Meet Ebony at Bennington College in Vermont!
Name: Ebony Dalimunthe
University: Bennington College
Degree: Literature / Film
Current Year of Study: 2nd year
How did you choose your university destination and course of study?
To be honest I did not expect to go to university due to financial reasons, but my university advisor (thanks Ms Sarah!) approached me with this small institution in Vermont, USA: Bennington College, and suggested I apply. So I did, I received almost a full scholarship, and here I am now in my 2nd year studying abroad!
I always knew I wanted to study literature or writing of some kind since I’ve loved writing ever since I was a little girl with my not-so-little hoard of books. I wasn’t sure (and I’m still unsure) what career I want to pursue post-graduation, but I figured the best option was to study something I loved.
What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?
Bennington College’s curriculum is amazing. It’s a liberal arts institution with a peculiar manner of academia in which instead of Majors and Minors, you have a “Plan” – a focus that you concentrate on for your four years here.
One thing that really deterred me in going to university was having to focus on one thing for four years, and I was really worried I would get super bored of studying just literature, for example. But Bennington College actually lets you study basically whatever you want, whenever you want, which is perfect for me. So while I’m studying literature and film, I can also take psychology courses, dance courses, even drumming if I want! I often find it hard to pick classes each term because I want to take them all!
The liberal arts style also provides smaller classes of around 20-max students, which I find is a much more effective learning environment.
What do you enjoy most about living in Bennington, Vermont?
The nature. If you search up photos of Vermont you’ll see tons of pictures of fall leaves and rolling hills. Coming to Vermont, I got to experience the seasons for the first time (and snow!) and it was really magical. It’s also a roughly 3-hour drive to big cities like NYC and Boston which are always fun trips to take whenever we have a break during the term.
How supportive is your university to international students and, in particular, during the pandemic?
Honestly, very supportive. I was surprised when I got to Bennington College just how supportive they are of international students; it was not what I expected. The international community here is also pretty big (if I’m not mistaken, about 25% of students are international) and we really support each other whenever we can.
What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university?
- Homesickness. I’m a homebug so being away from my family for the first time, especially in the US which is VERY VERY far from Bali. It was pretty difficult. But what I found helped me the most was finding support in my friends, and I don’t regret leaving home at all because now I’ve found a second family here.
- Finances. The US is very far from home for me, so flights are costly and is definitely something to look out for when selecting a potential university destination far from home.
- Food. Even though the US is home to many different flavours and cuisines from all over, it does get a little hard when I start craving nasi campur or rendang. In my first year here I didn’t bring much food from home which I learnt from because for my second year I bought a TON of snacks and non-perishables.
- I’m adding a fourth one because I have to: SURFING! THE OCEAN! I miss them but it’s okay as at least I get the snow.
What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?
To be honest I don’t have much time between my academics and my work (I work on-campus at my college), but when I do find time I usually just chill with my friends, play volleyball, or party.
How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?
My uni is quite unusual in the sense that the majority of the student body lives on-campus. We have these cute little Victorian houses and some more modern buildings on campus where everyone lives, so the commute isn’t long at all. I can walk from my room to my class within 2 minutes. There are off-campus options, although it can get a little lonely during winter. For the first 2 years at my uni you have to share a room with someone, and then in your last 2 years you get your own single.
Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working word and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?
Bennington has this thing called “Field Work Term”, which is a mandatory stage each year where you work in an internship or at some kind of work experience. It’s tough but it really forces you to get out there (which is a good thing!) For my first year I worked in Mexico with a Literature professor. I never would’ve gotten this experience if it weren’t for this nudge from my uni.
What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?
So I’ve mentioned I went to Mexico, but I’ve also been to NYC and Boston, and recently I went to Miami with a close friend of mine (4 of us went) and we had a blast. It can be stressful spending these extra costs to travel but trust me it’s all worth it. These are memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life.
What are the top pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to Bennington to study?
- Consider your financial responsibilities. Don’t just head it into it willy-nilly thinking you’ll find a way to manage. It’s better to have a clear idea of what financial responsibilities you can expect (like flights, transport, living costs) rather than be surprised later on.
- Research the courses available at Bennington. Although Bennington provides a wide range, it does not offer some courses or areas of study (for example, Education is not an available Major). Although Bennington’s main area of academia is the arts, it does have some courses in STEM although these are not as extensive. Really research what you have available to see if it’s the right fit for you (like for example I have a friend who wants to study Child Psychology but there aren’t really many courses like that available here).