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Kaitlin Britt '09 is Named Hamilton's Fifteenth GOLD Scholar

Graduates of the Last Decade Support Current Students

By Erica Eckman  |  Contact David Steadman
Posted December 17, 2008
Tags GOLD GOLD Scholar
High School: Academy Northwest
Majors: Chinese & Spanish
Campus activities: Admission Journal Writer, Project SHINE, Admission Senior Intern
Last movie seen in theaters: Quantum of Solace
Favorite movie: Roman Holiday
Favorite song: It Never Entered My Mind by Miles Davis
Last book read: Mr. China by Tim Clissold
Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Hobbies/Interests: Coffee and a great book, walks on the beach back home with my dog Tucker, Pedro Almodovar movies, foreign language, travel, Pablo Neruda poetry, China, Hot Tamales, talking with complete strangers, LOST, art museums, The Wall Street Journal
Favorite place on campus: Café Opus sofas
Favorite campus dining location: The Little Pub
Favorite quote:  "It is what it is."

Thanks to the generous support of young alumni, Hamilton is pleased to name Kaitlin Britt '09 of Mount Pleasant, S.C., as its 15th GOLD Scholar. Kaitlin recently sat down to reflect on her Hamilton experience so far, and here's what she shared.

What's your fondest Hamilton memory?
I had just finished my freshman year and was heading home from Chicago O'Hare. I was wearing my Hamilton sweatshirt, quietly sitting in my chair, drinking my coffee and reading a book, when a man started speed-walking toward me. Before I knew it, he had plopped down next to me and said, "I graduated from Hamilton 15 years ago! How is the Hill? Is Professor Williams still there? Where do you live?" His excitement startled me, but it made me realize just how much of an impression this little school leaves. The Hamilton feeling really never goes away.

Where did you grow up?
I never really grew up in any one place. My family moved more than 12 times (to 12 different states) when I was growing up so I don't claim to be from anywhere in particular. Despite the instability and constant change of location, I actually enjoyed moving as much as we did. There was something inherently exciting about moving in to new houses and meeting new people. I guess the part of my life I remember most is high school.

When I started my freshman year in high school, my family lived in a very small organic farming community about an hour north of Seattle. The little town was called La Conner, population 786. We had recently bought a Bed & Breakfast, and my family decided to live on-site. Before I knew it, my life was completely consumed with reservations, housekeeping, laundry and quiche. We didn't have a very large staff, so the majority of the work fell on my family. But living on-site did have its perks. We also had a fine-dining restaurant. Believe me, there's nothing better than taste-testing homemade sorbets or molten chocolate cakes before they come out of the kitchen.

What's your family like?
My family is quite close. Moving as much as we did really left us with no choice but to like each other! My brother is currently in his freshman year at Baylor University studying religion. My fondest memories with my family will always be our travels. My parents made it a point to take my brother and me to as many places in Europe as they could. Surprisingly, we all travel quite well together, and my friends are hard-pressed to get me to travel with them if I know my parents have a family vacation planned.

What were your favorite activities in high school? 
I never really went to high school in the typical sense. La Conner, being a small farming community, didn't exactly have the best schools. Consequently, the state offered a program called Running Start, which allowed participants to attend local community colleges, free of charge, and seek more challenging courses. I started my sophomore year and absolutely loved it. I had the opportunity to take political science, multiple economics courses, Chinese and many other classes that wouldn't normally have been offered in public schools.

Besides working nearly 30 hours a week, my favorite activity in high school was teaching English. The farming communities in my area attracted many migrant workers from Mexico who all desperately wanted to learn English. Consequently, the community college where I took classes offered free English courses at night. I spent nearly three nights a week teaching Level One English…alone! Sometimes it was hard to get the adults to take me seriously, but ultimately they all truly wanted to learn. And despite the initial barriers, I became friends with many of my students, meeting their families, going to baby showers and attending their daughters' quinceñeras.

How did you discover Hamilton?
I always joke that Hamilton was the first college from which I received literature. I actually toured more than 25 colleges (my parents were real troupers) all over the country. Due to the fact that I lived in so many states, I really had no preference when it came to region. I based my search entirely on Chinese, for I knew that would be my major in college. To my surprise, most of the excellent Chinese language programs were on the East Coast as opposed to the West Coast. Hamilton's Chinese program, which is top-notch, quickly came up in my search and I knew I had to visit. 

When I came back to Hamilton for a second visit, I knew it was the one. But I didn't get that "feeling" that people say you get when you just know something is right, nor was it the campus' beauty or modern facilities that sold me. What sold me on Hamilton was the people. I remember walking into the Admission Office and being blown away by how many students and staff were genuinely smiling! That's when I knew Hamilton was the right place for me.

What are three defining elements of your time on the Hill?
1.    My first experience with legitimate amounts of snow. I had honestly never seen that much snow in my life and I still love it to this day. At Hamilton, we live in a gigantic, beautiful, snow globe! 
2.    The first time I called Hamilton College home. I remember talking to my family about the College at Thanksgiving my freshman year and saying, "Wow, I really can't wait to get back home." At that point, I realized that Hamilton had become more than just my college; it had become my home.
3.    Making dumplings with my Chinese professors during the Chinese New Year.

What have you found most rewarding about your volunteer experiences as a student?
I've done Project SHINE for a couple of years now. About twice a week I go down to a refugee center in Utica and teach English (similar in many ways to teaching when I was in Washington). I think it's important to leave the Hill every once in a while and realize there are other people NOT between the ages of 18 and 22 in the immediate area. The experience quickly reminded me that teaching English is not all that easy! Just because I know English doesn't in any way mean I know how to teach it. About two weeks into teaching, I realized that at times my students needed to have more patience with me than I needed to have with them!

What are your plans after Hamilton?
China! After spending a year abroad living in Beijing, I'm doing everything within my power to get back. I'm currently looking for jobs in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. I plan to work abroad for a couple of years then return stateside for graduate school in business. Ultimately, I want to find a job where I find myself speaking less English and more Chinese or Spanish in any given day.

What advice or perspective would you share with alumni?
More than advice or perspective I'd like to thank them. I can't tell you how many times I have contacted alumni with questions or requests to meet and talk. I can say with confidence that every alumnus/a I have met has nothing but great things to say about Hamilton, and I can't wait to become one of those alumni who students contact – I'll be ready to rave about my time on the Hill.

GOLD Scholars is an initiative supported by the Annual Fund, which has always provided direct support for the College's most important current priorities, especially scholarship aid. Starting this year, gifts from the GOLD Group – Graduates of the Last Decade – will specifically support students on campus.  With each $15,000 increment collectively contributed, the College will select a student as a GOLD Scholar for 2008-09.

To make your Annual Fund gift in support of GOLD Scholars, please click here.

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