[Clara B]Clara Baker heard about Beloit College through a family friend. She didn’t decide to call it home, though, until visiting campus. “What struck me were the people—how interesting everyone was and the variety of interests they had,” she remembers. “It seemed like a really cool, open-minded community.”
Now, after one semester with that community, Clara feels its benefits. “People here have challenged me in terms of beliefs and lifestyles,” she says. “Especially through my FYI.” Clara’s First-Year Initiatives Seminar explored the privileged position of white Americans—and affected her entire outlook. “It changed the way I think, it changed the way I treat people, it changed the way I see the U.S. and things on a global spectrum, too.”
It also connected Clara with the wider community. Her class interviewed members of local non-profit organizations and went to a neighboring college’s conference on race. These opportunities helped her education extend far beyond the classroom. “Everything we learned related to the larger context of our lives,” she says.
Clara’s other classes offer more chances to explore. “I don’t have a ton of requirements inhibiting me, so why don’t I try new things?” she asks. In that spirit, she’s taken everything from modern dance to Understanding Religious Traditions in Multicultural America, which spurred another off-campus trip. “We went to Chicago to a predominately African-American Catholic church,” she explains. “It was a really cool experience; we saw different traditions first-hand.”
Clara also finds time for Spanish, her long-standing passion. In high school, she went to Mexico to build homes in impoverished communities. “That experience fueled my love for Spanish and international experience,” she says. “Beloit’s a great place to pursue both.” Through the College’s language classes, Clara is approaching fluency—and looking forward to using it. She hopes to study abroad on Beloit’s Ecuador program.
While she’s planning international adventures, Clara’s also getting involved in the College community. She joined the Outdoor Environmental Club, whose members share her commitments. “I’m interested in environmental conservation, so the club is a nice support system.”
But Clara’s sense of belonging extends beyond clubs. She finds the entire Beloit atmosphere inviting. “I love that you can hang out with friends for hours, just sharing things you learned,” she says. “People have intellectual conversations, but not in a pretentious way. Beloit is more creatively intellectual.” And this combination of challenge and warmth, Clara says, helps students thrive. “At Beloit, everyone is allowed to come into their own, to become who they always have been—but also who they want to be—in a safe environment.”