I am often asked what my favorite aspect of St. Lawrence is. My go-to answer is the community; I love my friends and the greater St. Lawrence community because it is active, people are excited about what they are doing and what others are doing, and are generally outdoorsy and motivated. This is true, but the more I reflect on my favorite aspects of St. Lawrence, the more I start to think that my answer is pretty bland. Looking back on the past four years I am brought back to a specific moment that I was able to share with my fellow Senior Admissions Ambassador and friend Annie Williams ’17.
It was early.
We woke before the sun and slowly made the steep climb, unable to see more than 10 feet in front of us. As the sun rose we approached the peak, patches of snow slowly turning into large expanses. After three days of travel, we were finally able to see our destination – Point Lenana Summit of Mount Kenya. We followed our trusted guide, Sammy, through the final terrain until we reached the sign and were able to take in the view. It was perfect. As the sun rose, the clouds cleared and we were able to see past the jutting mountains and view the landscape from Kenya’s highest peak. At 21 years old, this was by far the most amazing experience either of us had ever had.
It was cold, so after we took some obligatory celebration photos, mental images for our own sake, and breathed in that cold mountain-top air, we started out trek down to the delicious breakfast that awaited us at the final base camp.
I began to take in the last three days of travel. Annie and I had both wanted to complete this climb prior to our departure from the Kenya Semester Program in the fall of 2015. Early on we realized we were both committed to hiking and planned our trip with the help of my host-mother. The logistics were easy; she knew of a trusted guide and I was able to buy used hiking boots and gear on the side of the road. It all came down to whether or not we could pay for the trip.
When St. Lawrence students study abroad, they pay the same comprehensive fees as they would if they were studying on campus for the semester. This means that tuition, room, and board charges are the same and any financial aid transfers over, allowing students to choose from a wide range of off-campus programs. But the fee doesn't cover everything: visas, flights to the program, immunizations or independent travel - like my trek up Mt. Kenya.
These additional fees can be costly and, therefore, St. Lawrence has set up additional financial aid resources such as airfare assistance, additional financial aid, and the Travel Enrichment Grant. I applied (and received) two of these resources, helping with the cost of my flight to Kenya and paying for my trip up Mt. Kenya.
I knew I wanted to travel yet I also knew that I wanted to spend the summer before I left for Kenya doing an unpaid internship so the financial reality of traveling abroad would be hard. Luckily, I was able to complete the grant application easily, heard back within just a few short weeks and was able to deposit the checks into my bank account before leaving for the program. By having access to the CIIS Travel Enrichment Grant, I was able to complete my goals without compromising any experiences I had beforehand.
Thinking back on the question, “What is your favorite thing about St. Lawrence?” I have to think critically. Yes, I love the people. Yes, I love the community. Yes. I love the cold Adirondack air and the refreshing sense that those around me do as well. But it also goes deeper than that. I love that St. Lawrence pushes you. I love that St. Lawrence provides opportunities to study in other locations, whether it be for a week, three weeks, a semester or a year. I love that St. Lawrence then ensures that you are able to take advantage of these opportunities by providing additional financial assistance and that the institution realizes that knowledge is not only gained in a classroom, but outside as well.