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Skidmore College

London learners

January 29, 2018

"I miss London already and I suspect London misses me," says Beck Krefting, associate professor of American studies. "When can I go back?"

Krefting, who taught the Scribner Seminar "Comics, Jesters, Satirists & Hacks: Locating British Humor" this past fall as part of Skidmore's 2017 First-Year Experience in London program, is back in Saratoga Springs for spring semester, along with psychology prof Holley Hodgins and 25 first-year students who started their college experience in London. Hodgins taught the other London-based Scribner Seminar, "Awake, Sleeping, or Dreaming?"

FYE in London students and faculty
FYE in London students with Hodgins (far left) and Krefting (right, foreground)

For 17 years, many returning FYE in London students have expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to develop greater independence and confidence, to take courses that incorporate London into lessons and activities, to gain a more global perspective and to create strong relationships with peers and faculty.

The program is run in coordination with IES Abroad, with which Skidmore has been affiliated since 1981. Students have full access to both the IES London Program Center and the Chapter King's Cross Residence Hall, as well as the Senate House Library at the University of London. (For more on classes, see

Says Amy Janis '21, "My classes had field trips to places I would never have ventured to otherwise. My favorites included the Roman Amphitheater, Houses of Parliament, and Museum of Comedy. I also loved the group trips to Edinburgh, the birthplace of Shakespeare, and the Globe Theater."

For Liza Bryant '21, the commitment of the professors stood out: "They were so passionate about their subjects. No matter the question or idea, every concept was fully considered and explored, and this made me eager to learn as much as I could."

Beyond the classes was the freedom to explore one of the world's great cities. Says Menard Bibow '21, "I enjoyed the museums, the Tate Modern for one, and exploring different parts of the city, especially Hammersmith and Hackney Wick. I also attended several Arsenal football matches. And live music was readily and relatively cheaply available. There was so much to do."

And though she knew London was a "diverse and multicultural city," Janis says she didn't expect to learn as much as she did about other cultures or to hear as many different languages.Carolyn Fahrner '21 captured the benefits of their location well: "The FYE in London gives you a chance to take a city into your own hands and do what you will with it. It allowed me to explore new corners of the world and of my mind. It opened up new doors for me to explore."

"The FYE in London ... opened up new doors for me to explore. London gave me a sense of confidence in myself that I don't think I could have found  anywhere else." —Carolyn Fahrner '21

This confidence comes in part through the bonds that naturally develop when a small group goes through a new and challenging experience. Says Bryant, "Over the course of those few months, we became something like a family that did everything from going out and exploring the city together to supporting each other through whatever hurdles were thrown our way."

According to Bibow, "Having no immediate familial support network allowed me to take responsibility for myself and my well-being. The lack of a food plan was actually beneficial, too, as I learned to cook a bit, not to mention to shop economically; Borough Market is not a viable grocer, as I learned pretty quickly." And it wasn't just the cooking, it was also sharing it-and the food-with classmates. Says Janis, "I thoroughly enjoyed being able to cook for myself and try out new recipes. During dinnertime our residence hall kitchen doubled as a common room for everyone to talk and hang out. This was probably my favorite part of the day."

On weekends, it wasn't unusual to take advantage of London's proximity to mainland Europe, which permitted cheap and easy travel. Says Fahrner, "I really never thought I would go to Budapest, Prague and Vienna. I don't know what it was that pushed me to make that particular trip, but it truly gave me a sense of confidence and opened my eyes in ways indescribable. I had no idea I would travel to seven new countries (eight, including England) in the span of four months."

"This program pushes participants to step outside of their comfort zones," says Krefting. "I was continually amazed at their individual and collective bravery, smarts, and good humor in the face of life's challenges while living abroad."

What would Hodgins tell new first-year students thinking about applying for the FYE in London? "Go! Just go if you can! It was awesome beyond words to study and learn and live in London for a semester."

For information on the 2018 Scribner Seminars, see Imagined London and Numb3rs in L0nd0n.

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