Williams International

Ville Satopää '11 from Finland

1.) What brought you to Williams? (I.e. How did you find out about Williams and what made you decide to attend?)

I attended a boarding school called Mahindra United World College of India. This school, located in Pune, India, is highly international (200 students from around 80 different countries). It places a lot of students at universities in the UK and US. I chose to come to the US over the UK because of the generous financial aid and freedom of not being forced to choose my major upon matriculation. I wanted to join a small school. So, I checked out some liberal arts rankings (USNews) and decided to apply to Williams through early decision.

2.) What were you expecting before arriving?

I was expecting to take hard classes, meet a lot of very smart people, and be a part of some sports team (club or JV). Apart from this, I really didn’t expect much. I came to Williams with an open mind! I knew things would not be like in Europe, and I really wanted to understand and learn from the American culture.

3.) What were your first impressions upon arriving?

My first arrival was a mess: I flew from London to Washington D.C., where I was supposed to connect to Albany. Unfortunately, my luggage got lost in London. In the Washington D.C. airport, they didn’t let me go through the security checkpoint without my luggage or a form signed by my airlines officer stating that my luggage has gone missing. After looking for an officer for 2 hours, missing my connecting flight, I ended up sitting on the floor in front of a standing security officer. She looked at me and asked me what I was doing. I told her that there is nothing else I can do except just wait until she will let me go through. So, I sat in front of her for about 20 mins. Then an American guy, maybe around 23 years old, came to ask me what was going on. I explained to him. After this he walked up to the security officer and yelled at her. After this, she decided to change her mind and let me through the checkpoint without my luggage. (Although she did make me wait for another extra hour in a line.) Once I was through security, I got a new flight from a different airport in D.C. and finally made it to Albany. Luckily, my luggage arrived in four days. My first impressions? I am not going to lie. I really wanted to go back to Europe.

4.) How have these impressions changed?

Well, I still don’t like airports! But I think the U.S. is a great country with a lot very friendly people. Williams didn’t end up being as academic as I was expecting it to be. Before coming I thought that Williams was a purely academic institution. Throughout my four years in Williams, I came to realize that there are many people at Williams who do not really care about classes.

5.) Were (are) there any difficulties in assimilating to American culture?

Definitely! I didn’t really enjoy the entry system that much. Many freshmen are living “on their own” for the first time. They make the best out of it by drinking and partying a lot. By that time, I had been living on my own for 3 years and had even been drinking legally in Finland for several years. I was not too excited to re-live the experience of discovering how to drink, etc. I feel that the entry system, in some ways, forced me to be a part of something that I didn’t really want to be a part of. So, I decided to ignore the entry life, work hard, and keep my grades up during my first year.

6.) Do you think Williams does a good job helping international students adjust? Is there anything Williams could do better in this regard?

I really think they should adjust the entry system in some ways for the international students. It is just a bit odd to have a JA who is younger than you, acting as your parent.

7.) Is there anything you miss about your home?

My friends, family, sauna, ocean, and dogs.

8.) How did you decide on your major?

I ended up double majoring in mathematics and computer science. I have always enjoyed mathematics. Before I came to Williams, a friend of mine convinced me to take one class in computer science. One class turned into another and suddenly I had enough courses to call it a major.

9.) What are you doing post-graduation?

I am writing these responses in an apartment in San Sebastian, Spain. I will be traveling in Spain for a week. After this, I will be going home for July. A friend of mine from the U.S. will be visiting me, and I am also planning to go hiking with my brother in Lappland (northern parts of Northern Europe). In August, I will be traveling in Denmark (seven days) and London (four days). Late August I will be heading back to the U.S. I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in statistics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.