The Green Mountain State is famous for a relaxed, socially progressive culture, with a mind toward local affairs and agriculture. This is, in part, due to Vermont’s having the second smallest population in the United States. The state is also the seventh smallest state in terms of total area. International students in Vermont will experience traditional American town hall democracy, which still governs local affairs. All of these factors contribute to Vermonters’ active political lives, and the state’s low crime rate—the second lowest in the nation! Moreover, these communal bonds are further enhanced by local farming and an environmental consciousness born of the state’s immense wilderness (over 70% of the state is covered in forest) and robust local agriculture (many companies like Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream rely on local farmers for their ingredients and are willing to pay more for such products to sustain the industry). This has led to certain economic criticisms of the state, and international students considering whether to study in Vermont who are pursuing business-related degrees should be aware that the state has been ranked in the lower half (32nd) of, “states in which to do business” by Forbes Magazine. This reality is mirrored in Vermont’s possessing the lowest gross domestic product in the USA.
However, international students in Vermont will see Vermonters’ local focus shine through by the fact that despite the lowest GDP, the state has also consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the USA; Vermonters pride themselves in taking care of their own. Another perk of the close-knit, yet accepting communal fabric that those who study abroad in Vermont can look forward to is enjoying the state’s impressively low crime rate—the second lowest in the nation. Importantly, the small population and local-focus do not obscure global awareness or diversity. The government of Vermont has been ranked very highly in terms of its handling of local issues and issues global in scope, while receiving only an average rating in matters of future economic development. The local emphasis of Vermont is not to be mistaken for a fear of diversity as the state has a robust history with roots not only in early American culture (the first territory to be admitted to statehood outside of the 13 original colonies and the 1st to outlaw slavery—reiterating a law in place prior to becoming a state), but was also (earlier) home to French and Native American settlements; in fact, today, around 2.5% of Vermonters still speak French in their households. So, when considering whether to study abroad in Vermont, international students should become aware of what kind of experience they are hoping to have while in America, and what industry in which they would hope to work, upon completing their education. Vermont may be ideal for those interested in history, law, medicine, politics and democracy, agriculture, local organization, community activism, and outdoor recreation, while proving potentially lackluster for those seeking competitive business educations or consumer-driven environments and industries.