Time Flies

Almost one year ago, I wrote a blog about being absolutely obsessed with my new–and only–nephew. Well time has gone by so fast, and the small 10 lb newborn that I showed off 12 years ago, is now a big baby!

John Lansdale Etchison IV, also known as LJ for Little John, is now as big as a two-year-old. He’s able to wear Jordans, despite the ability to walk, needs a bigger size onesie almost every week, and is all over the place.

This little baby that took 6 months to hold his head up by himself because his head was so big, is now crawling and talking in baby jibberish about everything. Along with how much he’s grown, the dynamics of my family have changed. There’s a bit of competition for whom the baby likes more. Healthy competition of course–but I will win.

The best part of having this new addition to the family, is how much he loves me. Last weekend, I went home for the first time in three weeks and it was clear how much he missed me. I love that baby so much, and although I’m sad he’s growing up, I’m glad that he’s a huge part of my life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Academics Abroad – Literally – Part 1

It is true that there is no study abroad without the ‘study’ part of the term. I can attest to the fact that if you are studying abroad, you will have to do homework at some point, read a book, and definitely take a test. In the past, I have heard that the academics abroad are easier than in the United States. For me, I have not found this to be the case. It is common here in Spain for there to only be two exams in an entire semester – the midterm and the final. This does not leave much room for you to receive a poor grade and then make up for it later in the semester (which is, to be honest, a poor habit of mine). There are not many chances to succeed in the course, so it is important to do well on both exams. Because there is no homework to check periodically that the student is understanding the material, it is common for a student to begin studying for the midterm and realize they have forgotten everything they learned at the beginning of the course (which is what happened to me and my friends). It’s not that I am a bad student, or that I am not smart, it is simply that my classes here are structured and taught differently than what I am accustomed to in the United States. But please! Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing! This is what the study abroad experience is about! I am learning so many things here, including a lot about the Spanish higher education system.

Did you know… Here in Spain, if a college student does not pass a class during the semester, they have the opportunity to take the ‘final exam’ (an exam similar to the final exam) again at the very beginning of the following semester. If they pass the exam the second time, then it counts for them as passing the class! Many students here are not stressed during the semester, because they study a few weeks before the second exam for the following the semester and then can pass the class. At the beginning of the semester here, when the second exams were held, the library was very busy. Now that it is nearing halfway through the semester, the library is not nearly as busy!

Traveling and studying abroad have may similarities in learning about culture, traditions, and language, but are different when learning about the academic system and providing a space for learning. Studying abroad has allowed me to learn a lot about the Spanish education system.

College 101

Let me start this post off by saying WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT TAKE PSYCHOLOGY CLASSES (or any class for that matter) FOR GRANTED!! I have learned this lesson the really hard and painful way. Even though psychology classes may seem easy because most teachers just give busy work, there is a lot of reading and understanding required to ace the exams.

I was among those people that felt that psychology will be an easy A, and now I am suffering, I thought I could put off the chapter readings until the last moment, (WHICH WAS A HORRIBLE HORRIBLE IDEA), but now there’s only three days until the exam and I still have a lot to read. I keep thinking that the professors lectures are easy to understand, and the first exam was quite easy, but I am not registering the fact that exams progressively get harder after the first exam. Also, the class being at 8:30 in the morning doesn’t really help. I am not a morning person, and therefore, waking up in the morning is the worst thing ever, which means I am more prone to skipping class, which means that I will end up missing a lot of important notes in class.

But alas, I have to study and do well on the exam. Hopefully, god will be on my side this time!

So the main points of this post are:

1. Never take a class (especially psychology) for granted.

2. Do not procrastinate (but I am pretty sure you have heard this a bunch of time and you will still do it, just like me). To me, procrastination is like the devil, it lurks behind you and only comes upon you when you really don’t want it.

3. Do the readings for each class ahead of time so you can be prepared for class, and won’t have to read 135 pages in 3 days!!!! I truly cannot stress this enough!!! DO THE READINGS!!!!!

4. Do not take morning classes if you are not a morning person or else you will hate yourself and everything in this world and most probably skip all the classes. But then again, if you have an awesome roommate who will wake you by in the morning (like my amazing roommate, Sabine), then by all means, go ahead!

5. Do not get addicted to TV shows (like Criminal Minds/Vampire Dairies/Scandal), because (trust me when I say this), they will be the DEATH of you!!

6. Lastly, please get your priorities straight. Do your most important things first and leave the least important things till the end (or try to do a little bit of something EVERYDAY). This way you will get your work done and won’t get tempted by peer pressure (like me, who gets peer pressured into watching TV shows by my (still amazing) roommate).

Anyways, hope these things come in handy!!

Or you could just always be a bum on the streets (which at this point seems like a very good decision….) ….

(But in all honesty) once your in college, please don’t be a bum on the streets! :)

“I saw your face on the front page!”

I’ve had a lot of people coming up to me this past week and saying that they “saw my face” on the front page of umbc.edu…and my.umbc.edu…and a variety of other websites.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a much more introverted person, so having someone come up and say that they know me, and my face in particular, leaves me in an awkward state of staring back at them blindly. When I was younger, I would have loved all the recognition. I wanted to be a pop star, the president, anything to make me famous.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I really just want to be loved and appreciated by my small group of friends and my family. However, as surprised and awkward as I am, I’m really appreciative for all the support UMBC has given me over the past semester. It really is amazing how much someone can change in a matter of a couple years.

In case you’re wondering why my face has been on a variety of news outlets for UMBC and the surrounding area, I was appointed as the Student Commissioner for the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC). However, that is not exactly relevant to this post.

My point was it really is amazing how much someone can change in a matter of a couple years. Three years ago, I would be completely reveling in all the attention. Now, I just want to do a great job as an MHEC Commissioner, and pass ECON with an A of course.

Commuting: A Queen’s Guide

My name is Kiara Alexander and I am a commuter.

Last year, I was not a commuter but a cosy resident doing cosy resident things like: waking up 15 minutes before my class and getting there on time; taking a nap after a stressful math class in my room just a few yards away. Yes. This year has been an adjustment but I am the Queen of adjustments so here I am to tell you how I adjusted to this new routine of driving to school.

The Queen of Adjustments Guide to Adjusting:

  1. Realize that life is much different now. Breathe it in, breathe it out. (Take a cry if necessary)
  2. Complain to your mother. She can’t make the situation better but it can make you feel better about life.
  3. Remember that you can now always one up your resident friends. Yes, Sally, you did have to stay up all night to write a paper, but I had to drive to school. Take that!
  4. Value the little things. Like an excellent parking space. Let those little things make your day.
  5. And finally, you must resist the urge to hit that snooze button. The alarm says it will come back in five minutes but you may find that you have slept through that second alarm and now you have missed the first 20 minutes of your class.

In conclusion, stay strong in these streets and remember, while we may not be Wildcats, we are all in this together.

(Cue High School Musical dance finale!)

Marruecos (Morocco)

It was my first time in an Arabic country. IT WAS AWESOME! We traveled to Fes ( spelled with an ‘S’, the Fessi are very particular about that) and went to the Medina which is the largest market in the country. Then traveled through the country side – cedar forest, canyons, mountain, oasis and finally to the Sahara Desert. I spent two nights in the Sahara Desert sleeping in a tent and surrounded by the beautiful Berber people. If you have not heard of them before, I suggest you look them up. One of the oldest populations! Without UMBC and the Study Abroad Office, this would have not been possible! Enjoy some of my pictures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I have been unable to post recently because I have had extremely limited access to the internet. Last week, I went to Morocco, where I did not even have cell phone service, and when I did find wifi very few websites worked. TIP: I have found that Facebook almost always works everywhere. Upon my return to Spain, there was a storm which somehow made the internet in my apartment stop working as well. The internet in my apartment is not always reliable anyways, so this was not surprising. So, I have been going to the public library here to get wifi, but when there are many people at the library (which also happens often) the wifi doesn’t usually work. I think it has something to do with too many people using one source, or something like that. So, when that doesn’t work, like today, I go to a Cafe de Indias, which is similar to a Starbucks, buy a tea and am then allowed to use their wifi for 30 minutes.

The limited access is not usually a problem, because most of my classes do not rely on the internet – we use books – and I don’t have many other responsibilities tying me down to the internet. This is also how many Spaniards here live. I hardly ever see anyone on their phones or in the cafe on a computer. I’m probably an obvious ‘Giddi’ (slang term for foreigners that my friend told me is not negative) right now sitting in the cafe typing this blog. Now, I must make this blog short for I am running out of internet time and I still need to email my academic advisor at UMBC about registering for classes in the Spring! Hasta!

Just a normal Friday (NOT)

Before I came to UMBC, I considered myself to be an adventurer. I had been up and down the East Coast, and had even been to California and Russia! I thought I knew what it was like to try new things and experience different cultures, and nearly all of it involved going somewhere outside of Maryland. However, once I came to college I realized there were so many experiences within my own state that I had overlooked. Its been over three years since then, and I’m still in the process of finding everything!

Last Friday, I took two more steps in my quest to experience Maryland. I did two things I thought I never would have – I went skydiving (OMG!) in Aberdeen and took a hot yoga class in downtown Baltimore. Skydive Baltimore, a small company in Harford County, offered a deal for skydiving and my girlfriend and I couldn’t resist. The staff was amazing, and the jump was perfect. The pictures tell it better than I can though!


I was so relieved the parachute opened up!

I was so relieved the parachute opened up!

My friend and I after we landed :)

My girlfriend and I after we landed :) plus JD, who had done this about 10,000 times.

Then after we landed (safely…I really was worried about that parachute), we went to Bikram yoga studio in Locust Point. I have been taking yoga classes at UMBC for the last year, and I was curious about hot yoga. Honestly, it was a good workout and an even better meditation tool. The stereotypes of hot yoga in commercials don’t fit at all, and I will definitely go back there.

So why am I telling you about these really cool things I did? Well, this is all right in Maryland. Its all within an hour of UMBC! There are so many things near our campus that are just waiting for you. I thought I had to leave Maryland to get these types of experiences, and I was definitely wrong. Its been here the whole time and I’m glad I realized it.

MCS 101: Pushing Students to Boldly Go


As mentioned previously, I major in Global Studies as well as Media and Communication Studies. I always knew that Global Studies was going to be my major but it wasn’t until I took an MCS course my second semester of college that I saw myself enjoying it to the point that I could add it on as a second major. As of right now, I am taking MCS 101: Media Literacy and there’s lab component to the course that teaches us how to make different media. This week, we were taught how to use photoshop, something that I was pretty nervous about because a lot of my friends use it and they complain about how difficult something are so my confidence was low. But after some tinkering/trial and error, I made something that I am so proud of I’m writing a post about it.

Here it is, my magazine cover:

The Federation Weekly-K. Alexander

Making this was a dream come true

  1. Because I am in love with Captain Kirk. He’s my favorite fictional character and I get really giddy at the idea that I sat down and interviewed him.
  2. I now know how to use photoshop, which is great because old folk often assume young folk can use it just because we seem to be tech savvy. Now I am a disappointment to no one.
  3. Now I can make more :)))))

Look out UMBC, there’s a Star Trek themed magazine coming and it looks like it’ll be created by me!

*Maniacal laugh* *Maniacal laugh* *Maniacal laugh*

LOL is Rampant at UMBC

I’m not going to lie. I don’t know a lot about what League of Legends is. I know that it is a computer game. I’ve been told that it’s a bit similar to World of Warcraft–which I did play for approximately two weeks, yet still do not understand, in order to impress a crush in high school.

However, there are a lot of people at UMBC who play League of Legends. They have a club on campus, have developed a great group of friends, and can be seen playing in the Commons sometimes. There is even a League of Legends World Championship Viewing Party on Sunday, October 19, 2014 from 2am to 10am. The world championship will be held in Seoul, South Korea.

So it’s true, I don’t play League. I only know a couple of people who are in the club. However, I think they are an awesome group of people, and they speak to the nature of UMBC.

League of Legends is considered dory or nerdy in some other areas. However, like Dr. Hrabowski always says, “At UMBC, it’s cool to be a nerd.” I love being here because it’s true–being smart is cool. Being who you want to be, and participating in clubs that you like doesn’t make you nerdy, it makes you true to yourself.

When I was in high school, everyone always called me a teacher’s pet, nerd, or dork because I liked to learn. Here, I’m definitely not the smartest person, but I love being in a place where people appreciate academics, and can find their social niche

The other day I was asked by someone, “Why doesn’t UMBC have a football team?” I told him that we value education more at UMBC. This boy responded that it’s stupid not to have a football team over institutional advancement, but I realized how proud I am to go here.

All of us at UMBC are receiving an education that is valued the same as Brown, Yale, and Vanderbilt, just to name a few. However, we pay only 1/3 of the cost of those other schools. Plus, the League club dominates.