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Exercising Their Spring Option
Before starting college, Mary McNutt '12 spent three months with Outward Bound.
Isabella Trifero '12 worked in a school in Bagamoyo, Tanzania.
“I knew no one. I could not speak Italian and had never been away from home for four months straight,” said Daniel Shemesh ’12. “But I made friends, learned to speak enough to survive and I traveled around Europe seeing sites most people don’t get to see in a lifetime.”
Shemesh and 31 other Franklin & Marshall College students spent the first semester of this year exercising their Spring Option.
The Spring Option program gives students time to travel, study languages in Europe, work as a community organizer, hike through the Rocky Mountains or do something spectacular before buckling down and starting college.
The program is ideal for the independent student who wants to take a short break between high school and college.
Each year, between 30 and 32 students who apply to Franklin & Marshall College are offered enrollment through the Spring Option program. These students are selected from the regular applicant pool and are offered admission in the spring term rather than the fall term.
As the faculty adviser for Spring Option, Kabi Hartman, program director and senior adjunct assistant professor of English, helps the students select a study-abroad program or develop a project for the Spring Option semester.
“What’s important is that they are doing what they really want to be doing and that they bring that experience back to campus with them in the spring,” Hartman said.
She keeps in touch with the students during the fall. Hartman visited some of the students, including Shemesh, in Florence in November. “We sipped espresso in a cafe and picked out spring semester classes,” she said.
The College has partnered with several programs, including New York University, the Council on International Education Exchange and the University of Edinburgh’s Freshman Year Abroad Program to offer structured study-aboad opportunities.
Lena Dechamps ’12 said Spring Option taught her that deviating from the plan is sometimes a good thing. She spent the fall in London.
“We have it drilled into us that we should go to college for four years directly after high school, then to graduate school and then we should find a job. There is no right way to get through your education,’’ Dechamps said.
Students are talking about their experiences and prospective Spring Option participants are discussing their plans on Facebook.
Living Outside the Box
Here is what some students had to say about their Spring Option experience:
“I spent the fall in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. I went through a program called Cross Cultural Solutions and worked at a primary school and an orphanage. I taught students English and math and tried to have fun with the kids. I loved being able to put a smile on the children’s faces. They appreciated the time we spent with them and were so eager to learn,” said Isabella Trifero ’12.
“Deciding to be a Spring Option student was probably the best decision I ever made. For three weeks I camped around Europe. Seeing so many different countries and cultures was awe-inspiring. In choosing the Spring Option, I allowed myself to not only think, but also to live outside the box. And I knew that when I arrived back at College in the spring, there would be a group of 30 or so students who shared, if not my experience, then something like it,” said Judith Stapleton ’12.
“My semester abroad to Florence, Italy, changed my life. The satisfaction of feeling like a full-grown adult in a foreign city is truly indescribable. Because of my semester abroad, I have a heightened sense of maturity and responsibility and a broader wisdom and respect for the world around me,” said Charles McErlean ’12.
“I spent 81 days with Outward Bound, where we hiked and climbed in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Wyoming. We spent three weeks in Ecuador traversing mountain ranges. The highest elevation we reached was around 20,000 feet on Mt. Cotopaxi in the Andes. We learned survival skills like first aid, reading a compass and a map, and learned how to live in a strange environment, get along with peers, solve problems, face our fears and figure out how to survive on our own,” said Mary McNutt ’12.