Studying abroad is not only for Grinnell foreign language majors.

Just ask Vilma Castaneda ’14, a Sociology and Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies double-major from Washington, D.C., who studied in the Grinnell-in-London program in fall 2012. She loved London so much, she decided to return for graduate school.

Castaneda begins her graduate program in film studies at King’s College London in fall 2014. She’ll complete a master’s degree her first year, then hopes to move straight into the doctoral program.

Her journey says a lot about the power of Grinnell’s flexibility. Students can tailor their degree programs to meet their specific goals, as Castaneda did.

When Castaneda came to Grinnell College, she loved going to movies for the pure pleasure of it. So, naturally, when she spotted a First-year Tutorial in film, she signed up.

Theresa Geller, assistant professor of English, taught the tutorial and encouraged Castaneda to pursue her interest in film.

Here’s where the flexibility came in. Although Grinnell does not have a film studies program, Castaneda discovered that a theoretical approach to film allowed her to talk about gender and other issues she cares about. Before that, Castaneda says, “I never conceptualized it as an academic tool, as an intense process.” She registered for every film-related course she could find.

She recently had a paper accepted for publication in Film Matters, a magazine specifically by and for undergraduate film scholars.

Castaneda also jumped at the Grinnell-in-London opportunity. “It was great at structuring experiences outside of the classroom,” she says. The program faculty was also supportive of students in achieving their unique goals.

Castaneda says she’s taken advantage of resources Grinnell College offers to pursue her passion. “I reached out to my professors,” she says. “I expect to have a long-term relationship with them.”

Adds Geller: “I am thrilled Vilma will be able to pursue her academic passion for cinema studies at the postgraduate level. She presented her work at last year's undergraduate Society for Cinema and Media Studies national conference and now she will be able to continue that research as a master's student. It’s an impressive trajectory.”

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