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

“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