Instead of venturing off to the jungles of South America or the cobblestone streets of Europe, Michael Riecken, an undergraduate at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., chose to spend his junior year "abroad" on College Hill.
Riecken is now finishing up his second semester at Brown as a visiting student — one of only a handful admitted this year.
The visiting student application to Brown was very similar to a transfer application, Riecken said. He had to write several essays and submit his original SAT scores as part of the application process.
"Not many people know about visiting student applications," Riecken said.
Riecken first learned about Brown's visiting student program when researching various study-abroad options for his junior year.
"When it came time to consider a study-abroad program, I was considering Oxford University," he said. "I thought if a school of Oxford's caliber had a visiting student program, then Brown probably would as well."
Riecken said he ultimately chose Brown over Oxford because of an interest in Egyptology he has harbored since the fourth grade. Brown is not only home to one of the few Egyptology departments in the country, but also to his mentor, James Allen, a professor of Egyptology and former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he said.
Riecken said he first learned of Allen while talking to a few curators at the Met, who helped put him in touch with the Egyptology expert.
Riecken proceeded to work full-time with Allen in the museum's Department of Egyptian Art during the summers following his junior and senior years of high school, he said.
In the museum, Riecken organized photos from excavations, and catalogued periodicals and acquisitions.
Though it did not have an Egyptology program, Riecken ultimately chose to attend Catholic University.
After spending two years at a conservative and religious college, Riecken found it exciting to come to Brown — Catholic's "polar opposite," he said.
"One thing I really enjoy about Brown is the separation of church and academics," Riecken said. "The fact that there's no theology in one's daily conversation — it's really refreshing."
Riecken, who grew up in New Jersey, doesn't describe himself as a religious person. He said he went to Sex Power God last semester and attended both Spring Weekend concerts.
"I've been given a year to experience a Brown education, and I've been trying to live it up every moment," Riecken said. "I've been relishing every moment I've had here."
Besides attending parties and concerts on campus, Riecken has also become involved with the College Republicans and has participated in the Ballroom Dance Club.
One of the main differences between Catholic and Brown, Riecken said, is each college's attitude toward academics. "I feel students at both schools are really open and friendly, but there's a stronger drive in students at Brown," he said. "There's greater academic emphasis here, which is a nice thing."
Riecken has taken classes in a variety of departments, though he said his favorite class this semester was CLAS 0210L: "Who Owns the Classical Past?" because it was related to cultural property law, a field Riecken said he has considered entering in the future.
Riecken said he has cherished his time at Brown, but added that the visiting student program could be improved. He said he befriended some transfer students at the beginning of the year, but living in a single in Harkness House has made meeting new people difficult.
Riecken also said he needed to work to become a part of the Brown community in areas other students did not — how many other students can say they had to manually sign up for Morning Mail?
Regardless of the visiting student program's weaknesses, Riecken said he is "reluctant" to return to Catholic for the next school year and has even applied to transfer to Brown.
"After being here for the past year I found that this is the only school I really want to go to," Riecken said. "I can't see myself happier anywhere else."
The process to apply has been difficult for Riecken, who had to petition the University to waive a policy that requires visiting students to first return to their home school before applying for transfer.
Riecken's persistence has paid off. On Wednesday he received formal permission to apply to Brown as a transfer student.
Allen said Riecken is one of the most determined people he has ever known.
"The ancient Egyptians would've liked that," Allen said. "They awarded gold necklaces for