fun. I speak Spanish really well, and I hope to speak German just as well,” she said.
Studying in London for Bourdelais helped her ease into college life after her gap year, and in a way allowed her to extend her travelling adventures. Now back on campus, she joined the Outing Club and the Philosophy Club in hopes of meeting new friends and getting involved in the community. Bourdelais shares, “I am putting myself out there and attending activities and events that I might not normally go to. I have been super motivated to join clubs and try to go to meetings.”
Bourdelais and Santoso both enjoyed their first semester of college all the way from two different countries; their experiences held similar trends of meeting new friends and learning about the things they are interested in. As the Londoners are back on campus with the rest of the first-years, there is opportunity for new friendships and seeing new faces around.