January 27, 2014

Semesters in D.C., New York Offer Unique Experiences

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For students looking to spend time away from Ithaca, off-campus programs such as Cornell in Washington and the College of Human Ecology Urban Semester program have become increasingly popular.

According to Prof. Sam Beck, director of the Urban Semester program, there has been an increase in interest in recent years for the program. The CIW program has also been gaining more awareness around campus, according to Prof. Robert Hutchens, director of CIW.

The Urban Semester and CIW programs allow students to spend a semester in New York City and Washington D.C., respectively. Students take academic courses and work part-time at an internship, according to the programs’ websites.

Hutchens said that the opportunity to have an internship is one of the main factors that attracts students to the CIW program.

“It’s an opportunity for them to sample the work world and see how they fit into it,” Hutchens said.

All CIW students also write a 50-page research paper on a topic of their choosing and use the Library of Congress for research, according to Carolyn Krupski ’15, who participated in the program last fall.

“Our professor gives you the tools to do very exact and specific research, to write something you can be proud of,” Krupski said.

According to Beck, the Urban Semester program accommodates students with interests in any profession. Recently, pre-med students have shown particular interest in the program because it “has a clear professional direction” and incorporates a community service project, Beck said.

“A lot of Cornell students are not only interested in themselves, they also want to do something for the greater good. That’s one of the reasons why the program and medicine in particular is so popular,” he said.

According to Beck, the experience of living in a new city can be very similar to the experience of going abroad, without having to actually leave the country.

“[NYC’s] different neighborhoods have different ethnic groups, and adjusting to [New York] if you don’t come from a big city is very much like going abroad,” Beck said.

Justin Lee ’15, who participated in CIW last fall, said the program aligned well with his government major.

“It made a lot of sense for me to work with people who work [in government] on a day to day basis. I’m much more interested in American politics than in international politics, so there was no other place to be [than D.C.],” Lee said. “Having that kind of backdrop for an academic program on public policy, it really offered unparalleled resources.”

Lauryn Andrews ’14 said she enjoyed her Cornell in Washington experience last fall because she had always wanted to visit Washington D.C.

“I’ve always had an interest in the political sphere. I wanted to be immersed in the Washington culture; I really liked the live-and-learn aspect of the program,” she said. “I [also] really liked being in Washington because I was still able to have a Cornell community in D.C. For me, it’s always nice to have that connection back to Ithaca.”

Andrews said that during her time in Washington, she was able to have “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences such as observing the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington.

“I got to see our current president, past presidents and celebrities reflect on the original march. It was electrifying. I felt like I was a part of history,” she said.

Beck and Hutchens both said they have been promoting their programs to applicants through advertisements and information sessions. However, both also said that word-of-mouth has been the most important form of promotion.

“Students come back very enthusiastic about the program. That’s one of the best sources of information,” Hutchens said.

Beck said he thinks more students should apply, because the completion of an internship during a program is a “major benefit” for future plans.

“Most of our students who apply to medical school get in. We [also] have a pretty good record of students getting jobs,” Beck said. “It’s rare that a student doesn’t have a good experience in the program.”