Before stepping foot onto Bard College’s lush campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, two hours north of New York City, graduate Pranjal Ghate was used to an educational system that emphasised memorisation.
However, when he started his course at the college in economics, Pranjal found that his professors encouraged him to free his mind, and think creatively.
Bard’s approach to learning focuses on the individual student, working in small group seminars that are made to encourage thoughtful, critical discourse across disciplines in a safe, inclusive environment. It was world’s away from Pranjal’s previous education that focused mostly on simply recalling information.
“A student’s input is taken seriously at Bard and this was a new phenomenon for me during my first year. This environment greatly improved my ability to articulate myself and think independently”, Pranjal explained.
New beginnings at Bard
A new learning style, and the culture shock of moving from India to the US after being awarded the Levy Economics Scholarship, it took Pranjal some time to adjust to an incredibly diverse student community.
“One of the outstanding factors of Bard College’s campus is its diversity, I believe students from close to 40 countries attend Bard along with American students from almost all 50 states. This is astounding given that the total student population lingers around 2,000,” he said.
Being an intimate, small campus, Pranjal compares Bard College to a close-knit bubble that almost forces students to focus, tap into their creativity and to share their experiences with each other.
By locking onto that creativity, Bard College students build the confidence to share their academic aspirations with not just fellow students, but also with faculty members.
“The faculty and staff of Bard College have been a set of the nicest people I have met in my entire life. I notice this more and more as I reflect on my undergraduate years,” he said.
“And my academic advisor really paid attention to the challenges I faced not just in my academic life, but also in my personal life. He still continues to be my mentor whom I consult with before making an important decision in life.”
Bard College shapes careers
At Bard College, junior and senior students are fully supported by BardWorks, a career-oriented professional development programme co-organised by the Career Development Office (CDO) and the Centre for Civic Engagement (CCE).
Throughout the programme, students are taught how to leverage their newfound skills from a liberal arts education and tailor them to their future careers.
With an extensive alumni/ae and industry ecosystem, Bard College pairs its students with a mentor in their field of interest, a person who helps them develop their interviewing and networking skills.
For Global and International Studies and Economics student Siwen Chen, BardWorks connected her with several alumni/ae mentors, all of whom she said were incredibly generous with their time.
“One alumnus in particular, who has been working as a Vice President (VP) in the finance industry for over 30 years, made some valuable suggestions about internship and job applications too,” Siwen said.
“I am grateful to the offices that organised the BardWorks event and to the mentors who continue to encourage me to pursue my interests and to dream big.”
Where community matters
Trying to balance her work and social life at Bard, Siwen told herself that she would add as many new experiences to her college days, as often as she could.
“After getting myself settled in my first and second semesters, I joined the Women’s Squash Team. As a sophomore, I applied for a Peer Counsellor position because I wanted to help other students with their transition to college,” she said.
“And after taking on a PC role on campus, I started working with the Student Judiciary Board and the Admission office. I did this all while maintaining a strong academic record.”
These experiences inside and outside the classroom challenged Siwen to think critically, and to make the most of her liberal arts education in the US.
Pranjal also benefited from all of the student activities and civic engagement projects happening at Bard.
“The College provides a vibrant community that is hyper-conscious of the civic responsibility it has to push for positive change in the world. For instance, programmes such as the student-started Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) continue to inspire students to practice what they’ve learned in class.
“And during my first year, I ran for the freshman representative position on the fiscal council of the Student Government and won!,” says Pranjal.
Both Siwen and Pranjal look back at their Bard College experience with gratitude and appreciation. It’s clear to them why Bard College, with its close-knit community and accessible staff, was so impactful for their futures.
Siwen offered parting words of advice for international students:
“Choose a college with an inclusive community as it helps you to adapt to both college life and a new start in the US. It’s more important than you think. The transition was made much easier for me as a result of the close connections I was able to develop with faculty, staff and my fellow students at Bard College.”
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