University of Maryland (UMD) is a public university located in Maryland, close to Washington D.C. With over 20,000 undergraduate students, the school offers many different degrees, adding up to a total of 127 undergraduate degrees. At UMD, sports is important to the school's culture; there are over 20 athletic sports teams, men's basketball being one of the most popular. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Maryland,_College_Park#Student_life)
A little background. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Why did you decide to attend this institution ?
Apart from the fact that this institution was among the best options I had for the major I initially decided to pursue, the institution is in very close proximity to my family members here in the US. My parents believed this was an extremely important attribute and they were right.
When you came here two/three months ago, what did you expect you'd have to do to form an environment that makes you feel at home, or at least comfortable?
Of course this place will never be like the homes we know back in our blessed country of Ethiopia. But for as long as we live here, we will have to feel comfortable and at home so one of the things I did to achieve that was to bring one of my greatest assets from my home, my books. Having my most loved books on the shelf is one thing that makes this place homelike for me. I also brought a lot of sentimental stuff although I left my most important ones at home. The other important thing is to create a little bit of mess. A place too orderly doesn’t feel like home to me. So, although not to an extent that would bother my dorm mate, I let my room not be too orderly. Setting up Viber is of course extremely important.
But above all, I believe that our eternal home is not any physical place but God himself. So I knew that for as long as I have his presence, I will be at home. So please bring along your bible and a heart ready to rely on God (cause trust me, you will need it). And communication with family through technology is good… but I also feel like what really unifies me and family is our unity through prayer. All in all, whatever sense of home I have in this place at the end of the day originates from the fact that I believe my home is God himself.
Looking back, what part of your expectations were met, and what were you surprised to find out you had to do?
I expected shock, sadness, loneliness and other crazy emotions, I got them all. My expectations were met VERY well. One thing that I did not expect but happened is my high school friends still remaining to be a very important part of my life (yeah, partly cause I am anti-social and don’t have very many friends here but also because I realized that they actually are among the best group of friends I might ever have). I have to say we have witnessed each other evolve into the people we are growing to be.
Another thing, liberal arts education is good but don’t fall too much for it. You still have to be prepared about what you want to do with your life. Although more flexible, the system is not entirely free.
How do you think your school's attributes, such as it's urban/rural quality, it's total size, it's curriculum requirements… etc have affected your comfort zone?
The fact that my school is extremely big (about 35000 students) has really helped in not pressuring me to socialize under pressured environments which I am really grateful for. I will socialize at my own (very slow) pace and no pressure is exerted. But it could also be kinda falsely comforting as you might end up not having many “friends” (or whatever you call those acquaintances you have in college) at the end of the semester (first hand experience.).
Anything else you want high school seniors choosing colleges to know about finding comfort in college, or about your college?
Know about your school in advance. Know there will be challenges like you have NEVER experienced before, so you could know tough things coming your way and not be overwhelmed. Stick with your family, you will realize that they are most probably the best human beings you will ever have contact with. Plan stuff (but you guys already know that right?Although this time you will have to plan better and actually follow what you plan). Stick with God, he is your ultimate rock.
Final words, come prepared guys. The summer before college when I was feeling all ambitious and all I read a few “How to survive college” articles and stuff and of all the (often important) advices I got there is one that was perhaps the best… it says “be prepared to feel completely unprepared”. This is very true of college. You will find that you are NOT prepared for anything. I think the greatest thing about college that I have seen so far in my experience and my friends’ is that you will revise your values in college… it REALLY puts life to perspective. The process is not comfortable and is very rough. But I think it is VERY worth it. Above all, stick with God.