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