By Kristina Montville '14
After four months of traveling, volunteering and pursuing new experiences, 29 first-year students arrived on campus this semester to start their Franklin & Marshall careers.
The students enrolled at F&M in January via the College's Spring Admit program, designed for students who want to take a few months between high school and college to pursue intellectual, civic or social experiences before enrolling at F&M.
More than half of the students traveled the world, earning credit for studying in Africa, France, South America, Mexico, and Ireland, among other locations. Others took part in organized volunteer activities, at home and abroad.
Natalie Ross spent three months in Africa with the Carpe Diem organization, which runs gap programs focused on community, cultural immersion, and service learning. She worked at a special needs school in Uganda, took Swahili lessons, and volunteered at a conservation habitat for rhinoceroses.
"I wanted to experience something different. I wanted something outside just the classroom experience," she said. "I arrived at F&M with a different perspective. Getting more hands-on experience in foreign countries helps your work in the classroom by taking into consideration the many different perspectives out there."
Mridula Gupta dedicated her fall semester to studying in Aix-en-Provence, France, through the Institute for American Universities, earning four credits toward her degree. Gupta was abroad for more than three months, the longest time she's been away from home.
"It was difficult at first, but I know it truly prepared me for the rest of my college life," she said. "It made me really independent because of all the different parts of Europe I explored with the friends I made there."
Twelve students participated in the F&M in Dublin program directed by the Foundation for International Education. The students spent four months in the city, attending classes for credit and exploring the city.
"Dublin was, hands down, the best four months of my life," participant Mackenzie Quinn said. "I appreciated the beautiful architecture that I got to walk by every day on my way to class."
When students arrived on campus in mid-January to join their new community, they participated in an organized weekend orientation. Kabi Hartman, director of the Spring Admit Program and senior adjunct assistant professor of English, and Curt Bentzel, associate professor of German and co-adviser in the Spring Admit Program, led the students in welcome sessions and helped them navigate the class scheduling process.
Ten student orientation leaders directed a variety of other activities, including snow tubing at AvalancheXpress in York and acting games with F&M professional staff members Lydia Brubaker and Jo Underhill.
This year's orientation was themed "Going Local." Students branched out into the Lancaster community to learn more about their new home city. Meeting in groups of five to six, students and their orientation leaders shared stories and meals at a variety of downtown restaurants, such as Aussie and the Fox, the Fridge, and Commonwealth Café.
"Going to these local businesses and restaurants gave the students a chance to be introduced not just to the school, but the city as well," Hartman said.
Gupta said she appreciated the close-knit gatherings.
"Spring Option was nice because it was only a few of us. We didn't have to go through the [fall] process of seeing hundreds of unknown faces."
Ross said she enjoyed getting to know Lancaster.
"The city is more than you would expect. It's worth exploring."