The Student-Exchange Lens: A Conversation with Kat and Harry
Nam Phuong Doan ‘18
This term, Harry Meredith and Kat Taylor, third-year Creative Writing students from Bath Spa University, England, are currently doing an exchange program at Bennington College. Bennington encourages students to study abroad, and simultaneously welcomes exchange students from other countries to experience education and culture on our community-based campus.
Bath Spa’s three-year Bachelor’s program is structured differently than Bennington’s four-year program. At Bath, students choose their degree and do that degree only; any other additional subjects would be extracurricular and taken in students’ own time. Students also take core modules in their degree, yet they are not one-credit as those at Bennington.
“I love the courses at Bath Spa, but everything is more compressed here,” said Harry.
“Most of the classes are discussion-based here but at Bath Spa they are lecture-based with 400 hundred students or so in a hall, listening to one professor speaking […] We have big essays, but I’ve never done a response paper until I came here,” explained Kat.
Harry talked about his experience at Bennington as “different, a bit challenging, but enjoyable.” He has been discovering subjects beyond Creative Writing in a variety of classes such as Anthropology, Philosophy, Film, and History, where he found the professor, Carol Pal, very interesting and passionate. Meanwhile, Kat is exploring Ceramics, Dance, and Translation, along with her Poetry classes.
“It’s definitely more work here. Yesterday I was looking at my schedule--last year I had about 7 hours of class and this term I have 20, which is a humongous difference,” shared Kat.
She also added: “I like that when something is currently happening, the class will change its schedule around that topic.”
“The SEPC stuff is really cool too. I’ve never done that before,” mentioned Harry.
Although they have only been here for a term, Kat and Harry feel comfortable and at-home with the social scene on campus. They also have a good grasp of their own houses’ cultures.
“When I first came to Bath Spa, people were telling me about how small it was, and now when I came here I realized how it was quite easy to “hide” at Bath,” laughed Kat. Talking about her house, Franklin, she said: “I love my house. I like going out to parties and meeting people but when I go back to my room I like it being quiet and nice. Franklin is perfect for that!”
Harry lives in Sawtell, where he finds “a cool house” and “an enjoyable community.” “We do have frequent events happening but nice and quiet times as needed,” said Harry.
Both Kat and Harry highly recommend students to go on an exchange abroad because the experience is valuable. If one goes to Bath Spa, he has to be self-motivated and create more work for himself if need be. Besides finding out what financial aid options were available, one of the things that they thought students should keep in mind before studying abroad, was having somebody on the ground to talk to who is not just administration and can give them the student side of the story.
“I contacted someone who used to study at Bennington for a year and I got a lot about what I was getting into,” shared Harry.
“Also think about the weather and what clothes you’re going to bring,” Kat added. “I’ve never been to America before Bennington. When I first got off the airplane I was struck about how different the air was and how the light looked so different. On campus, when I was standing at the End of the world at twilight, I could see all details of all of the houses even though it’s getting dark. It’s kinda awesome.”
Apparently, the scenery is a joyful part of the experience to look forward to when coming to a new place. As Harry put it, “It’s kinda awesome that here at night you can see the stars so clearly. Bath Spa is beautiful as well. We’ve got a lake, a bath spa, and really pretty areas.”
Talking about his time at Bennington, Harry mentioned: “It’s been quite nice.” When asked about Bennington parties, he uttered: “You do what you do. You make the most out of what you have.”
“Also in England we can drink at 18,” laughed Kat.