Tips for Deciding on a College/University

Hey everyone! Since it’s that time of year, when high school seniors have to commit to a college/university (UMBC’s deadline is May 4th), I thought I would post some tips. Getting accepted into college can be both exciting and frustrating; for some it can completely change the way of life. I too had to go through this process, not long ago. So, here are some things to consider before making the final decision.

1) Make sure the particular college has your intended major! Not all colleges offer the same majors, therefore it is really important to make sure that you will be able to study things that you are interested in. UMBC has 44 majors, 41 minors, and 20 certificate programs that encompass all kinds of subjects. Also, there is Interdisciplinary Studies, which allows a student to make their own major. So, basically, you can combine different classes that you are interested in and major in something unique.

2) Find a college that is affordable. Even though you have an option for taking loans, (I believe) that it’s not very wise to take a lot of loans during your undergrad career. Moreover, out of state universities tend to cost a bit more than in state universities, which can be really annoying at times. Hence, make sure to compare all your scholarships and grants!

3) Once you have shortened your list to a couple universities, try to visit them again. For example, UMBC has a New Student Day Program (April 11th, 9:30 am to 3 pm), where new students can learn more about the campus, as well as meet faculty and students from different majors and organizations! This way you get a feel for campus as an accepted student which will make it easier for you to make a decision.

4) Make sure you communicate! This is the single most important tip I have. If you are not sure about something, make sure you call the undergrad admissions offices to clear all your confusion. Even if you think you have a simple question, JUST ASK! It doesn’t hurt to ask it allows you to make informed decisions. Also, make sure you talk to your parents/guardian, counselor, friend, or some one you trust about your future and what your plans are, it will make life that much more easier.

That’s all I the tips I have for now. Hope I’ve helped in some way. I wish all accepted students good luck, and hope to see all of you in the fall!

Welcome to the beginning of a new and exciting adventure in your life!

My Guide to Study Abroad : Phones

Recently someone asked me for advice on the logistics of study abroad. I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain during the Fall 2014 semester. I studied history, worked on my Spanish and traveled to Belgium, Morocco and Portugal in addition. Because I am history major, it is my nature to do lots of research before nearly anything I do, study abroad was no different. I am happy to share what I did about phones and money and other logistics while abroad with you, in case you are preparing for study abroad either now or in the future. I will share my suggestions based on about 3 months of research preparation. Having been returned from my time abroad, I am happy to say that in all of these things I was successful and I never lost (or had stolen -) a single thing!

I will be doing these blogs in parts. This first one will be about phones.

Note: all of these suggestions are made with the idea that you want to save the most amount of money. If money is not an issue for you, lucky you!

PHONE:
Here in the USA, we are so connected all the time to our devices. Depending on where you study, this may not be the case or perhaps more so. Either way, you will need a way to keep in touch with friends/family back home and a way to make plans with all your new friends. It was important to me to be able to talk to my family on a regular basis, just in case I would need to. So, before I left I asked my family to download Viber. It is an app that uses data or wifi to make phone calls and send texts nationally or internationally. I decided to download this app over others because unlike others, it is free and unlimited. The voice calls do have a computer sounding tone to the calls. It does not sound like your usual phone call, but it is definitely clear and usable. Using an app to make phone calls is much cheaper than making international phone calls, every time.

Luckily, my closest friends and family agreed to download the app and I was able to talk to them without any issues. Many of my other friends who I wanted to keep in touch with, I would text using imessage. Again, luckily most of my friends have iphones, but for those who didn’t I would facebook message and it was never an issue. Texting this way versus an international phone plan is always cheaper as well. The international phone plans add up very quickly. I just had to change my habits and there was never a time I could not get in touch with someone I wanted to. When I arrived in Spain, I realized very quickly many people there use the app Whatsapp to communicate rather than send texts. I downloaded the app almost immediately and used to it to communicate with my host mom and friends. For both of these apps I used my american phone number to activate that way I could use my contacts from my american phone and add any new Spanish phone contacts.

I used these apps on my own phone. I have an iphone that is globally prepared, so all I had to do was purchase a Spanish sim card. You can look up a youtube video on how to change a sim card using a paperclip and it’s easy to do. I recommend this if the country you are going to is a place where many people have iphones, otherwise it may be a target for theft. In Spain iphones are not as popular as they are here, but they are not unusual to see. I purchased an Spanish sim card from realcom. The program that I went with had a special deal with them that allowed for no contract fee, month to month pay as you go and unlimited data. This means that my phone bills were almost $0 each month, because I was paying no contract fee and I was using just the apps with free unlimited data. The only issue I had with this was plan was that any data or calls or texts used outside of Spain cost more. So, when I traveled outside the country, which was usually just for a weekend. I tried to limit my usage to when I had free wifi. There is not as much free wifi other places as here in the USA, but it is possible to find places. There is an app for that too! Some of my friends only ever used wifi even in Spain. This is very doable if you only want to use your phone to check in every now and then. I only used my data if it was an emergency. Even in cities I had never been to before, directions were easy because I would download maps online first or pull up the city on google maps before I lost connection. The map is still active after you have lost connection, if you pull it up when you have data or wifi.

If you do use your own phone, be sure to have insurance on the phone in case anything happens. If this is something you are concerned about, maybe it is better to get a cheap phone that comes with a plan in which it is easy to replace while you are abroad. In the end, you just need to choose the best choice for you. Feel free to ask any questions. I know it can be a scary time, but it is way more exciting (I think).

In light of what has happened…

At a recent group interview, I was asked if I agree or disagree with the statement that “Racism still exists in America.” This is by all means a really controversial topic. I decided to agree with the statement, and used a recent event as an explanation.

When I think about the term racism, I think about discrimination. To me discrimination isn’t just based on color, it could be about sex, gender, faith, and/or religion. Recently, in North Carolina, three Muslim students, in their early 20s, were shot in the head in their own house by their neighbor, a white male. Later on, articles were saying that there was a dispute between them about a parking space. But I just couldn’t understand how such a minor topic could lead the man to take three innocent lives.

All three of them were students, who had bright futures a head of them. Two of them were in dental school, trying to raise funds to go to Syria and treat little kids that had dental problems. A couple days later, the sister of one of the deceased came on TV and told everyone that the three students were active volunteers in their community, and that they lived to help others.

In my opinion, everyone has the right to live, no matter what his/her race, religion, ethnicity, or gender is. I mean, we are all human. Just because someone has a hijab on, or their skin color is dark, doesn’t mean they are automatically terrorists. In our society, we tend to stereotype a certain population based on the actions of others. Just because someone may not look like you doesn’t mean you are superior than them and should therefore kill them. In my opinion everyone is equal, and has the potential to great things for the world, and no one has the right to take this away.

One of the many things that I like about UMBC, is the diverse population of students on campus. When you walk into a classroom, or commons, you will see a variety of students from many different countries, race, and religions. Furthermore, there are a lot of cultural and religious clubs and organizations on campus, and they are all very inclusive. Currently, I am part of the Muslim Student Association, and the Bengali Student Counsel. Both of these clubs throw events that all students can participate in, and they don’t discriminate based on a student’s background.

Its truly an extraordinary experience being part of such a diverse population of students, where one can learn about different race, culture, and religion, and at the same time live and work in peace with everyone.

Picture of the three students that were killed. May their souls rest in peace.

Also, please help out their Syrian Dental Fund so their goal of helping the Syrian children can be accomplished. Link: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/syrian-dental-relief/206249. Thanks!

Learning How To Swim: A Queen’s Guide

My name is Kiara Alexander and I am the assistant station manager for WMBC, UMBC’s freeform radio station.You may know me from my (kind of) unsettling bubbliness towards life, soccer, Christmas and my extreme, but totally justified, adoration of Mr. Bublé. And even if you don’t know me, that’s how I know myself.

I’m kind of old when it comes to being a young person and since I could remember I have seen problems as challenges. And not even in the challenging way when you’re like “Aww man. I am so challenged and I wanna quit” but more in the, “I’m Ash Ketchum and these (Pokémon battles) challenges are my destiny”. So imagine my surprise when I found my life unfolding in a manner very different from Ash’s life. I am currently in between two states: stressed and very stressed. But do not fear for I am learning, as the title suggests, how to swim in this ocean of stress(with the help of Squirtle and other fictional characters).

squirtle

HOW TO SWIM: (figuratively.) (I don’t know how to actually swim.)

  1. Look at the Stress ocean. Scoff at the Stress ocean
  2. Take a deep breath. Take several deep breaths
  3. Remember that people value your existence and want you to do well
  4. Make a to-do list. Really congratulate yourself when you complete something. It’s really cool that you did that one thing you planned to do!
  5. Cry to your mom. I love doing this and I recommend crying to anyone in your life who will see your tears and tell you how to fix your life.
  6. Get a hobby that you maintain. For example my main hobby right now is envisioning how my life would be if I met Kendrick Lamar. You may not see it as a hobby but for the amount of time I spend on it, I gotta call it something.
  7. Vent to your friends. Say, “Hey friend, I’m going through the struggle”. Hopefully your friend will say,”Sorry friend. Stay strong”.
  8. The most important of all: Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. I love WMBC. I love doing radio. I love showing up to meetings and being our station manager’s hype man. I love hyping people up. So no matter how stressed I become I remember why I decided to run for an officer position.
  9. Start swimming in that Stress ocean and continue on towards Living My Life Like It’s Golden shore

Stay pimpin,

-Kiara

In my last 4 years…

I recently had the opportunity to read the application essay I submitted when I applied to UMBC. I was embarrassed for myself. Now, you need to understand when I started college Twitter and Instagram had not become ‘a thing’. A lot has changed since I started college for myself and for the world.

Now, I am in my senior year of college, about to turn 22 and I look back on my Freshmen year as a very different person. Not for worse, I think, but for better. In my four years here I have grown and learned so much and realized sometimes I don’t know anything at all. Being at this stage in my life sometimes makes me feel so old, and at other times so young. So I’ve decided to make a list of things that have happened to me during my 4 years of college that are shared experiences with many other seniors I know. These things may or may not happen to you in college, but if they do this is a good reminder that you are not alone.

In my last 4 years at UMBC I have…

walked into the wrong classroom

made the dean’s list

sat next to someone in class who turned out to be a really good friend

been a part of a student organization that is very dear to my heart

been a part of a student organization that another person finds ‘lame’

waved hello to people I don’t remember meeting, but pretended I remembered meeting them anyway

been in a group project that went horribly wrong

debated as a class assignment and kicked butt

eaten lunch alone

gone to many free pizza dinner events with friends

tried registering for a class and was not successful

used my student discount a lot

studied abroad

failed a test

All of these things have been a part of my college experience, for better or for worse, but definitely have shaped me into the person I am right now. All of these things, I tried to laugh about and hope you do too (even the failed test, you gotta remember what’s most important in life). I just received an 90% on my first quiz of my last semester at University, and it was a really difficult quiz that most people did not do so well. I’m feeling pretty good right now about this semester, but I know mistakes can happen at any time and my schooling is not over yet! Bring it on.

Valentine’s Day

Since Valentine’s Day has come to an end, and everyone is done indulging in chocolates, candle lit dinners, and romantic conversations, I just thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts.

Today, I have seen various things, that have made me reevaluate Valentine’s Day. The first situation that I saw was this woman buying flowers for herself. As she approached my register at work, she was telling me that I should buy flowers and a gift for myself. Then I started to think “Okay. That might not be a bad idea after all.” Even though I didn’t end up buying anything for myself, I learned that Valentine’s day could be about loving yourself. If you don’t love your self, then you won’t be able to love the world around you. Only when you believe in yourself, and keep yourself happy, will you be able to keep others happy.

The second situation I saw was one of my coworkers buy chocolates. I asked her who her valentine was, and she said it was for her mother. I started to think once again. Valentine’s day doesn’t have to be about a romantic relation where only couples are allowed to celebrate, instead Valentine’s day could be about any loving relationships in our lives. We can use this day to remind our family and friends how much we love them, and how much they mean to us.

Society portrays Valentine’s Day as something only individuals in relationships can celebrate. Also, society has made it so significant others have to get expensive gifts for each other, or else things might go wrong. People stress about Valentine’s Day so much that they forget about the most important thing on this day, and that’s love.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about fancy presents, or eating at expensive restaurants, it can just be a simple gesture or word of kindness, appreciation, and love. For example, you could go to your parents, or your siblings and tell them that you love them and will always be there for them. Also, you could gather up with a few of your friends and enjoy a nice movie. Even though you could do that on a normal day, having a shared experience on a day to commemorate love, makes it all the more special. Furthermore, for those of you who are in a relationship, you guys could chose to do something new and out of the ordinary, like bake together.It will be enjoyable as well as spice up your relationship.

On another thought, how cool would it be to go up to a random homeless person on the street, give them some chocolate, and let them know that there is someone out there that loves them for who they are and all that they have done and do. Wouldn’t that be really amazing? Maybe, I should do that next time?!

Anyways, the point of this post is to say that please don’t stress about Valentine’s Day, because it is (in all honesty) a normal day, where you can enjoy normal experiences with your loved ones. And remember, experiences create memories, and memories last for ever!

Nonetheless, HAPPY LATE VALENTINE’S DAY and I hope everyone had a blast!!

FINAL FOUR BABY

For the first time EVER, a team from UMBC has made it to the Final Four of a Division 1 NCAA tournament!! The men’s soccer team beat Creighton last week in penalty kicks (at Creighton) to move on to the NCAA semifinals. The game was amazing – it ended in a 0-0 tie before penalty kicks, but both teams had chances to score. UMBC managed to hang on, however, and now the soccer team going to Cary, North Carolina to face the University of Virginia.

Before facing Creighton, UMBC beat three other ranked teams in the tournament. In the first round, they beat Wake Forest, also in penalty kicks. The second round game is the one I remember the best, because we beat that school from College Park, at College Park! We won 1-0, and after the game was over, we all stormed the field. So far, that’s been the highlight of this tournament for me. The next weekend, we also beat Louisville, at Louisville, 1-0, behind an early penalty kick.

UMBC's men's soccer team, on their way to the NCAA Final Four!

UMBC’s men’s soccer team, on their way to the NCAA Final Four!

After all this, the season is down to one game. The University of Virginia is one of the top college soccer teams in the nation, but we’ve beaten top teams before. There are many viewing parties throughout campus, and I’m going to watch the game on a big screen at the Commons. If we win and make it to the final, my friend Nick and I are driving five hours to North Carolina to watch the final on Sunday afternoon. I can’t wait to cheer my team on tonight, and hopefully we can bring a trophy back home to UMBC!

A Queen’s Guide to the Season Finale of Fall 2014

It’s study day here at UMBC, which means I was able to find an excellent parking space during peak parking hours because a lot of other commuters stayed home. I am currently in a study room in the library with headphones on to signal to my friends the message, “Do no engage in conversation with me”. I am stressed out, but this I think is good stress because it’s the type of stress that brings motivation and hopefully excellence (even if it doesn’t feel like it right now). I am a tad sleepy but I know that in two weeks I can sleep all I want. So here it is, without further ado, A Queen’s Guide to finals.

How To Get Through Finals:

Step 1: Make a to-do list. Like I put this post on my to do list and now I am to-doing it.

Step 2: Surround yourself with only bad (as in good) friends. Remember that one line from that one Iggy Azalea song, “You should want a bad gal like this”. She’s not lying, you should. These bad (as in good) friends will cheer you up when you’re down and when you see them studying, it makes you want to study too.

Step 3: Stay away from bad (as in bad) friends. These friends will suggest a game of scattergories instead of suggesting you go over that study guide one more time. This friend is bad.

Step 4: Sit down and get comfy. You going be in your study place for a while. Kick off your shoes, bring a blanket.

Step 5: Stay away from distracting websites. Like buzzfeed or…wordpress.

Step 6: Stay strong. I say this daily and it counts the most during finals week. Remember that all of this will be over soon.

That’s all I got. Hope you do well. See ya later!

Stress Free Zone

This is my fifth semester at UMBC, which means my fifth finals season. However, this is the first time that I’ve gone to the stress free zone in the Commons. Strange, huh?

Normally on study day I’m huddled in my room, refusing to talk to anyone and trying to study. However, this is the first year that I’m not living on campus, which means that I’m living in the Student Involvement Center for the next week.

As a side note, I work in Student Life as the Service and Volunteerism Intern so it’s not strange that I’m living in the Student Involvement Center.

As I was walking to the office, I thought I’d stop by the Stress Free Zone for the first time. Although it might seem like an easy event, it’s nice to grab a juice box and some fruit snacks before I go back to studying vigorous.

Therefore, stop by the Stress Free Zone today! Grab something to eat and maybe a coloring book, and then go back to the finals struggle.

My friend just texted me…

My friend just texted me that she is “leaving [her] casa”. This is a common text message I receive from her, and it’s an important one too! Please let me explain to you why. She does not have any data or phone service here in Spain. She strictly uses wifi at her house and in other free places. When we make plans to meet at a certain place and at a certain time, it is important to be at that certain place on time. If no one sticks to the plan, then there is the possibility of confusion, and people getting lost, or something worse. She sends me a text when we have plans to meet to let me know she is leaving her house, and to expect her at a certain time. Once she leaves her house, there will be no way for me to be in contact with her. This is a habit I practice quite often and have only now realized it something I have become accustomed to.

There are many small things I have become accustomed to here in Spain – everything from carrying my own toilet paper around, to texts, to Spanish greetings, to the lifestyle. Most people discuss the culture shock that happens when going abroad, but there is also a kind of culture shock I expect when returning home to the states. I will have to adapt again, but it is a skill that I believe is good not only for my life, but for my career as well.