When Claire Miller arrived at The College of Wooster, she set out to sample as many courses as possible, but it wasn’t until her sophomore year that she found her true calling.
"In my first year, I took classes in just about every discipline imaginable," said Miller, a senior from Portland, Ore. "I didn't take a single anthropology course, though, until the first semester of my sophomore year. I found it very interesting, and decided to make it my major."
Miller chose Wooster, in part, because it felt right. "Wooster is a place where I am very comfortable," she said. "I think it has a lot to do with my relationship with my professors, and the fact that I have a very diverse group of friends and a lot of people that I can talk to."
Despite her comfort zone at Wooster, Miller longed to experience more of the world, so she decided to take a “gap year” between her first and second year in order to do some traveling. "One thing that got me thinking about a gap year was my First-Year Seminar (FYS),” she said. “My professor asked us questions about why we came to college, and I realized that I didn't know how to answer them. I felt lost as to why I was here." From that day forward, Miller contemplated the idea of a gap year. When she finally worked up the nerve to tell her parents, she was relieved to find that they were excited and supportive.
To pay for her travels, Miller spent a summer working in a veggie patty factory — a less-than-desirable job — but it did serve its purpose by providing her with the means to finance her European trip. She was able to visit Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Vatican City. Europe was not Miller's first choice, but it proved to be a good one. "I was glad I went to Europe because I was exposed to so much art, and that helped me figure out where art fit into my life," she said. “It also gave me the confidence to travel elsewhere alone.”
In spite of her year off from school and some accompanying apprehension about her return, Miller was ready to come back. "Honestly, it was just like I had been gone for summer break and then had come back seamlessly,” she said. “I was so incredibly excited to be back at Wooster."
On campus, Miller dove into college life, taking challenging courses, running track and cross country, and working as a research assistant for Christa Craven, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology. Although her schedule was full, she still found time to be a seamstress for the theatre and dance department, a tutor for non-native speakers of English at the Gault Family Learning Center, and a participant in Wooster’s Worthy Questions mentoring program.
This past summer, Miller served as an archaeology intern at Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, Wash., where she was able to apply her anthropological coursework and provide one more example of the breadth of Wooster’s global classroom.
[Written by Libby Fackler ‘13]
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