Skip to Main Content

Retriever Alumni Profiles

Interested in studying abroad? UMBC students know how important it is to connect with people who share a similar background or identity, who can offer thoughts and advice on how to make the most out of studying abroad. With this in mind, several have identified themselves as first-generation college students, LGBTQ+, people of color, people with disabilities, and students who are traveling outside of the U.S. for the first time. Here are their profiles:

 

Sandra Azobi: student of color
Anne Fuqua: first-generation
Colin Hrenko: first-generation, first time outside the U.S., LGBTQ+
Ashley Kellogg: first-generation, first time outside the U.S.
Pat Michael: LGBTQ+, student with a disability
Laura Newman: student with a disability
Olubusola Opesanmi: student of color
Romi Pal: student of color
Jacob Schubbe: first time outside the U.S.
Pooja Singh: student of color, first-generation
Miriam Newman-Marshall: student of color, student with a disability

 

Alumni by College:

 

Meet Alyssah Dewing

Track: Modern Languages and Linguistics – Spanish

Studied abroad with Sol Education Abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the Summer of 2017

Why did you decide to study abroad? I love traveling and I wanted to immerse myself completely in Spanish culture.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? More emphasis on exploring the city and enjoying our adventure rather than hours of homework every night and endless amounts of papers. The classes were also more interactive with weekly field trips to museums and sites around the city.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? It was amazing how comfortable I felt in another country. Other than the language spoken, it felt like just another big city you might find in the US.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? People would take one look at me and immediately start speaking to me in English so I would answer back in Spanish every time.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Live in the moment and go on as many adventures as you can while you’re studying abroad.

Meet Anna Kuligowski

Tracks: Global Studies and Economics

Studied Abroad at Swansea University in Wales, United Kingdom in the Spring of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? It was a requirement for my degree and it was always a goal of mine additionally.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? There was only one paper and one exam, lecture was usually only 1 day a week with a discussion for 50 minutes.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? The comfort that I felt going anywhere by myself. Having so many opportunities to go outside and use Public transportation. Also the ability to go out almost every day of the week.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Just finding the best deal for my plane ticket.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Just to go with an open mind and don’t be afraid to do things by yourself.

 

 

Meet Anne Fuqua

Track: Graphic Design major, Japanese minor

Studied Abroad at J.F. Oberlin University in Tokyo, Japan in the Spring of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? To learn the language and culture

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? There was less homework and more expectation to just study on your own time the material from class. I was a more relaxed class environment in some ways and more strict in others.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? The lifelong friends I made over there. I did not expect to get close to so many people from so many different places in the USA and other countries and form such a bond.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Money difficulties

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? My advice is even if you do not have a vast skill in the language still go to that country because your language will improve a lot just from being there and experiencing life there. Do be scared to speak what you know of the language even if it’s not much.Many places are so happy to just hear you try and speak their language even if it is not perfect. Introduce yourself to everyone no matter who they are or where they are from because by doing so you will have friends from all over who you will share a bond with like no other. The last piece of advice is just to explore off the beaten path away from the more touristy areas(as long as its safe) and see places, not on the tour guide map. You will see the country in a whole new light.

Meet Ashley Kellogg

Track: Asian Studies

Studied abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea in the Fall of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? I’ve always wanted to travel outside of the country and since I’m learning Korean, I wanted to travel to Korea to get a more immersive experience.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? Honestly, I wished they were less separated; I spent most of my time in classes with other foreigners instead of people who were native to the country. Otherwise, the classroom experience wasn’t that different.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? How absolutely easy it is to get around places; the public transportation is amazing in Korea! Also how cheap the food is and how there is always something to do for an affordable price.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Money was a big one for me. Money and my own self-esteem.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Stay determined, stay open minded, and put the work in! You’ll have to leave your comfort zone and you’ll want to join clubs to make as many friends as possible. Don’t stay in your dorm the whole time; get out and see what’s out there!

 

Meet Colin Hrenko

Tracks: Spanish, Arabic, Secondary Education

Studied abroad with API in Cádiz, Spain in the Fall of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? I am studying two languages and knew that I would need to have an experience in a country where one of them is spoken in order to reach the level of language that I needed.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? The classes were more lecture-based and attendance was not as heavily stressed. Also, online resources were well-utilized but not essential to the courses.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? I was surprised by the lengths that professors and even other students will go to help foreign students.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? This was my first time being outside of the U.S. and my first time traveling alone. I have also been working towards affording my experiences abroad, as my high school successes were what ultimately resulted in the UMBC scholarship that allowed me to afford this time.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? I advise students to be prepared for a variety of situations and people. There will be people who are more than happy to help you when you are lost and there will be people who do not want to speak to you at all. There will be people who are happy to let you practice their language with you and there will be people who will only want to practice their English. People everywhere are generally good, but you need to be prepared for all types of situations.

 

Meet Delaney Debinski

Received a UMBC Study Abroad Ambassador Scholarship. Read all about her experience in her Abroad Blog.

Tracks: Theatre Studies and Psychology Major

Studied Abroad on an ISEP Exchange in Sydney, Australia in the Fall of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? I was ready to get out of my normal environment and routine by exploring what else the world has to offer. Studying abroad was an ideal way to continue with my education and my passion for travel. I think seeing the world can teach more than the traditional classroom, and seeing the world while studying in a classroom setting abroad was a perfect opportunity.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? Classes abroad were focused less on grades and more on widening your perspective. All of my units were once a week for about an hour, and they were all conversation and interaction based. I felt like the learning environment abroad was much more positive and independent-work focused.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? I was shocked to hear that many of my international friends had studied abroad multiple times before their semester in Australia, and traveled around the globe. Plus, the type of studying was so independent and learning based- not grade based. Its most surprising how different the traditional American college experience is from the college experience of other international students.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? I had to break the expectation of staying put by stepping outside my comfort zone and the comfort zone of others to make this experience possible.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? I’d recommend that every student find a way to study abroad. It is more accessible than it may be perceived, and it is not an opportunity that should be passed up.

 

Meet Gail Rye

Track: Modern Languages and Linguistics

Studied Abroad at Université Laval Foreign Language Education in Québec, Canada in the Summers of 2017 and 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? To improve my French language skills

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? They focused more on grammar than concepts

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? My ability to communicate in French

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Finding a way to afford it, being able to take off work, and being away from my fiance for 5 weeks

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Do not be afraid to do it! Go out and enjoy your time, but remember to be safe and not engage in dangerous behaviors or activities. Thanks the people who house you if you stay with a host family.

 

Meet Grace Cole

Received Honors Special Session Scholarship

Track: Biology

Studied Abroad on a UMBC Faculty-Led Program in Barranquilla, Colombia in the Summer of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? I wanted to develop some independence

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? They were much more relaxed and focused on learning as opposed to testing

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? How comfortable I was in a completely different life.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Money. Worries about safety.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Study abroad or out of your comfort zone in any way. If this specific opportunity doesn’t make sense, find one that does, because this experience was great. I definitely think that this was not only fun, but formative for me as a person.

 

Meet Ilona Nakshun

Track: Modern Languages & Languages with Spanish Focus

Studied abroad with AIFS Buenos Aires, Argentina in the Spring of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? The reason I wanted to study abroad was because I wanted to experience the culture of a Spanish-speaking country in order to use the language in a specific context. In general, I wanted to improve my speaking skills in normal everyday life and in an academic setting. Since I chose not to live with a host family and I don’t live on campus at UMBC, I wanted to become more independent and take care of myself in day to day life. That’s why I chose to live in a residence hall with other students.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? No blackboard or anything similar. Work given put in class and work handed in during class. Teachers don’t have office hours. Met a teacher in the cafeteria of the school when I had a private meeting with her.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? Different aspects of the culture. Learning the dialect of Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires and the slang that comes with it.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Learning to understand their dialect and using their words for certain things sometimes. Overcome people’s stereotypes and expectations of Americans and Russians as well (I was born in Russia).

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Be open-minded and put yourself out there to meet new people and do well in school. But it’s important to find a balance between school, contacting friends/family back home, and exploring your new city.

 

Meet Jacob Schubbe

Track: Mechanical Engineering

Studied Abroad on an UMBC Exchange in Galway, Ireland in the Fall of 2017

Why did you decide to study abroad? A majority of the reason I wanted to study abroad stemmed from learning Russian during college and by being exposed to Russian culture, I wanted to experience more culture. It made me realize that there was so much more in life to experience and so I wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone. Because it was the first time that I left the country, I acquired a new sense of independence and got to meet people from all over Europe, which allowed me to learn some about their country and traditions.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? Many of them were self-study. By this, I mean that they did not assign homework so they relied on you taking the initiative to pick practice problems or to find what you needed to read about. They also expected you to read for the next lecture before class, in order to learn some about it and then ask questions in class (although UMBC wants us to do that, many students do not do it). Also, at NUIG, all the final exams took place in large lecture halls with assigned seats and proctors. It was possible to have multiple exams in the same rooms as well. Some final exams even counted for 100% of your grade. This was rare it seemed, but one of my five courses was this grading scheme.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? My ignorance about foreign people, traditions, and way of life. The US is so fast paced and in Galway, things are much more relaxed during the day, but lots of commotion and fun at night. Also, life without a car is so different for me as I always drive places, but while abroad, I walked everywhere for everything, including walking for my groceries and carrying them all back. Of course, there were buses and cars for groceries, but I found walking was a more healthy option (and many people in Europe seem to be fit)

 

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Starting the application process. Going to the first study abroad session, Study Abroad 101. Learning that it can cost the same, or pretty similar, to study abroad (I spent extra by traveling, but other than that, the cost of a UMBC exchange is that same)

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Become engaged as much as possible. It will make your time there much more enjoyable. After you are done studying abroad, look immediately for the next opportunity to study abroad (look at the Fulbright program–I wasn’t told about this until after I returned so I missed the deadline for it and applied for the next cycle). Start saving money NOW. You will want as much as possible to eat out with friends or to travel. You’ll thank yourself later for saving money 🙂

 

Meet Laura Newman

Received a Political Science Study Award

Track:Political Science

Studied Abroad on a UMBC Faculty-Led Program in Barranquilla, Colombia in the Summer of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? Improve my Spanish

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? Many more environment- based studies and experiences.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? The food was not great. But, I found if I went out and bought snacks or dinner, I had a better experience and enjoyed what I ate.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Have fun!!! Don’t be afraid to practice a foreign language. The most important thing is to try.

 

Meet Lauryn Hoppers

Tracks: Computer Science and German

Studied Abroad with USAC in Lüneburg, Germany in the Fall of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? I started learning German in ninth grade and from that point, I had dreamed of going to Germany and living there and experiencing the culture. In 2015, I had the opportunity to do a 12 day tour of Germany, France and Spain, so I was able to get a glimpse of the culture. I continued learning German and declared it as my minor and even with an Engineering major, I made it work with my graduation plan no matter what hardships that would bring on (stepping away from my major for a semester). I also was able to watch and see how my sisters grew as people as they both studied abroad for a semester as well, and being the youngest, I wanted to grow up and follow in my sisters’ footsteps.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? My classes were really not that different from my classes at UMBC. My program was set up as an American Fall semester, so unfortunately we took courses as a group and were not integrated with the German students at the university. We had the same layout to our courses as we do here in the US. The main difference was how small the classes were – my largest class consisted of 8 students and my smallest consisted of 3.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? The most surprising part to my time abroad was how easy it was to travel with public transportation. I am not used to using public transportation, so was skeptical of how good the transportation would be. Using buses around the city was easy – being a smaller city, it took a matter of minutes to get from one place to another. Traveling to different parts of Germany or other countries was very quick and easy (most of the time) – just hop on a train and go.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? The barriers that I had to overcome to make this experience a possibility, was making the decision to step away from my major for a semester. I knew it would potentially set me back in the long run, since with a Computer Science major, continuous usage of the learned skills and building upon them helps to drive your knowledge. I also knew that it would also create tough and not so easy semesters in the future. I completed my minor and more GEPs, two types of classes that gave me a small break from my computer science courses during a regular semester at UMBC. Another barrier that I had to overcome was being far from home. I love being close to home so I can see my family. I chose UMBC since it was close enough to home so that I could easily go home whenever I need to. It’s hard for me to be away from familiar things – friends, families, my job – but I also knew going abroad would help me to overcome this barrier in my life so that I can become more independent as a person and be able to move away from familiar things and enjoy myself.
What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Travel as much as you can and learn about the different cultures around the world. Yes, you are there to study, but make the most of your experience and don’t hang yourself up on your studies  – don’t let your courses hold you back from experiencing things.

Meet Lindsey Green

Tracks: History and Secondary Education

Studied Abroad with USAC in Palmerston North, New Zealand in the Fall of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? Study Abroad has always been a goal of mine because each country in the world has a distinct and rich history. Thus, going to New Zealand gave me an opportunity to study the unique culture and historic colonization of the island. I also wanted to study abroad because it gave me a chance to connect with and make friends with people from all over the world.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? The classes I took abroad were different from those at UMBC because they all had only a few assignments which meant that certain papers were worth 40% of my grade. This structure gave me more time to work on each assignment, but it made them all vital to my success. Additionally, many of my classes abroad were recorded and streamed to other campuses in New Zealand so we could hear and interact with people across the country.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? New Zealand is the most beautiful country that I have ever experienced. There are mountains covered in lush green grass for miles in any direction and the lakes and streams are a clear blue color. I was truly surprised by the majesty of the scenery and how the small population makes most places seem remote and open.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? The biggest barrier of course was having the money to finance the trip. The Humanities Scholarship helped with this, but it was still a matter of budgeting and handling all the money.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? One piece of advice I have is to start the process very early because you want to allow yourself enough time to thoroughly research the country you want to visit and fill out all applications meaningfully. Also, meet with your advisors as many times as you need because they are very good resources.

Meet Olubusola Opesanmi

Tracks: English Major, Biology Minor and Creative Writing Minor

Studied Abroad with the UMBC Faculty-led Wales Creative Writing Program in the Summer of 2017

Why did you decide to study abroad? I was looking for an experience that would couple learning with my love of travel. When this opportunity came along I knew I had to take it because it fit in perfectly with my major and minor.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? The classes were a lot smaller and more relaxed which allowed for a more honest, in-depth discussion.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? The immense amount of green. The landscape is wonderfully beautiful and lush.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Have fun. Take the opportunities that present themselves and use the experience as a means to learn about a different culture. But remember why you’re visiting and don’t forget that you’re a guest at the end of the day.

Meet Pat Michael

Track: Global Studies and Math majors, Computer science minor

Studied abroad on the ISA Barranquilla Program in Colombia in the Spring of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? I wanted to have a cross cultural educational experience and also learn about a new culture.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? They did not start on time and were much more flexible. Also most of them were taught in Spanish.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? The amount of differences there are in the culture

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Adapting to cultural norms and dealing with conflict.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students?  Be flexible, be open to new things, and explore

 

Meet Romi Pal

Track: Global Studies major and Political Science minor

Studied Abroad in London in the Spring of 2018 at the American Institute for Foreign Study

Why did you decide to study abroad? I decided to study abroad because I wanted to experience how the rest of the world views international issues, as opposed to how the United States views them. The United States is one of the most powerful countries that makes influential decisions that affect current events, so it is necessary to observe how other nations play a role in daily events. In addition, I wanted to go out of my comfort zone to adapt to a new culture and way of life.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? The number of people in my classes were much smaller. Because I attended an international university, many of my classmates were from all over the world and that provided an interesting perspective on the topics we discussed in my classes.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? How efficient and quick the transportation system is in London.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? I definitely battled homesickness, and missed my friends and family very much during the first week

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Go with an open mind, and take every opportunity to explore your new home! Also, traveling with new friends always brings amazing experiences.

 

 

 

Meet Sandra Azobi

Tracks: Global Studies and French Language

Studied abroad with USAC in Pau, France in the Fall of 2018

Why did you decide to study abroad? I decided to study abroad because it is a requirement I had to fulfill as a Global Studies major. Also, studying abroad gave me the opportunity to improve on my French language skills.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? My classes abroad required me to push myself because I had to speak in French in order to participate in class, which was a challenge for me because French is not my first language, but with time I improved on my speaking.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? I was surprised by how fun it could be to take classes in a different country while enjoying your time there. Also, I was surprised by how well I adjusted to everything.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? I had to step out of my comfort zone multiple times. It was challenging but it was worth it.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? I advice prospective study abroad students to be open-minded, to take lots of pictures, and to get ready to learn and try new things. It’s certainly a different experience that you will be glad you did.

 

Meet Pooja Singh

Received an SIT Study Abroad scholarship

Tracks: Biology and Global Studies

Studied Abroad with SIT in Delhi, India in the Fall of 2018.

Why did you decide to study abroad? I have studied abroad before and it was one of the most incredible experience I have ever had. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to have a more immersive learning experience both academically and personally. Also, even though I am well aware of Indian culture and language, I wanted to live in the culture and experience it first hand, and better understand local context and people’s perspective.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? I have done many research papers on India and Nepal about health and social issues while at UMBC. However, I think to be on the site and to be able to see and interact with the community that I was studying about allowed me to dig deeper and have a more practical learning experience. It allowed me to critically analyze and compare the learnings from my observations and the theoretical material.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? The disparity between what I had heard about India, my expectation, and the reality. Also, the realization of the fact that India is so diverse. I went to the desert and to the mountains, I met people who did not speak Hindi, but only the local languages.

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? The biggest barrier for me was the cost of the program. I am glad that I looked into scholarships and applied.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? To get out of the comfort zone and try to experience as much of the local culture and to connect with local people.

 

Meet Maggie Meesuk

Track: Biology

Studied abroad with ISA in Bangkok, Thailand in the Fall of 2018.

Why did you decide to study abroad? To be able to explore outside of the country for a few months

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? My classes did not have as much structure and they only had one or two tests or graded assignments. Many professors did not tell you what grade you received on the assignments and there was no way to check how you were standing in the class before the final.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? How safe and comfortable I felt in the area where I stayed and how easy it was to make friends with other Thai and international students

 

 

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? I had to get my academic advisors to sign off on courses I needed for my major which took three months and take a summer course to stay on track.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Talk to other people who have studied abroad before and take their advice and be organized through the whole time with knowing what classes you need, financial aid, scholarships and follow up with people.

Meet Miriam Newman-Marshall

Track: Asian Studies, Japanese minor

Studied abroad at J.F. Oberlin University in Tokyo, Japan in the Spring of 2017

Why did you decide to study abroad? I had a strong interest in Japanese language and culture. It was also required to graduate from my degree.

How were your classes abroad different from your classes at UMBC? They were held with international students which caused some language communication and cultural issues. Teaching style was very different as well.

What surprised you the most during your time abroad? How at home I came to feel in terms of going about my everyday life, ex. paying bills, grocery shopping, trash sorting, etc

What were the barriers you had to overcome to make this experience a possibility? Financial, I had to figure out a way to get there without breaking the bank, and how to pick my classes so I would graduate when I wanted to.

What advice do you have for prospective study abroad students? Keep an open mind! I did a lot of last-second unplanned traveling, which is completely out of my comfort zone, and those are by far the best experiences I had during my study abroad.