It didn’t take Megan DeRidder long to feel at home at Sweet Briar. The liberal arts and sciences college in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains was perfect for the Wilton, N.Y native: A mechanical engineering major with a minor in biomedical engineering, DeRidder also loves horses. There’s just one problem: Her stay is only temporary — she’s an exchange student from Clarkson University. As her semester on one of the most beautiful campuses in the country draws to a close, DeRidder took a moment to reflect on the last few months.
Q: How did you end up spending a semester at Sweet Briar?
Tony Collins, the president of Clarkson University, was pondering the idea of creating a relationship with Sweet Briar to support women engineers through a semester exchange. He wanted more women engineers out in the workforce and give them as many opportunities as possible to expand their knowledge and experiences.
Q: What was your first impression of Sweet Briar?
I thought the campus was stunning!
Q: How would you describe your experience here? What were some of the highlights? Were there aspects about Sweet Briar that you didn’t expect?
I have really enjoyed my experience. I have built relationships with many professors, students and staff. The riding program has also made an impact on my time here. Riding on the IHSA team and getting to know the team was a lot of fun. I did not expect the amount of tap clubs — and that there are rival clubs!
Q: What will you miss the most about Sweet Briar and this area?
Exploring. Exploring all the trails and land Sweet Briar owns, and the mountains and waterfalls nearby.
DeRidder (back left) celebrates the regional championship with her Sweet Briar IHSA team.
Q: What makes learning at Sweet Briar different?
Sweet Briar’s engineering classes are rigorous and challenging, but rewarding when it all comes together. My economics class is intriguing and made me consider more business classes and potentially pursuing a MBA. The difference between [my] school [and Sweet Briar] is the class size and personal relationships between professors and students.
Q: After spending several months here, what, in your mind, are the benefits of a women’s college? What could make it a good fit for some students? Did some of those benefits surprise you?
Feeling brave enough to answer or ask questions that I might be afraid to ask in a large coed lecture. Also, feeling like I can relate to people and people can relate to me more [than at a coed school]. A women’s college is a good fit for someone who is looking to have a focused, less distracting education. I was surprised by how I was more willing to answer and ask questions because I am not a shy person and never really realized it, but it made a difference.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
I am thankful for all the opportunities I have been offered during my time at this prestigious college.
Q: Are there students and professors you think you’ll stay in touch with?
Q: What do you plan on doing after graduation?
I plan to work as a mechanical engineer, focusing on the design and innovation of medical devices. Using my knowledge of biomedical engineering, I hope to one day invent and design equine products.
Wondering what all the fuss is about? Learn more about our Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program or our riding program. Or, if you just want to know more about Sweet Briar, click here!