By now, you’ve probably been informed that this year marks UMBC’s 50th anniversary and while this is fine and dandy, there is another special anniversary on campus. The Study Abroad Office is celebrating its sweet sixteenth this year. The SAO goes hand-in-hand with UMBC’s 50th anniversary because the SAO continues to embody the spirit and diversity that UMBC has been about since its very beginning.
We turned to Caylie Zidwick, assistant director of the International Education Services, for a brief history of the SAO. “UMBC has offered studying abroad for much of its existence, but it did not become a prominent part of UMBC until the establishment of the International Education Services in 1990. The Director of the newly established IES office, Dr. Arlene Wergin, was charged with advising UMBC’s international population of students and scholars and also increasing study abroad participation among domestic undergraduate students,” Zidwick explained. “In the years that followed, the international student population increased significantly, thus, staff was added to IES to help the advising of international students. It became increasingly evident that a dedicated professional staff member who could focus solely on study abroad was also necessary.”
As a result, in 2000, a study abroad coordinator was added within the IES, which marked the beginning of the SAO. Since then, about 2280 UMBC students have taken the opportunity to study abroad. Many UMBC students who have studied abroad speak only positively about the experience of studying abroad.
For example, Matthew Myslinski, a senior cinematic arts major, spoke about his time studying film production at the National University of Ireland, Galway during the Fall 2015 semester.
“It was there that I spent four months strolling down the Salt Hill promenade, enjoying the architecture of the Galway Cathedral, popping in and out of stores on Shop Street and dancing the night away to trad music in local pubs,” he said. “I was also fortunate enough to have the chance to travel across the country, including Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Kilkenny, Limerick and more with the friends I had made from all over the world. It was an unforgettable experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
Though he may be biased due to currently working there, Myslinski also had positive things to say about the SAO. “UMBC has a great Study Abroad Office. When I first went in to apply, the highly knowledgeable and experienced staff guided me through every step of the process and made it a very comfortable process for me to apply and make my acceptance to my host university as smooth as possible,” said Myslinski. “It’s very easy for any student to study abroad from UMBC.”
Similarly, Stephanie Barnaba, a current senior global studies major double minoring in Spanish and gender and women’s studies, also had plenty of positive things to say about the time that she spend studying Spanish, Peruvian literature and history in Cusco, Peru in Fall 2015 semester. “Traveling opens your eyes to new cultures and opens your life to new experiences and exciting opportunities that didn’t exist before,” she explained. “Cusco is a place that is rich and vibrant with ancient culture in addition to being a modern-day city. I had so much fun exploring the ruins and learning about the ancient history of the Inca civilization.”
Although both Myslinski and Barnaba both agreed that the first two weeks can be a rough time, due to culture shock and homesickness, they both also agreed that it is absolutely worth the time and money and will change your life for the better. Barnaba boasted, “Studying abroad is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. The pros definitely outweigh any cons and what you can accomplish during a few months abroad will last for years in your life. Wherever you are in your study abroad process, don’t be afraid to take the next step!”