Program alumni are the best resources for students interested in studying away. If you would like to talk to a student about their experience in Monterey, get in touch with the advisor, Phyllis Stinson

Student wearing an orange dress smiling in front of the California Coast

Hodo Abubakar, Midlebury College ‘25

Why did you choose to Study Away at Monterey (SAAM) on the Global Security Semester? I chose to spend a semester in Monterey because of their renowned Non-Proliferation and Terrorism Studies (NPTS) program, which aligns well with my major in global security. I wanted to explore how my field of study is approached at the graduate level, and studying at MIIS was a practical step towards understanding the academic landscape and refining my career goals.

What surprised you the most? The diverse range of exposure to learning opportunities provided beyond the usual coursework, like panel discussions, conferences, and internship opportunities. Attending talks and panels featuring foreign ministry advisors, authors, and individuals deeply involved in the field of global security was particularly enlightening. It was a surreal experience to find myself in the presence of individuals and institutions that I had previously only read about.

What was the highlight of your semester? Discovering a new hobby by being part of the jiu-jitsu club. Spending Saturday afternoons practicing and then winding down with Sunday UFC fight watch parties and protein pancakes was an absolute blast. Not only did it introduce me to new students on campus, but it also provided quality time with my friends at Munras dorm. And the best part? I brought my newfound hobby back to Vermont.

What advice do you have for students considering Study Away at Monterey? Prioritize personal development! Throughout my time there, I felt like a sponge, absorbing experiences, connections, and rich conversations. Embrace the diverse range of opportunities available to challenge yourself and expand your horizons.

Student smiling and holding a small snake

Kylie King, Middlebury College ‘25

Why did you choose to Study Away at Monterey (SAAM) on the California Coast & Climate Semester? It was an opportunity to study in a completely different environment and ecosystem while still being in the US. I was really drawn in by the opportunity to have a hands on, excursion based J-term before taking more traditional classes in the Spring.

What was the best part of being in Monterey? How close you are to the beach and being in a walkable city! Going to the beach and spending time in the sun has been so healing. It has been a nice break from the frigid Vermont winter.

What was your favorite learning experience in or out of the classroom? The spring break trip I took for the class EcoRestoration in Colombia. I got to learn so much about regenerative agriculture and biodiversity while contributing to projects such as invasive species removal and erosion control.

What was the highlight of your semester? Definitely the people I’ve met. It’s been such a unique opportunity to get to learn alongside graduate students who have such interesting backgrounds and life experiences. The professors here, particularly those directly involved in the Coast & Climate Semester, have been supportive and helped ease the transition into living in Monterey.

Headshot of a student smiling

Eli Drachman, Middlebury College ‘24

What surprised you most about the Global Security Semester? The professional experiences of my professors! My professors included a former Director at the U.S. Department of State and an Army veteran turned counterterrorism expert. (And one of my classmates was a Turkish diplomat!) While at first I was a little intimidated coming in as a college junior, I had opportunities to learn from experts in the field, co-author a paper on conspiracy theories with Professor Jason Blazakis, the Director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, and engage meaningfully with the greater Monterey community.

What was the best part of being in Monterey? Monterey is drop dead gorgeous. The dorm is beautiful, the community is vibrant, and while it’s a rigorous academic curriculum, it has a California vibe that makes it very enjoyable. I had a blast in the dorm meeting Middlebury alumni who were in Monterey completing their Masters, too. Plus they saved me from a couple close calls I had while cooking in the dorm kitchen.

How did your semester in Monterey impact your semester abroad? I spent the fall semester in Monterey and the following spring in Madrid through the Middlebury School in Spain. The Spanish class I took at MIIS, Spanish in the Community with Professor Gabriel Guillen, involved meeting frequently with local Spanish-speaking college students and prepared me well linguistically for my time abroad.

What advice do you have for students considering Study Away at Monterey? Do it! It is so important to make your college experience a global one, in terms of engaging in global studies coursework, learning from a variety of professors, and studying in different settings. It will not only enhance your value to the professional workplace, but also make you a better global citizen. I’m looking forward to applying some of the lessons I learned (and credits I earned!) in Monterey as an undergrad towards a Masters in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from MIIS beginning in the Fall of 2024.

Student wearing a baseball cap smiling and holding a small creature

Sophia Wittig, Middlebury College ‘24

Why did you choose to Study Away at Monterey on the Coast & Climate Semester? After studying abroad my junior year, then taking the fall off to volunteer abroad, I wanted to keep the momentum of growth growing when I got back to complete my final semester in the US. MIIS seemed like a good place to find a bit more challenge in my academics, as well as an opportunity to be part of a more international community. Plus who wouldn’t chose the beach in California over a Vermont winter?

What was your favorite learning experience in or out of the classroom? By far snorkeling in Professor McKenna’s class, Changing California Coastal Ecosystems. Her class in general was full of amazing fieldwork where we got to go out and really experience all the incredible ecosystems in and around Monterey. 

What was the highlight of your semester? The people I’ve met. The professors I have had the chance to learn from are truly wonderful and supportive. Living with graduate students who all come from such different backgrounds and the chance to become part of new communities has really pushed me to grow more than I could’ve expected.

What advice do you have for students considering Study Away at Monterey? Just do it! It may not be the same as living in a different country, but the lessons to be learned both at MIIS and in life in general from the community here is truly something unique.

Mia Hines of Grinnell College in Monterey, CA

Mia Hines, Grinnell College ‘24

“I chose the California Coast and Climate Semester because of its emphasis on experiential learning in the curriculum [and] the opportunities to be involved with research… We explored the region so that we could better understand the complex dynamics of environmental history, cultural history, and marine conservation on the Monterey Peninsula. What I particularly love about being in Monterey is that I am able to observe what I’m learning in the classroom first-hand.” Read more about Mia’s experience!

Student on a mountain bike

Finn Warner, Middlebury College ‘24.5

“[During the California Coastal and Climate Semester, I had the] opportunity to take a class with Environmental Policy and Management students, and I became part of their program….The graduate school pedagogy of “learning by doing” is baked into the experience; my experiences of tide pooling to learn about invasive species and transcribing an 1830s whaling logbook emphasized exploration.” Read more about Finn’s experience! 

Student smiling in front of patterned background

Samara Scharf, Middlebury College ‘22

“I strongly recommend the Language Education Semester at MIIS. The hands-on, experiential opportunities offered in this program are unique, and have made me confident that language education is a field I would love to pursue. And getting to do it all in beautiful Monterey is a huge added bonus!”