University News

Seeking ‘real world’ projects, midyear grads on the rise

This December’s graduates took time off to pursue endeavors such as internships and community service

Contributing Writer
Monday, December 2, 2013

Though the graduates at the Midyear Completion Celebration Dec. 7 will not be sporting caps and gowns, they will still be celebrating a momentous rite of passage.

The number of midyear graduates has risen 28 percent over the past five years, according to data provided by the Office of Institutional Research. Between 2012 and 2013, 167 students completed their undergraduate degrees midyear, compared to 121 between 2009 and 2010.

Many students graduate in the middle of the academic year after taking a semester away from the University.

Bridget Sauer ’13.5, who left Brown to pursue an internship in the Paris office of the fashion designer Hermes, said the experience was “life-changing and eye-opening.”

Other midyear graduates shared similar sentiments about their experiences away from College Hill. Ian Trupin ’13.5, spent eight months in Tanzania working on community projects with his sister and getting to know his grandparents for the first time, he said.

Rie Ohta ’13.5, who spent time abroad working for Habitat for Humanity in West Africa, said she came back “ready to take advantage of all Brown has to offer” and with a perspective helpful for her development studies concentration.

Other midyear graduates took time off to work on their senior theses or to pursue independent studies. Rob Bentlyewski ’13.5 stayed at the University for a ninth semester to conduct an independent study on Bruce Springsteen’s songwriting, while also squeezing in one more season with the rugby team, he wrote in an email to The Herald.

By holding events such as potlucks off campus, leave-taking coordinators bring midyear graduates together to build a sense of community, Ohta said.

Ashton Strait ’13.5 might not have been able to take time off without community support because her parents were already “a bit worried” by her plan, she wrote in an email to The Herald

“I think for their generation, people ‘took time off’ as a way of dropping out of college, which obviously wasn’t my intention, but they still had a hard time shaking that anxiety about it,” Strait wrote.

Midyear graduates do not always get to experience the classic ‘senior spring.’

While Strait’s friends were day-drinking and skipping class during their final semester last spring, she was taking two physical chemistry courses and feeling overwhelmed by her double concentration requirements, Strait wrote. “I remember staying in the Friday of Spring Weekend to finish a lab report,” she added.

Many midyear graduates still participate in Senior Week and Commencement, despite mixed feelings. “I did feel like a wee bit of a fraud walking through the Van Wickle gates,” Strait wrote. “When the representative of the College couldn’t find a diploma for me, I had to reassure her it was okay in front of everybody.” But Strait wrote the confusion did not prevent her from enjoying the tradition.

She may not have shared the tears or sentimental walks across the Main Green with her classmates last spring, but she wrote that she did not view this as a problem. “I find (that) events with big emotional expectations are usually a letdown,” she wrote. “It was way less stressful in that way, since I didn’t feel like I had to make the most of my last week at Brown.”

After Palmira Angelova’s ’13.5 friends graduated, campus did not “feel like Brown anymore,” she said.

When peers are no longer around to run into at the Sharpe Refectory, “you have to go out of your way to find interesting people,” Bauer said, which helps prepare you for the real world.

Many students said they feel taking time off has given them an advantage when entering the job market.

Angelova said she got the inside scoop about companies from friends who were already working at them, which helped her decide where she wanted to apply.

Trupin said he does not know where he will be working this spring, but he added that he is not concerned. After taking time off, “I have a better idea of what I’m interested in,” he said. “I feel what I have learned is more important than where I will be.”