I grew up in the English education system, where we are required to focus on a particular course of study from age 16. Very early on I knew that this is not what I wanted for myself, instead I was interested in a liberal arts education which allowed for a broad education eventually followed by more focused study. I was intrigued by the idea of studying in the United States and the prospect of studying amongst students from all over the world, so I attended a college fair in London and enjoyed speaking with the representatives from William & Mary. I was attracted to the fact that the College is small, has a rich history, and a connection the United Kingdom. I left the W&M booth feeling that I would belong there, and that I would have a very interesting and rich experience. I was not wrong.
At first, I felt different. I was not familiar with American culture and norms. From my accent to my clothes to the fact that I showed up with one suitcase as opposed to the van full of belongings my roommate had with her, I felt very obviously different from the other students. In fact, I was a little lost when I first arrived. I had no idea about the US college credit system, orientation or sororities. But it was exciting to be in such a different place and to be from a different country, and I quickly made friends with my hall-mates and the other international students.
Of course there were glimpses of home every so often. Sir Christopher Wren’s architecture was a small reminder, as was seeing Lady Thatcher on campus! In day to day life however, I had to find replacements for many British essential foods. For example, Marmite was replaced by peanut butter, and baked beans on toast were replaced by ramen noodles. I learned to adapt to my new setting quickly.
Being an international student at W&M helped me build friendships and work contacts in many different countries. I studied abroad in Mali, West Africa and have since been passionate about working in development and working in other cultures. I have lived in New Delhi for the past four years and my husband, daughter and I just moved to Zurich, Switzerland in September. In New Delhi I worked for several Indian charities, helping them with fundraising as well as organizational development, and worked with a British charitable trust evaluating projects focused on empowering women in developing countries. I’m so glad my first step towards this international life began with William & Mary.
Odette Clark was born and raised in England. She graduated from William & Mary in 2000 with degrees in Economics and International Relations, and spent spring semester 1999 studying abroad at the School for International Training in Mali. In 2004 she married fellow W&M alum Tim Campbell ’98 and together they donated the Clark Campbell scholarship to support international students engaged in un-funded summer internships.