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Coming Home and Moving On from a Study Abroad Experience

by Mariah Proctor

I arrived back in the U.S. on a Friday and the following Monday was the first day of a whole new semester of classes. One second, I was walking around Paris and soaking up the romance of the city. The next? I’m back with the same pack of people as always, as though the summer never happened. I love my friends in college and I love the life I’ve created for myself, but studying abroad is a life apart and coming back to a reality that seems unchanged when you feel transformed can be taxing.

What’s worse than feeling ever single one of the 5,000 miles between the place you just fell in love with and the place you’ve come back to is that the general public (even good friends) tend to turn off when you start a sentence with “When I was in Europe...” As memories that now boast an additional silver lining spill from your lips, you will undoubtedly be met with rolled eyes and pantomimed hair flipping. It does sound pretty snooty to talk about your summer in [fill in the exotic blank] but conversation and connection with people is built up on sharing ideas and experiences. Just because your experiences involved gelato and fine art doesn’t mean their jealousy or discouraged expressions should get you down on yourself!

At points through the many months of studying abroad, you feel acutely homesick for all things familiar and for people who love you. But that old adage that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is true and the second you’re home, you’ll want to be back. My advice? Don’t let yourself live in a constant state of yearning for what you can’t have, don’t resent your friends for not understanding and be so grateful for all the experiences you’ve had and make that new, stronger, more cultured you the driving force for the exciting next step – whatever it may be.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

by Mariah Proctor

A good study abroad program is designed to seamlessly integrate the graded classes into the active, living experience so that the two aspects don’t find themselves in conflict. That is the hope but, as my roommate will tell you through frustrated tears, that is not always the way it goes down.

You’ve got to feel for the professors – they are often experts on the place you are visiting and they look into the blank, ignorant and often not properly appreciative eyes of their students and want to tell you everything there is to know to make you see what they see. Your average student, however, cannot synthesize all of that new information while simultaneously managing a new climate, new customs and money that, it turns out, is not Monopoly money and actually does deplete your savings as you spend it. All of this while trying to have a completely carefree, time-of-your-life, otherworldly good time? It can’t be done.

My advice is to forget the classes. Don’t misinterpret my meaning: Be the person who goes to class, is present in body and mind, takes in everything they can, inhales knowledge the way they inhale gelato and fancy pasta outside of class. It truly will add depth to the place. If you’re the person who is a perfect GPA, point-pinching, anxiety-ridden, stress cadet that thinks that excelling in the classroom will make you excellent as a person, studying abroad will break you.

Do as well as you can and keep up on your classwork but if you have to choose between an evening in studying or going to the opening event of the world’s largest international dance festival downtown, choose the dancing. If you can either finish some back reading for class or go to a procession celebrating Corpus Christi, don’t let a textbook literally rain on your parade. I know it will be hard but please when you prioritize, remember not to let your schooling get in the way of your education.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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A Major Decision

Choosing Your Field of Study in Three Easy Steps

May 20, 2011

A Major Decision

by Mariah Proctor

So I’m sitting there, my entire head engulfed in paste so that they can make a plaster replica of my face for use in molding masks even when I’m not on campus for the summer. It was while sitting there – staving off bouts of panic and claustrophobia and completely unable to move – that I had another “what am I doing with my college career?” moment. These moments happen fairly often (like when a teacher requires us to roll down a grassy hill or play scream tag) that I take a step back and realize what unusual learning experiences my tuition money gets me.

Majoring in theatre was a no-brainer for me because in no other field have I ever felt more alive, more myself or more enthused by the idea of attending classes. I know, however, that the choice isn’t quite so obvious for others, so have a couple of pieces of advice to help in the choosing:

  • If you’re starting from scratch, get a copy of your university’s course catalog and just let your eyes scroll down the list and see where they naturally linger. There are probably a few areas of study that already appeal to you; get the course requirement sheets for those majors and when you’re getting an idea of the shape of your college career, be sensitive to what gets you excited.
  • Even majors that have glamorous-sounding names can be made up of classes that are awful fillers and not at all what you thought they’d be. Ask students in those majors how they like them and what they really think they’re learning.
  • Take note of what you think about when you aren’t thinking about anything. Chances are, there’s a major for whatever it is that occupies your unsupervised thoughts and that’s the one you should go for.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.

My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.

The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!

There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.

If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Spring Semester Woes...and Wows

by Mariah Proctor

This is my third year at BYU and I’ve never stayed on campus for a spring semester before now. I have, however, been at a wedding reception after the couple has gone away and the festivities are dying down and I can now tell you the experience is comparable.

The campus runs as before, only at half-mast as far as sheer volume of people...but I kind of like it. Taking class once the hustle of the fall and winter semesters has ended is sort of like an academically-inclined summer camp. When the weather cooperates, I forget I’m taking classes altogether.

Now, here comes the but: trying to cram in nine college credits in six weeks makes for very, very long classes. Sitting for long periods of time has never been a particular trial for me, but when you’re sitting in a lecture, no matter how interesting it is, for longer than you sat through the third “Lord of the Rings” movie, it starts to get tough. You pick up habits you never indulged before; suddenly you’re a knuckle-cracking, leg-shaking doodler with a twitch and you don’t know how you got this way. This condition is aggravated by the sunshine you know is shining outside, the swimming pools you know are getting ready to open and the smell of flowers on the brink of full bloom.

That said, now that attending college has taught me my own capability for a whole new level of productivity, those lazy summer days I used to welcome in high school are a bit torturous. Long, idle hours when I could be getting some of those generals out of the way faster and cheaper than I could during the traditional school year is just time wasting away. Ultimately, despite its struggles, I recommend this post-party wedding reception we call spring semester. It’s a collegiate freebie...try it!

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Mariah Proctor

by Mariah Proctor

In my senior year of high school with the decision of where to go to university pressing, I informed my musical theatre teacher that I had been accepted to Brigham Young University. He smirked at me and said “I hope you’re not going there just for religion.” My religious affiliation is certainly not the only reason that I choose BYU, but the element of the experience – being in an environment with people that share your values and standards – cannot be ignored.

Jibing with your university’s culture and atmosphere are underestimated parts of the choose-the-location-for-the-next-chapter-of-your-life process and though moving to Provo, Utah from Washington, D.C. came with no shortage of culture shock, I think I’ve found a place for myself here.

That place includes a study of theatre and German, both of which make me laugh every time I tell someone about them because neither will provide me with any guarantees after college. But life has no guarantees so why not embrace passion over practicality? The business of creation (and I believe that’s what theatre is) puts you constantly in a position of vulnerability, but the emotional growth and most of all the empathy you develop is unparalleled by any other area of study.

The high school me would laugh (or cry) if she knew that I was pursuing a degree in German. I hated my high school German classes, but I love that studying a new language helps you to appreciate and understand your own language better and see that there is more than one lens through which to perceive the world. I’m headed to Vienna this summer for my third study abroad and my first chance to put my language to practice.

I have expensive taste in experience and Scholarships.com has helped me to take my education around the world. Come with me!


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Federal Incentives for Aid

September 9, 2013

Federal Incentives for Aid

by Mike Sheffey

Recently, the federal government came out with a proposed plan to encourage academic excellence in college and linking it to federal aid.

Linking financial aid to academic performance? Wasn’t this already a thing? I mean, really? I completely understand where they’re coming from – I can’t slip below a 3.0 or I risk losing scholarships – and would have thought the federal government would be on a similar page. OK, so maybe that’s a bit harsh and I’m not saying that the minimum GPA would have to be a 3.0 but having some minimums on grading is something I fully support the federal government doing. I mean, if they view college students as the future, then they are investing in America’s future...and they’re probably going to want to emerge at the other end having viewed that investment as a smart idea. I know I’ve seen my fair share of people getting by without incentive to succeed but if your money and future were on the line, you’d see drastically different outcomes. And in the long run, I think we’d appreciate it: Better grades = better GPA = better skills = better jobs. (Or at least in simple terms, that’s how it would go.)

There is, however, the other side of the argument: In the same way that I believe high schools are pushed to be teaching to a test and not to the things we really need to learn (let alone the fact that ALL PEOPLE learn differently but standardized testing pushes a one-way system), I believe a federal system for weighing academic merit could descend into standardized tests for college professors. To be able to hold all college students to federal standards, the government would have to, right? THAT I cannot agree with.

The proposed plan also proposes a heavier focus on online classes. You can read my previous post about online textbooks but would a federal push for online classes devalue the classroom? All I know is that I’d need more details before they could sell me on some of this. But allocating more money to those doing well in school and less or none to those who don’t take it seriously or do well? I can see that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a 2.5 GPA or anything like that, but if you have a 0.5 and you are receiving federal aid, that’s a problem.

What do you think about the proposed federal plan?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Don’t Let Cost Dictate Your College Choice

by Mike Sheffey

Choosing your major or school based solely on price is wrong. There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my disagreement with this logic, but I will try.

First and foremost, college students (and people in general) will fail at things they don’t care about or aren’t excited about. If people choose their school or major based on price, they will likely not be going to the place they want to go or studying what they want to study. That’s not really going to push them to succeed: College costs limit choices and ignores the idea that there are scholarships and other financial aid out there. If you qualify academically for a school, money should not (but unfortunately can) matter.

Another part of this mentality is too much parental control. Guess what, students? You’re adults now. You’re attending college and working on a presence in the real world – don’t let your parents be that invisible hand that pushes you a direction that you don’t want to go. If you choose a major or school they weren’t pushing you to go to, I’m sure your parents will get over it eventually. (If not, too bad: It’s your life.)

If money is the deciding factor, think of this: Your interests are cheapest. Why? Because if you attend school elsewhere or don't major in your preferred field, you won’t be happy and won’t do as well in classes. That could lead to not graduating on time and thus, more money spent. Even if you graduate, give it a few years and you’ll realize that wasn’t what you wanted and going back to school is not cheap. If you follow your interests from the start, you save the money spent on more school or another school. Also, look into the scholarship opportunities you qualify for because I guarantee there are more out there than you think.

My advice? Act on passion and interest, not what others tell you. The minute that money starts steering your life is the minute you risk your future. If you choose a major that you love at a school you love, you won’t regret it.

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Majoring in a Foreign Language Yields Lifelong Benefits

by Mike Sheffey

As my bio states, I am a Spanish major...and I love it! If you’re considering majoring in a foreign language, here are some helpful tips:

  • It’s time intensive. Foreign languages are about memorizing and practice, practice, practice. If you aren’t willing to put in time – and a lot of it – this may not be the path for you. Also, professors like to assign many small tasks with intermittent bigger ones so if you’re one to only focus on the big pictures, you’ll be challenged with what you might think is ‘busy work’. (It’s not, though...it’s crazy useful.)
  • You should study abroad. I highly recommend a language-intensive study abroad for anyone majoring in a foreign language. (Side note: Wofford’s Foreign Language Department is now called Modern Languages because “Foreign” was too alienating and encouraged a cultural divide. Just some food for thought...) I loved studying in Chile for a semester and knowing Spanish definitely helped. Also, studying abroad is essentially required to major in another language at many colleges and universities: I know Wofford’s program helped me tremendously and it also wound up being cheaper than a semester on campus!
  • It’s incredibly helpful in life. I know that because I’m bilingual, I’ll be more desired in the job market (some jobs more than others), but it also helps with learning other languages. Similar to computer languages, once you know one, the others become easier to learn.
  • It’s a one-stop shop. Language courses cover history, humanities, public speaking, writing, team-based work as well as the actual language you are learning. Hate talking in front of crowds? Work on that but also present in another language. Not the best in research? Now work on writing a huge thesis in Spanish (at least I did when in Chile). Overall, the language aspect is the bare minimum of what you learn or accomplish. Being a foreign language major makes you into a well-rounded, practiced individual with skills that many graduates won’t get from other majors.
  • It broadens your world view. As a foreign language major, you learn very quickly that the United States isn’t everything and that the world needs its diversity and cultural mix to work and function. Foreign language majors have wider scopes than most people and a leg up on the competition in all aspects of life because they can view problems with more open minds and approach challenges from different angles.

So I urge you to consider a major (or even a minor) in another language. You won’t regret it: They’re easy to double major with and you’ll emerge a better person!

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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Taking Summer Courses at a School Other Than the One You Attend

by Mike Sheffey

I took AP Statistics in high school and I attend Wofford College full-time during the traditional school year. This summer, however, I’ve been taking statistics at UNCG...so what gives? Well, Wofford would only accept AP scores of 4 or higher and I received a 3 and after my late declaration of comp-sci as a major, I figured out that I actually need it. So off to summer school I went – at a university I wasn’t familiar with and with professors I didn’t know and students who were strangers, no less – but I’m actually thrilled that I had the opportunity to study at another institution, albeit only for a summer course.

UNCG was beautiful and way different than Wofford. And the class was organized, taught and tested on completely differently. The textbook was all online – something I’d never experienced at my main college – but I loved it: All of the resources, tables and info were in one place and there was great statistical software built right in! But having it all online meant that the class was entirely learn-for-yourself, at your own pace, in your own time (which I had NONE of). It was different but I appreciated the class and continuing my coursework over the summer actually kept me grounded and on top of things I was involved with. Even a) planning a two-day music festival with friends b) working a full-time management position at my pool and c) applying for another internship (stay tuned for another post) didn’t keep me from passing!

It was rough with the mix of everything else I was involved with but my experience in the class itself was pretty positive. So if you’re considering taking classes at another institution during the summer or over break, remember that it won't be bad...it will just be different. It will cause you to form better and varying study habits that will most likely help you in the future and having that structured schedule in the summer will actually help in everything else you’re involved with as well. Embrace the opportunity!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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