When I went to Clarkson, it was called Clarkson College, but then, as now, it was considered one of the best small engineering schools. I initially pursued a program in Chemistry, motivated by a strong interest in the subject as a result of an exceptional teacher in high school. And I did well academically, but discovered that my enthusiasm for Chemistry was related more to the quality of my high school teacher than the subject and I decided to re-evaluate my academic goals.
St. Lawrence University
Language arts had been the other area of interest and I had previously done well in both English and Spanish. At Clarkson my favorite classes were technical writing and Russian, so I started looking to change my academic program. In the next town, St. Lawrence University (SLU) had much of what I wanted: the same small town, small college setting in the same geographic region, a emphasis on liberals arts, a language department that included instruction in Russian, and an opportunity to transfer with no loss of credit.
I enrolled as a Spanish major, but was well aware that my opportunities would be limited by that concentration. So I wrote a proposal for a multi-field major in International Relations combining Spanish, Government and Economics. The multi-field program at SLU allowed students to create a customized curriculum in up to 3 academic disciplines. Participation required the approval of a proposal submitted to the faculty multi-field committee, the agreement of the chair of each department included in the major, and the agreement of a faculty member from each department to act as an advisor. The proposal had to provide the justification for the multi-field major, particularly how it fulfilled academic goals not met by existing major and minor curriculae, and specific course work required by the major.
With the approval of my proposal, I was strongly encouraged by my advisors to participate in the study abroad program. I chose to spend my junior year abroad studying at the University of Madrid, Spain. For a full academic year I lived with a Spanish family, had all my courses taught in Spanish, and traveled extensively throughout Spain.