For some juniors abroad, language barriers prove difficult. For others, it’s the culture shock that’s most unexpected. But for psychology major Katherine Sweasy '20, one of the most sizable surprises was, well, the size of her classes.
Kat is from Guilford, Conn.; she spent last fall studying at the University College of London (UCL) through the IFSA-Butler program. At Bryn Mawr, her largest class was Intro to Psychology. Even that course, she says, was fewer than 100 students. Since then, most of her courses have averaged fewer than 20, fostering the kind of intimate, engaged discussions Bryn Mawr is known for.
But at UCL, the contrast of a large university was immediately clear. “One of my classes… was like 200 people, and it was in a student center where they held concert performances,” she says. “They set up plastic chairs on the floor every morning, and that was where I had class.” The course structure was based around professors giving formal talks, rather than dialogue-based learning. “It made me miss Bryn Mawr.”
Coming back, she says, the difference in classroom experience has helped her appreciate Bryn Mawr and its community very differently.
At the same time, Kat’s grateful she had the chance to study in London. “It was super important for me personally to get out of the Bryn Mawr bubble and have a radically different college experience,” she says. In her time abroad, she had a lot of freedom; her travels last semester included Scotland, Greece, Northern Ireland, France, and Germany. “I had the opportunity to be independent, to step out of my comfort zone, to make my own plans, and to actively create new experiences for myself.”
And who knows? Maybe she’ll return someday.
“I think it would be great to go back for grad school or something after graduation,” she adds. “It made me realize that I don’t have to exist in the same corner that I’ve grown up in. I’m independent. I can make a life for myself in a completely different place.”