Fanni Gabor '12

Tell us a little about your international journey.
I grew up in Hungary and attended public schools in Budapest. We didn't speak English at home, but my parents put a great emphasis on learning it and encouraged me to study and live abroad from early on. I used to spend a few weeks of my summers in England, where I lived with host families and attended language schools with other international students. But that was about the longest time I spent abroad before coming to college. We always traveled quite a lot, but I never moved abroad before New York, then in my junior year I studied abroad in Berlin. The concept of "home" and "abroad" are not very clear anymore, I just keep having more homes and I don't think I'll be living not "abroad" anytime soon. At least I hope...

What made you want to attend college in the U.S.? What, if any, concerns/challenges/opportunities did this present?
I loved the idea of studying in the UK or in the US and I was among the few people who had the opportunity to make this dream come true. Hungarian universities are free, so the help I got from my family to come to the US is very unique and I'm very thankful for it. I of course worked hard, studied for TOEFL and SAT tests besides studying for my regular classes and finals in high school; wrote essays, researched schools in both countries, figured out their application methods, etc. Applying to schools is a long and hard process and you often feel lost or doubtful about whether it'll be a success. Just be realistic and don't give up!

How did you learn about Sarah Lawrence College, and what made you choose to attend?
I got a tremendous amount of help from the Fulbright office in Budapest and am actually still keeping in touch with Jeannette, with whom I worked on the applications. I wanted to be in or near a big city, East Coast preferably, attend a small school, get a liberal arts education. Jeannette recommended Sarah Lawrence, which became one of the seven schools I applied to. I ended up applying here with early decision and got in. My high school was actually one of the most elite in the country, very competitive and strict; I had already picked Literature and History majors upon applying at age 14. The focus on tests and grades were huge and I did well, but it didn't particularly motivate me anymore. Having a bit more freedom to pick classes and focus more on writing in college seemed like a good idea.

What are your areas of concentration?
Sociology, Art History, and Writing. And German, I guess.

What was your first-year transition to life at SLC like?
Ups and downs. It was harder than I thought, actually. I felt like I spoke good English, knew America fairly well from the movies, was familiar with mainstream pop stars and actresses, so it should be a piece of cake. It wasn't. Speaking English all the time was itself tiring in the first few months, reading took forever, my writing was bad. Although everyone was new, it seemed like they all had something common, grew up with things I didn't. I missed my favorite music bands, pubs, friends, life. Also, being 18 is very different in Europe than in the US... But then I made amazing friends, started to explore the campus and the city more, even started an internship. My second semester was great, I also joined the crew team, which was fun times.

How would you describe your experience at SLC so far?

I love being here. I took four classes (Language-Lecture Third) in my second year and worked in the Sports Center. I also became a Resident Advisor as a sophomore and am an RA now again. This is an amazing position, I love advising freshmen and hope to help them feel welcome in their new home. The Resident Life staff is truly amazing and really fantastic to work with.

What is the community like at SLC?
It is small and diverse. There aren't a lot of people among the international students who are not dual citizens, didn't live abroad, or didn't go to international schools. I have international friends and they're all great people, but we're not friends because we're international, that's not a connection I'm looking for here or anywhere. Shirley Be's food events are pretty awesome though!

How about the local community—have you spent a lot of time in the surrounding area? How about New York City?
Bronxville is the best!! Just kidding, but it really is a hilarious small town. Watch Pleasantville before you come, it's exactly like that. With all seriousness, I spend a lot of time in the city at internships, and I used to volunteer, too. My boyfriend lives in the city as well. I love going to concerts, museums, chill in parks, hang out with friends. I'm always thankful, though, that I don't go to school in Manhattan; it's so nice to come back and be able to focus on my work in a nice, quiet, and calm environment.

SLC values international students because they bring to campus the richness and excitement of a global perspective. Can you give us some examples of how your perspective has made a difference in classroom discussions, etc.?

Hah, I'm the official expert on (Eastern) European and immigrant issues. OK, not really, but it does come up often. When it's relevant, it enriches the conversation. I like bringing in examples from Hungary/Europe and hearing other people's views from Asia/Latin-America. Of course, these can be very subjective and personal comments too, but they provide great opportunities for more arguments.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In New York or in Berlin, maybe London or anything in between. I want to work in Advertising/Marketing/PR, write more, have a nice family and hear less the "We are going through one of the toughest economic times in history" sentence. I'm sick of it already, can we talk about why these times are amazing? Because they are.

What advice do you have for international students considering SLC?
SLC is like life: You get out of it what you've put into it. If you don't want to read a lot, write a lot, be constantly challenged, don't come here: there are long papers and never-ending conference work. You need to be passionate about something, or ready to be open and explore what you're truly passionate about and turn it into your schoolwork and then into a career! Be open for endless exploring, let yourself to be influenced and keep working harder. Be tolerant and open-minded, that's really all you need to be welcomed in the community. There isn't a "typical Sarah Lawrence student;" we, you define what Sarah Lawrence is, so come here and turn it into something even more awesome than it now is!

Fanni Gabor