Study Abroad: Fly, Fly Away!

Our student writer, Anna, tells us about her study abroad experience…

Anna---Fly-Fly-Away_Galway_Ireland“Welcome back! Now, leave!” Yes—that’s a real sign here on campus. Can you think of what department would post that? No? Allow me to explain it this way.

I spent last semester out of the US. I lived in Ireland and went to an Irish school (NUI, Galway). I traveled to Paris, London, and visited Brugge and Brussels in Belgium. Yes—I studied abroad. And I would seriously recommend it to every single student if it is at all possible for you to make it happen.

The study abroad program here is fantastic, and I write this from personal experience. You have an orientation along with all of the other UMBC students planning on studying abroad to learn about the process and the various ins and outs of living in a foreign country. And get this: you pick where you want to go. Granted, that country has to make sense for what you want to study, but generally speaking, UMBC will work with you to try to get you where you want to go. Obviously for me it was Ireland. For one of my friends, it was Peru. For my best friend, it was Japan. Where in the world do you want to go?

The purpose of studying abroad is, unfortunately perhaps, studying; however, classes are only a part of what and how you learn. How much have you traveled? If you haven’t traveled a lot, you’ll get used to it, and yes, travelling most certainly has a learning curve. How about navigating possible language barriers? It happens. After all, I ended up in Paris—and I don’t know French. In Belgium I was even worse off—there they speak both French and Dutch. The point I’m trying to make is that when you live abroad, you become so much more aware of…so much. Language, dress, music, food, lodging (we don’t really have hostels in the US), all of which and more accumulate into culture. UMBC loves to advertise its diversity, and you definitely will get a feel for that here on campus. But nothing completely replaces the experience of experiencing another culture firsthand and in real life.

In Ireland, one of the classes I took was the Introduction to Positive Psychology. There I learned that spending money on self-improvement (classes, therapy, certifications, etc.) or travel actually enhances well-being. Spending money on ‘things’ doesn’t. I’m not saying you have to study abroad, but I am highly recommending considering it. From my experience I got to visit five countries across two continents in four months. The other country? South Korea. That is somewhere I would have never expected myself, and guess what? I want to go back there the most. So to summarize the study abroad experience: You’ll never know, unless you go.

–Anna Crow ’16

Paris — The Eiffel Tower
London’s Big Ben
Cliffs of Mother Ireland
NUI – Galway
Seoul, South Korea

What’s a Rock Garden?

Our student writer, Anna, explores a favorite spot on campus…

Hello! What is a rock garden? Do you know? This was a question I asked myself multiple times when my older brother was at UMBC, and I was still in high school. I’d hear him mention this alleged place on campus and think to myself, “wha–?”

Guess what? It’s literally an area of grass with large rocks. That’s it. Or, at least that’s what I always see. That’s what I saw when I went there this weekend to check it out (and to take a selfie for my profile pic!). But that’s not ‘just it’. The area is officially known as the Joseph Bueys Sculpture Park.  Mr. Bueys was a German artist whose work and advocacy for environmental spaces inspired the seeding of the trees today found in the rock garden, as well as the placement of the stones. This background however, is not widely known around campus.

I also learned that most students don’t really talk about the rock garden as much as I, for some reason, thought they would. It is somewhere on campus that people will sometimes use as a geographical marker, though. In fact, this was my first visit to the garden as a student!  

The most notable part of UMBC’s rock garden is the journal. Usually, there is a journal and pencil that are kept underneath the bench in the garden, and enclosed in a special little slot. (Unfortunately, it wasn’t there yesterday…but I assume that as the weather gets nicer and more people are outside, a notebook may very well appear.) The idea is that students can go to the rock garden to relax and to think. Reflect. Write something grandiose down in the journal for posterity…or to be slightly more realistic, something funny and random, or just something.

So when you check out our campus, make sure to stop by the rock garden and bask in the knowledge that yes, we have a “garden” made up of…rocks. (But really, it is very calming there.)

— Anna Crow ’16

What-is-a-Rock-Garden_2 What-is-a-Rock-Garden_1

LIFE Series: Q&A with Samantha ’17

This is the latest in our student writer Anna’s occasional series entitled LIFE: Living Involved, Finding Engagement…

Samantha, president of UMBC’s Sri Lankan Student Association

Name: Samantha
Year: Junior
Major(s)/Minor(s): Mathematics major, English minor
Student Organization: Sri Lankan Student Association (SLSA)
Current Role: President

Today I met with Samantha in The Commons for lunch. We perched ourselves at one of the tall tables in Flat Tuesdays, and moments later delved into the interview. This is what I learned…

She’s not just in SLSA, a student org that advocates cultural understanding and raises awareness of global hunger. In fact, not only is she a Sherman Scholar, but she’s a section editor on the Bartleby student literary magazine staff.

And wait! There’s more! She’s a “life-long learner”; after finishing undergrad, she’s planning to start UMBC’s grad program to earn a master’s degree in teaching. Ideally, she’ll teach math in secondary schools (though “where is still TBD”). Regardless, the decision just makes sense: “I love learning and helping other people learn and understand, too. Teaching just made sense and fit.”

When I asked her what the org is actually like, she began listing a whole slew of activities that they alternate between in their every-other-week meetings. Sometimes they play games, other times they have cultural trivia, and then they’ll cover information about the country’s civil war. Samantha explained to me that the civil war in Sri Lanka was very recent (1983-2009). Not only that, but it’s a great discussion point, something to teach people attending the meeting from other cultures. Discussions are a big part of the organization, which as Samantha put it, “is all about a cultural exchange and learning from each other.” In fact, that’s her favorite part about the org:

“As you saw at the meeting [see my blog post about the SLSA meeting] we’re a close-knit group. But, like yesterday, some new people come, which is always awesome to see! We’re open to everyone…it doesn’t matter what culture they’re from.”

Currently SLSA is preparing for a campus-wide event in March. They’re calling it “Cultivate to Educate: Banquet,” but it won’t be just any ‘ohhhh-we-get-food!-banquet.’ Based on the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, Cultivate to Educate will be an interactive hunger banquet to promote a simulated experience of world hunger, poverty, and disaster. What makes this particular event especially noteworthy is its collaborative nature: more than ten other student orgs are showing up and taking part. Towards the end of the event a stage will be open for social justice-related performances—music, poetry, you name it. I’ve talked with Samantha about how the planning for the event is going, meetings that need to be attended, people who need to be contacted; the process is relentless. I’m super excited though to see how it all turns out!

So as we continued talking, I asked Samantha why someone should join SLSA. She smiled. “To experience culture, to cultivate your mind, to put yourself outside of your comfort zone.” It’s a place where people of all backgrounds can learn something about their world and the people in it; a place to “realize you have something to contribute,” as she phrased it.

Even so, being involved is not always what you think it will be—that’s part of being outside of where you’re comfortable. Samantha admitted that she would not have seen herself as the president of any college org when she had been in high school, just several years ago. It just goes to show that you never know where you’ll be in just a few years’ time. SLSA is a young org, an org that Samantha joined from day one. Even with nearly 300 active student organizations, maybe you want to create your own… so go. Do. Create. Learn. Or maybe you’ll be like Samantha and not even have all of the time you want to go to all of the orgs you want to attend. Who knows? Maybe in a few years you’ll be a president…

— Anna Crow ’16

Program Invites Students to Tackle Major Issues of Our Time

Grand-Challenges-e1458335070939-1920x768A new UMBC scholars program is inviting students from all majors to work together on pressing challenges facing society, from sustainability to health and security issues.

UMBC’s Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), based on the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering, is now accepting applications for its first cohort. Beginning in fall 2016, these students will begin collaborating to develop solutions to major global challenges through coursework, research, service, and study abroad. Participants will each create their own unique approach to the program guided by their interests and including personal reflection on their experiences and growth as scholars.

Marie desJardins, associate dean in the College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT), professor of computer science, and director of the GCSP, describes the program as “a great match with so many things that UMBC and UMBC students are already doing—applied, project-based learning; service learning; entrepreneurial explorations; global involvement; and undergraduate research.”

Amelia Hallworth ‘17, biological sciences, is interested in the GCSP because of the interdisciplinary focus of the program. “Connections between different fields of study will emerge in unusual places, so I think it is important to share problems with people outside of your field,” she says.

Read the full story at

Swimmer Escobedo Dazzles at NCAA Finals

UMBC swimming and diving standout Emily Escobedo ’17, psychology, won bronze in the 200m breaststroke at the NCAA finals on Saturday, becoming the first Retriever to earn All-American status in the pool.

“This weekend was amazing because of Emily.  She never let the competition get to her… She can step up in any situation and give her best,” said head coach Chad Cradock.

Escobedo earned a spot in the A finals after finishing in a tie for second in the prelims, touching the wall in a time of 2:06.82. In the finals she finished with a time of 2:06.43 to earn bronze, scoring enough points to earn All-American recognition, adding to her Honorable Mention All-American status from competing in the 100m breaststroke.

Read the full story at

“Are We There Yet?”

Hi everyone! I just wanted to mention something that I found out today about Residential Life. So, you may have already known that there are bus trips that any student can take into Baltimore on the weekends (and if you didn’t…now you do!). BUT did you know that ResLife hosts “Mystery Bus Trips” for residential students? As in… you have no idea where you are going. As in, you hop on a bus with your friends and you go somewhere…to do something awesome. Just thought I’d share!
–Anna Crow ’16

I Go to “Court”

Our student writer, Anna, explores one of UMBC’s intellectual sports…

Anna---I-Go-to-CourtLook at the Student Org list online and you’ll find Mock Trial listed as an “Intellectual Sport.” Believe me — there’s a reason for its inclusion in that category.

A little bit ago I was invited to sit in on a practice with the team to get a feel for what this org involves. (And I should note these guys are a bunch of friends, so I basically just hung out with a really smart friend group!.) It just happened to be a practice devoted to running through questions between attorneys and their witnesses, so I got to learn the case and how they approach it. As I saw at the practice, strategy is an integral—fundamental, really— factor in mock trial. Generally, strategy includes how a team uses the case law, objections, and handbook rules, as well as how they characterize witnesses and what (if any) additional questions or methods they incorporate into their trials. Of course, how they go about presenting the case as a believable story is at the crux of any team. This year, the team had to argue that a casino owner was–or was not–forced into committing an illegal bribe to acquire a second casino. When I interviewed Dylan and he told me that being involved is for people who want a challenge, I think he summed it up pretty well.

Admittedly, my knowledge of legalese is a bit outdated, since the last time I dealt with law was years ago in high school. I will nevertheless attempt to explain a few details about the case to give you a better feel for the sport.

The case was super interesting this year because there were two possible defendants, and so the team has to essentially prepare strategies for two cases as opposed to the typical one. This means that whichever team represents the state (it’s a criminal case, so it’s the state versus the defense) gets to decide which defendant out of the two they want to prosecute in that trial. Tricky, huh?  That means all teams have to be flexible and prepared for a lot of changes between trials. In terms of the charges, the concern here is entrapment. Basically, there’s a government official and an undercover officer who may or may not be guilty of entrapping (or ‘forcing’) the casino owner to illegally bribe someone.. Each side (prosecution and defense) has to demonstrate why their interpretation of events is correct, which thus should result in either a conviction, or a dismissal. If you’re confused, that’s fine! It took me a while to glean all of this info, and I was there in person. It’s a challenge, but don’t worry—

Beyond the rampant legalese, the concentration to detail, and the probing questions raised so as to improve, the practice was goofy. (I was informed that not every practice is as goofy as that one.) Nevertheless, just because they deal with tens of pages (maybe more?) of case law (and if you’ve never read case law, you probably never want to) doesn’t mean that the team is all about work-work-work.  At least, that’s certainly not the vibe I got. For over two hours I was sitting amidst a group of friends who were focused on enjoying themselves while simultaneously learning and practicing something they all wanted to be a part of. It was a balance of work and play, and frankly, it was enjoyable just sitting there in the commandeered classroom and absorbing the atmosphere of the practice and the dynamics of the team.

So, moral of the story? The Mock Trial team works hard, but not at the expense of fun. They’re cool people— welcoming, too. If you’re considering law as a career path, check it out—give being a lawyer a test run. If you’re just interested in law as a concept, or public speaking, or even you simply like thinking critically and strategically, then hey! Check it out. Also, shout out to them for having an awesome season! Congrats!

–Anna Crow ’16

Laugh a Little…

Our student, Anna, discovers the funniest group on campus…

Over the weekend I learned something about UMBC that I never knew: we have an improv comedy group. Cool, huh? One of my friends invited me to join her at one of the shows, so that’s how I found myself sitting in a lecture hall on Friday night (not that it felt a lecture hall!).

I don’t feel like I can rightly explain the show, so instead I’m going to let some videos and pics do that part. I will say that there’s some audience participation (to provide suggestions—you don’t get drafted to be laughed at, don’t worry), and that the room was packed. The improv group, the Dog-Collar Comedy Troupe, is a team of about 10  students who get together to perform—you guessed it!—improvisational comedy. And it’s great. So without further ado…

A roomful of bored people waiting for the show to begin.
A roomful of bored people waiting for the show to begin.



Improv in Progress
Improv in Progress


That man is on a television daytime show explaining how to cook beef stroganoff. His hands, however, are a bit tied up…and a friend is lending him a hand—or two. (And said friend may or may not be having a lot of fun smearing food on his face in the process…)
That man is on a television daytime show explaining how to cook beef stroganoff. His hands, however, are a bit tied up…and a friend is lending him a hand—or two. (And said friend may or may not be having a lot of fun smearing food on his face in the process…)


 – By Anna Crow ’16

Stretching Experience Through Yoga

Follow our student writer, Anna, along as she takes her very first yoga class at UMBC…

UMBC offers yoga in the RAC and at the Women's Center (pictured)
UMBC offers yoga in the RAC and at the Women’s Center (pictured)

“Smile! Don’t forget to smile — you’ll feel happier!” “Remember, this is all about you.” “You are strong, so trust yourself.” Who doesn’t want to be in a class where you hear these sorts of uplifting comments? Go to a class with Joe, and you can! Allow me to explain…

Though I’ve been to the RAC (Retriever Activity Center) more times than I can count, I had never taken one of the fitness classes before today. Sure, the classes are advertised (you can even get alert emails for when a class is cancelled), but I’ve never been one to go to a class to workout. But to give a class a fair shot, this morning I joined some friends in the Fitness Studio to hopefully not fail too badly at my first day of yoga.

It’s yoga with Joe, to be more precise. As you can probably guess, the instructor is, yes, Yoga-Joe. And Joe thankfully does not believe anyone can fail at yoga (“It’s not a performance. You’re doing this for yourselves”). Bless Joe.

About fifteen people showed up to the class, where we spent time learning to focus on our breathing, and then we began stretching. As I imagine it is common in yoga classes, we then gradually moved into balance poses (“You are a tree…feel the earth support you”) and other standing poses (“You’re all warriors. Got to scare off those elephants”). It was enjoyable, but don’t get me wrong. My legs were wobbling by the end of class. After such poses we gradually moved into cooling down and stretching (and re-aligning) ourselves.

That’s it. It may have been only 1.5 hours, but I forgot to think about blogging about my experience when I was there. To say I was fully absorbed in the class would be entirely accurate, albeit surprising for me to realize. As I said, I’m not a fan of fitness classes. I’d rather exercise on my own time. With that said however, I have already penciled this class in on my calendar.

Oh, and don’t worry about not having a mat for yoga. There are mats there for anyone to use. Just show up and give it a try!

AND if you know yoga isn’t your thing, then check out some of the other classes — cardio parties (though personally that doesn’t sound like a fun ‘party’), ab crunch sessions, fitness basics, yoga, and more. After all, as a student, the RAC is wide open to you…just swipe your card at the front desk, plug the earbuds in, and get moving!

— Anna Crow ’16

Previous posts by Anna:

Meet Your Student Bloggers
Football at UMBC? One Night a Year…

Introducing the LIFE Series…

This is the first in our student writer Anna’s occasional series entitled LIFE: Living Involved, Finding Engagement…

One of UMBC’s claims to fame is our diversity: staff, faculty, student body—the entire school. As a result, our student organizations reflect that diversity. Just quickly scroll down the list of orgs on the Student Life website! From the arts to sports to religion to hobbies to Greek life to intellectual sports (check out our chess team’s national rankings!)…I’m not exaggerating when I say that there’s a niche for just about anyone and everyone.

Speaking of diversity, we currently have 28 cultural and ethnic student organizations. I have yet to meet someone who claims these orgs are just for people from a specific culture; today I attended the Sri Lankan Student Association’s bimonthly meeting, for instance, and my friend from Peru is involved in the Japanese Student Association. Join an organization and learn about another culture, or even one reflecting your own culture. The point is that there are people to learn from and about—people like and unlike you. Go make friends! Meet people!

Today I did just that. My friend is the president of the Sri Lankan Student Association (SLSA) and invited me to her org’s meeting. (Please note that I am not Sri Lankan, but that doesn’t really matter!) The meeting was special: the org’s faculty advisor attended and showed pictures of her most recent travels to Sri Lanka where she has lived and conducted anthropological research. Walking into the meeting, I didn’t even know the capital of the country. Now I can assure you that it’s Colombo. I learned that their New Year is in April, and on that holiday boiling milk in a clay pot is a common practice to bring good luck. Who knew? Hint: not me, the white girl. But the great thing is, now I do know!

Throughout the semester I will be writing a special blog series highlighting various student orgs. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to attend other meetings or events, but I definitely will be sitting down with other students to get their first-hand accounts of what their orgs are all about. Tomorrow I get the opportunity to sit down with Samantha, the president of SLSA. So keep an eye out! From what I heard today, she’s in the midst of planning a multi-cultural, multi-org event that I will absolutely be talking about in a future blog!