Are students at the College of the Atlantic isolated?


Eliza Ruel, I'm an admission counselor at College of the Atlantic, Class of 2013

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COA is located in a rather unique town: Bar Harbor, a seasonal tourist town. Bar Harbor is on Mount Desert Island (MDI), an island with a population of about 10,000 year-round residents and connected by bridge to the mainland. Between Memorial Day (end of May) and Columbus Day (mid October), Bar Harbor is bustling with visitors from around the world. Cruise ships anchor in the harbor while visitors arriving by car stay in the many hotels, inns, and campgrounds. Downtown - one mile from campus - there are many shops, restaurants, a YMCA (which all students have membership to), a conventional supermarket, a natural food store, and a locally owned movie theater showing mainstream, international, and independent movies. In the "off season" (much of the winter) the island becomes much quieter and many shops and restaurants close. As a student I always enjoyed the diversity the seasonal changes bring. The supermarket, natural food store, a few restaurants, the book store, and movie theater remain open throughout most of the year.

Acadia National Park, which makes up about half of MDI, can be accessed by a trail across the street from the college. As our name indicates, we're right on the Atlantic Ocean and it's common for students to walk down to the college pier to visit the stone beach or hop on the Osprey, COA's research vessel. A car is not necessary as it takes 15 minutes by foot and only a couple of minutes by bike to reach town. A college sponsored night bus runs every evening and a day bus brings students to class during the winter. A student wishing to travel further away often borrows a peer's car and class field trips to Acadia, Boston, New York, and around Maine use the college's fleet of vehicles.

By car, Bar Harbor is 15 minutes from Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, one hour from Bangor International Airport, five hours from Boston, and three hours from Portland, Maine.

The COA campus is quite vibrant as well. Weekly guests from around the world speak at our Human Ecology Forums and in classes, covering topics as diverse as immigration, study abroad, sustainable food systems, microbiomes, poetry, installation art, and international policy. Exhibits by students and visitors can be found in our Blum Gallery and George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History. Open mics, poetry slams, plays, dances, and musical guests happen every term.

I would say that our location is thus an essential part of the makeup of what makes College of the Atlantic what it is. Local organizations, businesses, schools, research laboratories, farms, and the environment as a whole allow the college to expand learning beyond the classroom. A majority of our students also take advantage of internships, residencies, and courses which take them around the world. This combination of local and global learning gives students the variety of experiences necessary to succeed after COA.

To more succinctly answer your question, I would say it depends on how you define "isolated." No, we are not located in the middle of a large city. Instead, we are in between a national park and the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by a very rich community of interesting peers, professors, and visitors. Frankly, throughout the year I was kept quite busy with class assignments, independent projects, eating and cooking with friends, and planning my internship and study abroad experiences!

If you have any additional questions about COA, please feel free to reach our Office of Admission at 800-528-0025 or You can also check out photos, student projects, and events at MeetMeAtTheWhaleSkull on Tumblr.

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