As international students, we understand that you may be unfamiliar with a liberal arts education. Before we give you information about what a liberal arts program actually is, we would like to tell you what it is not!
A liberal arts program is not a program limited to art students — you can study studio art and art history if you choose, but it is not a required part of the curriculum. Liberal arts is also not a program centered around liberal thinking — we have students and faculty from all different perspectives on campus. A liberal arts program does not center around specific career fields.
You will not see majors such as business or engineering offered at Colgate, but our students are prepared to go into these fields through work in one of our 52 academic majors and pre-professional programs.
So what is a liberal arts program? Liberal arts will prepare you for work or graduate study in countless fields. At Colgate you will take classes in a variety of disciplines, while choosing at least one academic field as your chosen major. Liberal arts graduates learn in an interdisciplinary style where they are constantly connecting topics and academic subjects together, rather than focusing solely on only one field. Liberal arts graduates learn to be very effective oral and written communicators — skills that are invaluable regardless of the career you wish to pursue.
See below for stories from some of our former and graduating international students and the value they see in a liberal arts education!
Country of citizenship:
Teacher, Lincoln Community School, Accra, Ghana
When I first arrived at Colgate University, I have to admit that I was not entirely sure what liberal arts actually meant. I just knew I didn't have to commit to any one department or major yet, which was all I needed to know.
The liberal arts program allowed me to take classes in various departments across the curriculum. I took courses like Art and Chemistry, Uganda, Introduction to French, Chinese Through Literature and Film, Astronomy, Calculus, and Religion and the Quest for Meaning. These courses gave me a wider perspective of the world and I saw how, even though these classes might sound completely different, they were all interrelated. I was able to focus on what I wanted to study (international relations and economics), while also exploring other topics that interested me.
Today I plan my department's budgets, read about a global recession, enjoy visiting museums and looking at how the paints have changed over time, question my own religious beliefs and practices, as well as practice French with my students. These are just a few ways that I continue to apply what I learned at Colgate on a day to day basis.
Country of citizenship:
Trinidad and Tobago
PhD in biophysics, University of Rochester
SPIRE Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
When I arrived at Colgate I had never been away from my parents, visited the United States, or even seen snow! It was a totally new and exciting experience. I thought my major would be biology and so I chose my first-year seminar (FSEM) on a related topic. I realized I had the freedom to try other classes out as we did not have to declare a major until sophomore year, so I also signed up for Spanish, chemistry, and physics. I had not even thought of majoring in physics, but that first class my first year was a life-changer. I ended up declaring my major as physics the next semester.
All Colgate students take four core courses. I really loved these classes because they allowed me to explore outside my major, and I was exposed to many subjects, authors, and students I don't think I would have ever found on my own. One of my favorite topics was studying Manet and his art in The Challenge of Modernity. As a scientist, I had not really taken the time to think about and discuss art in any detail. During my semester studying abroad, I was lucky enough to go to Paris where I saw some of Manet's work firsthand — the experience was enhanced greatly by my course at Colgate.
Every course I took at Colgate prepared me for my current position as a SPIRE Postdoctoral Fellow. My science courses and research opportunities gave me the skills to work in a lab efficiently, core classes challenged me to think critically — an invaluable tool in scientific research — and writing courses gave me the experience so now I can easily write research papers for publication. My career goal is to become a professor; I was definitely inspired to this while I was at Colgate by the fantastic professors and excellent research opportunities.
My Colgate liberal arts education really helped me to become a well-rounded person. Not only did I take challenging physics courses and do research, but I also learned about art, discussed the Bible, and pondered Nietzsche. Colgate prepared me to take on life.
Art history, mathematics
Country of citizenship:
Yale School of Architecture, New Haven, Conn.
Architectural Designer, Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, London, England
I knew I wanted to become an architect before I came to Colgate. I decided to enroll in a liberal arts program rather than a professional school because I planned to get a broad education first. My experience in graduate school proved I had made the right choice. While I had a hard time in the beginning adjusting to the focus and demands of a professional program, by the end of my first year I was thriving. Rather than teaching me a particular method or philosophy of design, Colgate provided me with the skills to look at the problem from many different angles and discover a new approach. It helped fuel my creativity and taught me how to give my ideas the power to engage others. My liberal arts training really helped me develop my own design identity.
Country of citizenship:
Research assistant, Global Molecular Epidemiology, U.S. Military HIV Research Program
MS biotechnology, Johns Hopkins University; MPH Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
PhD candidate in epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (expected graduation May 2014)
Before coming to Colgate, I did not have the clearest idea of what liberal arts meant, though I liked the fact that I would not have to choose my major until my second year. Even though I was sure I would major in molecular biology, I still liked the fact that I could explore other options, especially as I had focused on the sciences in both my O-levels and A-levels.
I wanted university to not only give me solid scientific training, but also expose me to ideas in fields I had never before had a chance to explore, like religion, history, economics, anthropology, politics, and literature. These classes helped shape my understanding of the world, and ingrained in me the importance of critical thinking, social justice, and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. I was especially grateful for this exposure, after September 11, 2001, when I was president of the Muslim Student Association and also co-founder of the discussion group Exploring Spirituality. I applied these lessons in a very real-life way, not only in our discussions but also in our events.
Thanks to Colgate, in addition to having the opportunity to do developmental biology research at the National Institutes of Health, I was able to expand my intellectual horizons and read books by Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Darwin, and Martin Buber at least once in my life.
Since graduating from Colgate I continue to focus on scientific research, infectious diseases, and public health.
Physics and mathematics
Country of citizenship:
PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, Columbia University
I came to Colgate with an interest in physics and mathematics and I had the opportunity to take courses in various areas before I had to decide on these majors. My academic experience at Colgate was greatly enhanced by the various research opportunities I had, working under the very close guidance of professors. This experience is proving to be very helpful as I continue my graduate studies in mechanical engineering.
I treasure all the leadership and extracurricular opportunities Colgate offered. I was involved with the Colgate International Community, Hindu Student Association, and Colgate Cricket Club. Through these clubs I was able to celebrate my religious festivals and stay connected to my culture while enriching the Colgate campus with culturally diverse events. I enjoyed my role as a resident advisor for three years and being part of the Konosioni Honor Society in my senior year.
Colgate staff and the community not only ensured an unforgettable undergraduate experience but also proved to be extremely helpful in shaping and assisting my post-graduate plans.
Mathematics, mathematical economics
Country of citizenship:
Pursuing a PhD in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
An important strength of the liberal arts education at Colgate is the tremendous interest that faculty take in students. I was able to work directly with economics professors on research projects. The experience was crucial in my decision to pursue a graduate degree in economics and become a researcher myself. It also helped me build a profile that was recognized by top programs and made my transition to graduate school easier.
International relations, mathematical economics
Countries of citizenship:
France and Canada
Analyst, investment banking, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, London, U.K.
For many international students, committing to a liberal arts education is a big challenge. Indeed, few of us come from countries where such an education is offered and we tend to be unaware of the different career paths available to liberal arts graduates. Colgate's commitment to a liberal arts education has provided me with a foundation on which to build post-graduate plans.
I have had a wealth of opportunities to work in different disciplines and take on new responsibilities. While these were not necessarily directly related to the career path I have chosen, I gained valuable skills. With the guidance of our career services office, I was able to explore different professions and gain an internship in investment banking. I am quite excited to move to London after graduation to start my career in this field!
Major: Mathematical economics
Minor: Computer science
Country of citizenship: Bulgaria
Current position: Analyst, Morgan Stanley
I did not know what I wanted to study when I went to Colgate. The liberal arts education turned out to be a great match for me because it allowed me to explore and integrate my diverse interests through a wide array of academic and extracurricular experiences. I developed a passion for economics thanks to the relationships I built with the faculty and the wonderful opportunity to spend two summers doing research with my adviser.
I had one of my favorite semesters during the London Economics Study Group, where I had the unique experience of working for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I helped to identify countries in central and eastern Europe that need financial assistance to deal with the consequences of the global economic crisis.
I spent part of a summer in Italy researching Roman architecture and engineering.
I took French and Spanish classes at Colgate, but I decided I also needed to learn some Italian. So this past summer I ended up again in Rome studying the language and culture.
Colgate’s resources also proved invaluable in helping me plan for my future after graduation. With the support of the Center for Career Services and the alumni network I found a great job at Morgan Stanley.