From Scotland to the U.S., Wilson ’24 Reflects on HWS International Student Experience – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

From Scotland to the U.S., Wilson ’24 Reflects on HWS International Student Experience

Rising sophomore Reece Wilson ’24 answers questions about the first-year student experience. A Sutton Trust Scholar, Wilson is an international student from Kelty, Scotland. On campus, he joined the International Student Association, co-launched the HWS chapter of Phi Beta Lambda, a collegiate business career organization and won a prize at their annual Future Business Leaders Conference. We profiled Wilson before he arrived on campus in the summer of 2020. Read more about him here.

Wilson (right) and friends pose for a photo in front of a mural in downtown Geneva.
Wilson (right) and friends pose for a photo in front of a mural in downtown Geneva.

What’s the biggest difference between being a high school student and a college student?

As an international student, not only was I going from high school to college, but I was also going from high school to college across the world. And this was my first time alone in the U.S. so I was dealing with the culture change from Scotland to America. Academically, I’m always ready to work so my new workload wasn’t a surprise. In terms of subjects, I have been able to take courses that are industry and profession specific in the Architecture Department.

What’s something new you’ve tried?

I am launching a program inspired by my time in Scotland. With the support of the Fulbright Program, [Wilson is a Sutton Trust Scholar, a partnership between Sutton Trust and the US-UK Fulbright Commission] I am creating an advisory network for students in low-funded high schools. I want to help students adopt a growth mindset, get them more involved in academics and extracurriculars, give them new skills and then teach them how to take action and apply what they’ve learned. I hope to build this program across the U.K.

Best part of living in a residence hall?

Community. As an international student, I came here not knowing anyone. I was worried people wouldn’t understand my sense of humor when I got here. But I’ve built great relationships. Some of my best friends have lived on my floor this year. You can build community, you can find your people. I’m fortunate because my floor had a great mix of people. There’s an academic focus, but people also like to chill and relax.

Favorite class? 

“Introduction to Architecture” with Professor Stan Matthews started everything. With Stan, I get to learn from someone who is passionate about architecture and who has actually designed buildings. Stan and I have a great relationship. I’ve been to his house; I’ve seen how it’s built; I’ve been able to learn from his personal experiences. He’s the chair of the department and he has so much experience and so many connections.

My other favorite was “History of Modern Architecture,” which had so much content. The course begins in the 1900s but you look at the past and present and try to understand how it all comes together. Over the course of the semester, Stan showed us 5,500 slides. But I could remember it all. The way the course is taught, the nature of the discussions, it helps you absorb everything.

Where have you found support on campus during your transition to college life?

Professor Liliana Leopardi, my “Renaissance to Modern Art History” professor, has been amazing. She helped me with everything. She used to be an international student, so she knew what struggles I was dealing with. We would jump on the phone randomly and she would check in about everything from my classes to my winter break plans.

Favorite spot?

The arts campus. It’s a beautiful spot. You have older buildings and then the Katherine D. Elliott Studio Arts Center, which is super new. It’s always chill down there and just a quiet spot. There’s student sculptures out in the grass, which is quite cool. I like the walk down there because it helps me relax. I especially like the walk in the winter. It can be cold but the snow is beautiful.

Where have you found community?

One place is the International Student Association, where I’m the vice president. I’ve also found community through my ideas. For me, I want to build connections with people who care about similar things and want to help others. I have found people who are interested in my ideas and who get really passionate about their projects, and we’re able to bounce ideas off one another.