Student Warren Merkel: A Day in My Life

Warren MerkelWarren spent the past 6 years working for a translation company in New York City, and prior to that spent 3 years on the JET Programme in Osaka, Japan. He loves travelling (36 countries thus far), talking about music, sports, the outdoors, and, of course, teaching.

At this moment across the world, there are without a doubt thousands of Master’s of Arts in Teaching graduate students who are lucky enough to realize that they and the educational institution and program they have chosen are a perfect fit. I am one of them.

Writing for this blog, I realize that I can promote SIT with standard fare – a beautiful campus, great professors, a ton of academic and non‑academic organizations and clubs alike to get involved in. But where’s the fun in that? That puts me in the same boat as all those graduate students at other schools – and I’d venture that our current experiences aren’t even in the same body of water.

A better way for me to approach it – and for you, if you’re a prospective student – is to let you in on a typical day of my life as an SIT student.

Ellsworth Dorm, NovemberIn the morning I walk the short distance from my dorm to the International Center where the school dining room is located. My class is early, so at best only a dozen students will be there, but I can talk to anyone who is from, has lived in or has visited any of the seven continents. Yep, even Antarctica if Shannon is there. After breakfast I’ll have two classes, each of which has the students sitting in a circle with the professor, not in rows before a chalkboard. Professors here realize they can learn as much from the students as vice-versa, and they use that to their advantage to improve their own instruction methods. In class, everyone is a teacher. Time is spent on learning more than it is on teaching. Some days I take a lot away from something a professor has said, but other days it’s from another student. And this is how the cycle works – the teaching and learning can start with anyone and be passed on to anyone.

International CenterAfter class in the lunch line I am solicited to take part in an annual multicultural fashion show or to share ideas with students involved in Net Impact, an international NGO that focuses on improving business practices to better the world. There are also posters about this weekend’s foreign film, or a country presentation given by a student from a country I can learn more about. (Thus far there have been presentations given by natives of Kazakhstan, Kenya, India and Vietnam.) During lunch I meet with the other Resident Advisors to discuss how things are going in our dormitories, and what upcoming events we can plan for our residents in particular or the entire campus in general.

In the afternoon, I have a beginning-level Spanish class. It was a tough choice between Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. After all, if I’m going to be a great ESL teacher I should learn what it feels like to be a language student again.

Cleverly Field Bridge & Softball BackstopEvening approaches quickly when the day keeps you so busy. I grab dinner quickly then run down to the soccer field for some much-needed and deserved exercise. (SIT has a fall season in which we play against local colleges and club teams.) Afterwards, I may have a group meeting to discuss one of my class’s activities (much of the learning at SIT is group-focused). Finally, late in the evening I’ll leave campus for the first time that day. I may head downtown to enjoy a great local Vermont microbrew at one of the bars, relax and soak my bones at the spa at the bottom of the hill or, if it’s Monday, I host my own radio show at the Brattleboro Community Radio station.

And after all of this, what’s amazing aside from the great education I’m getting by choice within closed doors is the unavoidable education I get outside of them. There are just over fifty students in my program, and I’m getting to know all of them. I flow with the familiar, warm up to the unfamiliar, and reflect a lot about how my presence on campus plays a role at SIT. And this is just one small portion of SIT. I can’t wait to meet graduates in my program from previous years – the community is tightly knit so that every friendship you make is inevitably also a future networking contact.

To sum it up, I absolutely love it here – I wouldn’t change a thing. I truly believe this is the only graduate program where my experience could be this unique.


Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses to “Student Warren Merkel: A Day in My Life”

  1. Uncle Drew Says:

    Your Dad studied Spanish, too! SIT seems quite similar to Thunderbird, where I was a student 1973 to 1974.

  2. Steve Says:


  3. matadmissions Says:

    In some ways, SIT is similar to the Thunderbird School of Global Management in that both graduate schools have an international focus. In contrast, SIT’s degrees prepare leaders of education, nonprofit, and nongovernmental organizations, which may or may not be international, but are mission-driven and tend to be intercultural in nature.

    In addition to SIT’s MA in Teaching — which has a focus on language learning and intercultural understanding in a context seeking world peace — SIT offers 6 other master’s degrees that prepare other professionals for intercultural service, leadership, and management.



  4. Lara Says:

    Hey Warren,
    What are your weekends like? Are there opportunities for sports other than soccer (hiking, jogging, volleyball, dance…)? Do you have about a day of complete rest or are you loaded with coursework? Lara – applying for MAT ESOL & Spanish

  5. matadmissions Says:

    Hi Lara,

    It’s very feasible to be able to successfully balance your workload with some extracurricular activities. As for coursework, I’m kept busy, but it’s reasonable. It’s typically reading for next week’s classes, maybe a very short reflective paper about something I did or experienced in a recent class, and possibly group work with other students for an upcoming class presentation. Aside from that, I actually do reading on my own. Again, the coursework does keep me busy, but I regularly go to the library to find and research supplemental materials to assist with my learning.

    The only challenging thing about extracurricular activities is choosing which ones to do, since there are so many. There’s a ton of local hiking and biking in Brattleboro and surrounding areas. At the bottom of the hill there is a spa and swimming pool. SIT has a gym with bikes and treadmills and weights which quite a few students use in the winter. Currently, there’s a student who’s running an intensive 90-day fitness program for all students who want to join. When the weather is cold, you can rent cross-country skis, sleds, and snowshoes from the school. When it’s warmer, there’s a volleyball court in front of Ellsworth dorm, and over by Boyce Building there’s a tennis/basketball court. There is also yoga and even a belly dancing class.

    Exercise aside, there’s the student government, weekly foreign films, small groups who meet to discuss environmental and other social issues, etc. I’m sure I’m missing quite a few activities here, but I’m sure you get the idea – you can be as busy as you’d like to be.

    Good luck with your application process,


  6. Ari Sukmana Says:

    It’s a nice peice of writing Warren! It reminds me of my beautiful and unforgettable life at SIT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: