I like Wooster. I like the education I get here. I like my professors and I love the students. As much as I enjoy living and learning in the accurately described “bubble” of Wooster, I don’t think I’ve ever made a better choice than leaving it.
When you’re working in an academic setting, you can achieve great things. Regardless of your area of study, you have the chance to learn and adapt traditional methods. You can lay a foundation on which you build further work and experiment with the furthest reaches of what is possible.
You are taught the history of drama and literature, the facts and findings of science, the theory of music, and the future of art and education. These are important. They are the basis of the Wooster education, and without that experience, I would be lost. However, you reach a point where you have covered the basics. You have to decide if you want to coast until you start your I.S., or if you want to search out new challenges that the outside world offers.
This semester I have chosen to live and work in New York City. It’s a little bit of a change to say the least. Classes five days a week? Nope. Meal plan? Not a chance. Anyone I know? Hardly. But what I do get, and what I would argue is invaluable, is a chance to study and work with professionals in my field. For me, it is a trial by fire, a way to really test myself in the real world settings I hope to someday work in.
While many colleges and universities would like to advertise programs that offer a “professional work environment,” I argue that nothing will give you the edge and insight of actually working for a professional. Find the person who has the job you want, and help them! Collaborate, create, observe or fetch their coffee. Do whatever it is that will let you meet those who are successful at doing what you love. Making contacts and learning from those who are good at what they do is a recipe for future professional success. For me, off campus study has done even more than that.
I have been able to count three major benefits. First, I have found that I love living in the city, and I’m willing to brave the costs and headaches involved in order to live there when I graduate. Second, I have had a glimpse at how the professional theatre business works. I have talked to, and worked with, people in my career path at all stages of life, and as far as I can tell, all of them have a roof over their heads and food to eat. That is quite encouraging for a theatre major to hear. Third, I have discovered my weaknesses.
Working in professional theatres with strict time limits and intensive schedules I have discovered the hard way, which technical skills I need to improve in order to be successful professionally. While I have improved these skills here already, I now know how to tailor my academic schedule to make the most of the time I have left in the “bubble.”
For me, the off-campus professional experience has been totally worth the investment. I now have a network of professional contacts, valuable experience, and an increased knowledge of how the industry functions. While leaving Wooster was a difficult choice to make, and I do miss it, I would highly encourage those of the high-achieving persuasion to really investigate the options offered through the off-campus study office as well as the summer internship opportunities that can be accessed through the APEX program.