Nestled in the heart of historic Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, among the rolling hills and gushing creeks is the sprawling, 300-acre campus of Wilson College.
Enlivened with historic buildings that date back to the 1860s, this picture book scene is the first thing that greets new students at the top liberal arts College; an institution that has earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is a wonderful campus with lots of green areas and a beautiful creek where you can go for a stroll to relax amidst your busy schedule,” says recent graduate Laura Giacomini.
But the welcome doesn’t stop there; for international students, leaving your home for the first time to travel the world and embark on further study can be a liberating but daunting experience, as international graduate, Sina Kim, pointed out when reflecting on her early days at Wilson.
“One of my thankful memories is my relationship with people at Wilson: professors, friends, and staff members. I came to the US by myself and sometimes I got homesick, but some warm-hearted people at Wilson made my heart happy.”
Unlike larger universities where you become lost in a crowd of freshman, Wilson’s small size and fantastic faculty-to-student ratio means every student feels the warmth of being welcomed in to a new community and embraced as one of their own.
“Wilson is unique in that it offers students the opportunity to form close, personal relationships with people in the community including other students, professors, and staff,” says 2017 graduate, Ghada Tafesh, a Biology and English Major originally from Palestine.
“Here, a student is not just another face in the crowd or another number on a list. People do care about you, would do everything they can, and want you to succeed.”
With a remarkable student to faculty ratio of only 13:1, students get a highly personalized education in which they can explore topics in detail and have the freedom to delve into areas of interest with expert guidance on-hand to assist.
“The faculty and staff on campus will go the extra mile to make you feel welcome and cared for. Lessons are really personalized because there are small class groups here so you can really learn and enjoy classes,” Laura said.
This intense teaching approach, teamed with first-rate academics, means students are fully engaged in the learning process and take ownership of their education; participating in class and engaging in original, self-designed research.
Anna Harutyunyan, a recent graduate of Biology and Chemistry, found the College’s smaller size greatly enhanced her research opportunities, highlighting that students studying sciences at larger universities may find it “challenging to find a lot of research experience” and recognising the advantage of having the freedom to design her own projects.
“Wilson doesn’t have PhD programs, so there are no research labs that you are expected to join and take over or “inherit” a grad student’s project that was already designed and outlined for you. At Wilson, you have to make your own. This is the beauty of a small college.”
Thanks to this independent approach and the “infinite support from research advisors, both on professional and personal levels”, Anna’s story resonates success.
Following her research at Wilson, Anna presented her results at the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, was accepted for a summer research internship program at Penn State College of Medicine, offered a job position in their lab, and had her research published in a respected paper.
As Anna says:
“This experience was a keystone for my research career: a year of original research experience and a publication – both are my tickets to a graduate school of my choice.”
The College’s small size certainly doesn’t mean it’s lacking in facilities – quite the opposite in fact. Wilson is investing in your success, and investing a lot!
The facilities at which Anna conducted her research were housed in the Harry R. Brooks Complex for Science, Mathematics and Technology; a state-of-the-art classroom, laboratory and research space that promises student access to the best possible equipment and facilities.
And this is just one of the many investments that Wilson has made in your learning environment. The Fulton Center for Sustainability Studies is a one-of-a-kind hub for hands-on environmental education, allowing students to explore sustainability in food production, energy, transportation, land stewardship and community awareness. The site includes a 50-acre farmstead – incorporating a fully-operational vegetable farm – passive-solar greenhouses, nature trails, and a community-supported agriculture program.
The multimillion-dollar Equestrian Center, located in the heart of the campus, is another feature that sets Wilson apart from other universities. The facility provides top-notch stabling opportunities, as well as indoor and outdoor arenas, for students and their horses.
If horse riding’s not your thing, there are umpteen other choices of societies and groups for meeting and mixing with your fellow students and engaging with campus life.
“Definitely being part of the clubs at Wilson has been highly enriching,” says Laura. “Not only did I get to enjoy new hobbies and learn about American culture but also had the opportunity to add some expertise in writing to my resume.”
Anna found joining the international student Muhhibah Club helped her integrate while proudly expressing her nationality.
“While the Muhhibah performances allowed me to present a piece of my country to the American audience and be proud of my nationality…it also brought me together with my friends. You become very close to people that you rehearse with every day.”
She also recognised the intrinsic value to be gained from immersing herself in college life.
“We go to college to study and learn, but books can’t teach us many things that art and human interaction can.”
The welcoming and inclusive atmosphere of Wilson, teamed with the first-rate academics and hands-on teaching approach, has cultivated an environment in which international students don’t just succeed, but thrive.
“I am now confident enough to say that I am fully prepared to pursue my career goals and tackle a rigorous PhD program,” says Ghada.
“The skills I have acquired here will last a lifetime and benefit me in many aspects in life, whether academic or not.”
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