Florence, Paris, London, and the Czech Republic—this past Fall Semester Away (FSA) program was an abundance of sights, cities, and new experiences. Based in various European cosmopolitan hubs, students were exposed to the diversity of Western art and intellect while learning how to live and think independently.
FSA is offered to new Colorado College students admitted under the Winter Start program. Students have a variety of reasons for committing to FSA, but the prevailing theme is a desire for an adventure outside of the classroom.
“I’ve always done things outside of the box and have never been happier about my decision,” said FSA student Caroline Blue.
To many, it was a great introduction to the methods of the Block Plan.
“I liked the exposure to the Block Plan and it was nice to get the FYE [First Year Experience] out of the way,” said another recent FSA student, Ellie Rubinstein.
FSA students completed their FYE in the first two blocks, taking “Renaissance Worlds and the History of Memory” with Susan Ashley in Florence and “Music and Culture in Europe, 1750-1900” with Michael Grace in Paris.
Professor Grace has been a teacher in FSA for two consecutive years and loves how being abroad intensifies music for the students. “The main goal is how to deal with the arts live in front of you,” he said. “How can students who’ve never been to an opera make sense of it? You don’t get that kind of live performance experience on campus.”
In Paris, students had the opportunity to attend two operas and eight concerts. It was the favorite block for many FSA students.
“Michael is an incredible teacher and made us very excited about classical and romantic music,” said Blue.
Students lived in apartments in Paris and had to fend for themselves outside of class hours, adding an additional layer of independence. The first block in Italy was the only time the students stayed with host families. The jump from living at home with parents to living abroad with peers was a daunting prospect for some. Yet for these students, it seemed to significantly aid the transition to CC.
On the group dynamic coming into the program, Rubinstein continued, “We had a group of really cool people… [we were] very lucky.”
The program included 13 students—one-third of the 39 Winter Starts—which eased some of the pressure of making immediate friends that most first-years undergo with on-campus orientation. The demanding nature of the Block Plan additionally escalated the group’s closeness. “They became a family almost immediately,” remarked Professor Grace.
The next two blocks were “Topics in Theatre: What is Performance Now?” with Andrew Manley in London and “Introduction to Global Climate Change” with Miro Kummel in the Czech Republic. Rosa Mallorson especially loved the last block and said, “Miro was amazing. It was great being taught by someone who grew up in the region and still had strong connections.”
The students were even able to cook Thanksgiving dinner together at Miro’s parents’ house; all that was missing was the cranberry sauce.
A new aspect of FSA this year was the opportunity the students had to attend WSO (Winter Start Orientation) trips. Since the FSA students have already taken their FYE class, this gave them a chance to meet some of their fellow Winter Starts. However, the transition from taking classes in major European cities to an on-campus life hasn’t been as comfortable for some.
“It’s really weird going to class without people I know,” Blue said. After having the same classmates for four blocks, Rubinstein said, “sitting in class yesterday was slightly nerve-wracking.” Yet all agree that although they loved FSA, it is exciting to be on campus and meet the rest of their class.
Between a unique classroom setting and constant exposure to the source material, FSA offers students a great opportunity for those wanting to start a semester late.
“FSA offers a lot: amazing teachers, interesting trips, and unique experiences,” said another FSA student Rosa Mallorson.
For the fall of 2017, CC plans to conduct its FSA program in Costa Rica and Belize.