University of Maryland, College Park
BackgroundInterview Date:May 2017
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2017
High School Experience: Private school in Baltimore, MD with a graduating class of about 100 students.
Major: Russian Language and Literature
Minor: International Development and Conflict Management
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of Alternative Breaks which organizes service learning immersion experiences through week long trips around the USA. I work with Care to Stop Violence (CARE), which is a sexual violence prevention education group and a resource in the health center, and am part of the Title IX Standing Review Committee. I lived in the Language House, which is a language immersion house on campus. I also sing in the University Chorale.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have an especially big impact?
The Language House was where I found my closest friends and where I had the most fun. I was really passionate about Alternative Breaks and CARE.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major and minor?
The first two years my courses were much more grammar and language heavy. Freshman year I had class every day, and then gradually it got lighter and lighter and we could move away from grammar-based classes and focus on cultural classes. We would have homework exercises and then the big grades were exams. Most of the language classes were smaller, plus I had a small major, so sometimes I’d have classes with 10 other people. The classes for my minor were larger, so 20-30 students. General Education classes, like Economics, Statistics, and Astronomy, can be like 200 people, but in those classes you have big lectures twice a week and then once a week you have a discussion with 20-30 people and your TA.
I was in the International Studies department of Scholars, which is conceptually similar to adding a concentration. For that I had to write government style essays, so no more than 3 or 4 pages. It was helpful because that’s what you have to write in the field. I also did the Global Fellows Program where you take a class pertaining to a topic and then you do an internship pertaining to the same topic. I took US Diplomacy and Policymaking, we had professors from DC who were experts in the field. It’s nice having those resources right there without being downtown. That was all essays too.
How accessible were your professors?
The Russian professors were extremely accessible in person, by email, and by phone. The only thing with language professors is they can be out of the country sometimes. I had my Russian professors write me recommendations, and even went out to dinner with one.
Did you especially like or dislike anything about your major’s department? Did they do anything especially well or poorly?
They do a lot of things well. The professors all have an amazing grasp on the language, many are native speakers, and all are good with teaching it. They are very patient, can break things down, and are willing to work with us. The head of the department is a native English speaker so she has a really good understanding of the struggles students face. Sometimes I would be in class with native speakers who had a much better grasp on the language but didn’t have the grammar, and it was hard to be in class with them because they are much better at speaking and articulating their thoughts. I would do more listening than speaking because I couldn’t be as articulate as them, which would annoy me. But on the flip side, you can get better by being around people that are better than you.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Centreville Hall with one roommate. I was living on a floor with the people in the same Scholars program as me.
Sophomore & Junior: I lived in the Language House, which is in St. Mary’s Hall. It’s right across from STAMP in the middle of campus. I always had a roommate there. Those were apartment style so we had two bedrooms with a living room, kitchen and a bathroom.
Senior: To save money I shared a studio apartment with a friend because rent in College Park is very high. That was in Knox Tower, which is part of two buildings called College Park Towers.
What was your favorite living situation?
I liked living in the language house the most because my closest friends were right there. We could walk to each other’s apartment to eat, borrow utensils, hang out, etc. We could have parties in those apartments as long as it wasn’t too loud. They let 21+ people have alcohol in their apartments. I liked having other people around me speaking other languages, it felt very multicultural and cool. All my classes were within a very short walk, and the Student Union was right across from me.
How safe did you feel on campus and in the surrounding areas?
I would say up until 3AM the campus is really safe, and during the day the surrounding area is safe. I would say in any densely populated area there is crime, particularly after 3AM. UMDPD sends out police alerts pretty immediately when something does happen. There are Blue Lights everywhere and there is a pretty heavy student auxiliary police presence. Sometimes things are preventable via common safety things. Maryland has struggled with negative press around some issues, we just dealt with the murder of a Bowie State student, but that has to do with racial issues rather than campus safety issues. I’m not a student of color, so I can’t speak to that perspective, but, in a general sense, I felt like I was safe. I also didn’t stay out past a certain time and walked in groups, etc.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
In walking distance, Blaze Pizza. If you can drive, Franklin’s, which is a brewery in Hyattsville.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I would come home to Baltimore if I really needed to get away. Shenandoah National Park was 2.5 hours away so I could do a weekend or a day trip.
Pros and cons of being in College Park?
Pros: (1) You’re on the metro line, so you have very easy access to DC, which is awesome.
(2) You get all 4 seasons in one year, which I like.
(3) Winter isn’t super-duper long. I just really like the state of Maryland.
Cons: (1) There’s not a big grocery store within walking distance. There’s a Target Express and a CVS, but if you don’t have a car it’s harder to get groceries.
(2) College Park is kind of small and built around the university. The university drives a lot of the town, so there’s not a lot to do in College Park that’s not related to the university somehow.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in?
I typically go out Friday and Saturday. I hardly ever went out on the weekdays, but you can go out any night of the week. There’s always something at pretty much any hour of the day. On days there are tailgates there will be stuff going on in the morning. It’s all there, I just didn’t participate that often. It’s possible to work around it if you don’t want to participate. We also have access to DC so if you don’t want to go out in College Park you can go there. My social life was a lot smaller because I wasn’t going to a ton of Greek parties. A lot of times it’d be me and my friends in my apartments or some nights we’d go to DC.
Was there a social impact of not being in Greek Life?
I think it’s just a different kind of social life. I didn’t want to be a part of it and I’m happy I didn’t. For some it works, for others not so much. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it initially because I didn’t want to pay for it. Now there are sort of other reasons, like you just don’t have as much planned. When you’re part of Greek Life there are predetermined social events and outings and they have formals, etc.
What’s an alternative option to going to a party or a bar?
There are lots of things. There are basketball games, which are huge. Soccer games are very fun. Football for me was less fun but some people enjoyed it. There is a trail that connects from campus to a lake that people go walk and bike on during the weekend. Maryland has an adventure program where you pay a small fee and go do outdoors activities, like canoeing in the Shenandoah National Park for the weekend. That’s something I like doing because it gets you out of College Park. People also go do stuff in DC, like go out to eat and go to the museums. People like going down there for concerts at the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat too. They just opened a Milkboy Arthouse in College Park that will have music performances.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Maryland? Is there anything that you would change if you could?
It’s good. I don’t drink very much, so my nightlife was much more subdued. Sometimes when I would go out I’d be the most sober person so I’d end up walking someone home or whatever, but I think that happens everywhere.
How would you describe the social scene?
For me, my freshman year I think what happens is a lot of people socialize with who they’re physically around, so people in halls, classes, programs, etc. As you start to learn more about things on campus people self-select to join other groups. Freshman year my friends were from my dorm and program. Then I made friends through Language House, made friends through prevention education stuff, alternative breaks, as you put yourself in different situations you make a mix of friends. Some people join Greek Life and that’s their social scene.
Do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
In some contexts they do, but naturally some groups want to be around people that are like them and understand them. I think in college people can be self-selecting in social groups, and that happens to be in groups with people of certain identities. There are diverse groups, like Language House was very diverse.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not for me in a formal way, but informally yes. There have been jobs where there have been enough Maryland students that have done the internship well that all I have to do as a Maryland student is submit my resume and I will likely get the internship. The Russian department is very small and everyone will work with you, but it has a less established alumni network.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Maryland before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I had more confidence in the idea that I would find my niche and place and social circle. I didn’t want to go here at first but ended up really loving it.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Take a moment to yourself and sit by the fountain and watch everyone and get to know the feel and let it sink in around you. It’s a really nice place, in the midst of everyone doing everything it’s cool to sit there and watch.
Reasons to attend Maryland:
1) Maryland is big enough that anyone can find something you want to do there, do it well, and find a small community for themselves.
2) The quality of education is getting better and better.
3) If you’re an in-state student it’s really cheap. [In Fall 2018, total costs for an in-state student was about $27,000.]
4) You get all the access to DC without the cost of living and the bustle of it.
5) Maryland has everything. It has tons of resources.
Reasons to not attend Maryland:
1) If you’re really overwhelmed by a big school, it’ll be a hard transition for you.
2) Certain majors have more large lecture-style classes, so if you have a learning disability or really thrive in a small environment that could be difficult.
3) The campus is really big. If you hate walking it won’t work out. You have to walk a lot and there are hills.