Making the Bigger Move: Being an International Student at Barnard
When you go to college, the most common and constant question asked is, how did you choose to come here? For an international student that same question elaborates further to be: how did you choose to go from [insert country name here] to Barnard? Every time I’m asked I have to think back to my seventeen-year-old self, four years ago at this point, and remember all the factors that made me choose Barnard. Knowing that I would be far from my home in Mexico City, with few opportunities to go back during the school year, a strong sense of community and a stimulating environment – like New York City – were essential. In addition, if I was going to be making such a big move for college, it needed to have a high level of academics and be somehow unique. As a women’s college, with its privileged location in Manhattan, small campus and student population, Barnard checked all items on my list and added items I didn’t even know I wanted.
Everyone coming to Barnard is making a move, leaving something behind but anxious to create a new community that will influence the next four years. As an international student, that new community is especially important because maybe, if you’re like me, you won’t go home as much but also because you want to make the most of your new experience and create a new home for yourself. You won’t just be adapting to a new city and campus but to a new country and culture, maybe very different from your own. At Barnard, there are many things that ease this transition. First of all, the small number of students means that in the first couple of weeks you will already recognize many faces as you walk around campus, a refreshing contrast to the anonymity created in a place like New York City. Your residence hall will be a place to meet people, get to know your roommate, and begin creating the network of people you wish to spend your time with. Because of small classes, a small campus, and not too many students, it is not hard to connect with others and start forming the community you want to be a part of.
What is unique about our community is that every person here has chosen to attend a women’s college, which centers the experiences and ambitions of women. For my family and friends back in Mexico, why I chose a women’s college is probably the biggest mystery. But, as soon as I read about the Barnard mission and started to understand how it is reflected in the everyday life and study of its students, I knew I wanted this unconventional experience. Every space at Barnard, unlike most of the rest of the world, is geared towards women. Wherever you are on campus, regardless if there are men there too, your voice will be respected, prioritized, and valued in ways that are almost indescribable. All the professors at Barnard are devoted to the mission of educating women at the highest possible caliber, and this is reflected in their own scholarship, which is often the most original in their field. With the support of my professors I’ve been afforded many opportunities like doing archival research for my thesis in Mexico, funded through one of Barnard’s many available fellowships. International experiences are highly encouraged by Barnard. Many students travel for research and study abroad programs and they might even end up in your hometown!
Being an international student at Barnard means that you’ll go through the same experiences as all other students but with an added level of discovery. Your identity will be celebrated but most of the time you will just feel like a Barnard student: driven, passionate, and intelligent. Your background and experiences will influence others and theirs will similarly influence you. Luckily, you’ll be able to focus on academics, community, and relationships because comfort, well-being, and opportunity will be taken care of by Barnard. But don’t take my word for it, come experience it yourself!
Please email me if you have any questions!