From Albania to Zimbabwe: Know Your Landscape

april 22

No matter where you are in the world, From Albania to Zimbabwe is the right place to find out about international happenings at Brown University! Hi, I’m Celina Stewart, a sophomore concentrating in International Relations here at Brown, and this is my space to give you updates and info about all things international at Brown, including international student life, international speakers, and different clubs and activities with an international focus. Read along and explore everything international at Brown! 

This week I wanted to describe some issues that will help out any student, international or not. One of the things that I have found incredibly valuable is knowing the landscape of Brown- socially, geographically, academically. As many of you are making decisions about which college to attend (some of you may have come this week to ADOCH!), I’d like to suggest thinking in these terms as you make your decision.

Socially, think about who you want to be and who you want to surround yourself with during college. These are the people that will influence your hobbies and activities (even for fiercely independent people, you’ll want to have mutual activities, so if you’re a partier, you’ll party; if you’re a squash player, you’ll likely join a club sport); they’ll influence when and how you eat (again, food and dining halls are great ways of spending time in between activities and hectic class schedules); they’ll influence who or how you have relationships; they’ll help you either keep up academically or fall behind. I’m emphasizing this social aspect because I’ve seen countless people either fade as they try to maintain friendships with people from home and get lost being on a campus far away, or people who completely change their personalities to fit in, then realize that they don’t like who they are becoming. This is not to say you’ll automatically get lost- most people don’t. However, everyone needs some social sphere- after all, you may remember a couple professors or classes as being excellent and influential, but you’ll remember the people and experiences you shared with far more happiness. For international students, it may be easy to find this social niche, especially if you join a cultural group based on your common heritage- or not! There are a vast number of social niches on any campus, and Brown is no different. If you get the chance, try to visit the campuses you’re considering and meet students and attend events. The place where you mesh most easily, you probably belong.

Geographically, think on the places you want access to in a college. Do you want access to the Boston’s revolutionary history, Providence’s quirk, Mystic’s whimsy, and New York’s bustle? Do you mind the cold of a harsh winter, and enjoy the beauty of a temperate spring? Are you like me, and so excited to finally understand the joy of midnight snowball fights, and skiing for that first time? What about campus size, dorm conditions, look and feel of the campus? All of these questions can help you to have a fulfilling and meaningful experience. I knew, after years of living in Tennessee’s humidity, that I needed a change and exclusively looked at the Northeast. However, if you’re considering schools like Stanford, University of Chicago, and Brown, you need to account for what climate and access you’d like, as those three schools present an obvious example of varied location.

Academics. This is a field I’m sure almost everyone is sick of thinking about. If you’re looking at schools of a similar caliber to Brown (not to be elitist, but…) you’re going to have a strong academic experience. This experience will be accompanied by some feelings of inadequacy, opportunities for networking, and a sense of accomplishment as you progress. However, take the time to really think about what you want- we may have an open curriculum, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have requirements within concentrations, or are without those classes that you will “have” to take, even if you don’t want them. We don’t have a lot of large classes, but even small seminars offer opportunity for stress if you can’t keep up or find yourself in over your head. Do you want to spend hours a week doing homework, and try to make relationships and extra curriculars happen outside of that, or would you like strong (not overwhelming) academics and a stronger social life? Would you rather give up that academic prestige in lieu of greater opportunities for extra curricular achievement?

I chose to go to Brown because of reputation and prestige, followed by my hope for academic exploration. Luckily, I’ve been able to find my niche, although I won’t profess to adhere to the “happiest college students ever!” standard that people associate with Brown. I even know people who have detested their experience here (for the sake of honesty). Now, I don’t know those people’s experiences, and won’t pretend to speak for them. However, when making your choices, take the time to be honest with yourself. If you’ll thrive at a smaller or close-knit school, don’t head to a larger school with an open campus. If you want to be close to a bustling metropolis, probably don’t head to a rural campus. For most of you, Brown will have opportunities- socially, geographically, academically- that will satisfy you (there is, after all, a reason for the “Happiest” moniker). For those of you with doubts, I’m sure taking more time to explore will confirm or deny those feelings- and hopefully land you at Brown, if it’s a good fit. Lastly, don’t feel like you HAVE to make an immediate decision. I matriculated the week of notifications, with absolutely no idea if I wanted to attend. You don’t have to do that, but if you’re taking a risk, kudos.

As usual, email me if you have questions. Good luck with decision making! On the subject of physical geography, this week’s picture was taken during my time in the very south of Spain- you can see Morocco across the water.

Have  questions or comments? Feel free to email me at and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible! Or, if you’d rather, just comment on the blog! 


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