Student Success Stories - Maja Bedak
International Affairs major with a concentration in political science and minors in economics and anthropology
I was a first year student with an undeclared major and many interests. UMaine’s array of majors and courses seemed like a good place to start. Also, I was offered a place in the Honors College and I would say that was one of the foremost reasons why I chose UMaine.
How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?
UMaine has many academic opportunities to offer. There are many students who are very passionate about what they study and when those passions integrate, the academic atmosphere is very exciting.
Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, and if so, who and how?
There were a number of times during my time at UMaine when I have needed someone to speak to about my future options and or academics. I often found myself seeking academic guidance from Professor Paul Holman and Professor James Warhola, who is currently my honors thesis adviser. I would say they are two professors whose opinions and thoughts I have valued and who have many times kindly offered their input and assisted me in making academic decisions.
Have you participated in any internships or co-ops related to your major? Tell us about them and how your experience in the classroom helped prepare you.
I worked as an intern at the Maine Department of Labor. My primary project was to determine how many new businesses there were in 2010 by using a specific criterion and then to draft a research brief. I also worked with data on 2010 business closings and completed an unfinished 2006 new business start project. Although the projects didn’t directly relate to my major, I learned a lot about managing and using data sets. I gained a deeper understanding of the dynamics of private sector employers in Maine, which closely relates to my economics minor. It was a great place for learning and obtaining professional work experience. Many times my internship experience felt like an extended class assignment at UMaine. I was assigned projects with deadlines and often used research and writing skills that I obtained at UMaine.
How might this experience influence your future plans?
The internship was a great learning experience. I improved my research and writing abilities, learning more about economics and gaining professional work experience that I will be able to take to any future career. I also took away valuable life lessons. I realized that an hour commute to a work place is too long and that spending a considerable amount of the workday in front of a computer is not something that I would prefer in a future career.
What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?
One of my favorite courses that I have taken so far is Economics 312: Energy, Law and Environment with Professor Sharon Tisher. The course was very engaging. We read a number of case studies concentrating on energy and environment, explored and analyzed renewable energy sources, and researched and developed our own ideas while concentrating on legal guidelines. We often presented our projects and thoughts to the class.
Have you gained any hands-on or real-world experience through your coursework? If so, tell us about it.
My third year, I decided to study abroad. I spent a semester at the American University in Cairo where I studied Arabic, and in my second semester I studied in Israel. While in Egypt, I witnessed the revolution and in Israel I lived on a kibbutz and volunteered at an Arab high school teaching English. I also had a very memorable monthlong homestay experience with a Palestinian family. During my time abroad, I had many opportunities to immerse myself in different cultures and to hear and learn from people with diverse point of views. It was my most memorable college experience.
What surprised you about UMaine?
It surprised me how many different academic departments, resources and student organizations were present on campus.
Describe UMaine in one word.
What do you do outside of class?
While on campus, I have a few jobs. I am a resident assistant in Patch Hall, I work at the Maine Bound Adventure Center, and I work as a telecounselor for New Student Programs. I have been involved with Alternative Spring Break, a student-led volunteer organization, for a couple of years. In Spring 2013, I am leading a disaster relief trip to New Orleans. When I have a chance to get off campus, I love to explore Maine’s beautiful outdoors.
Favorite place on campus?
The Oakes Room Café
Favorite place off campus?
The Orono Bog Boardwalk
How’s the food? What’s your favorite thing to eat on campus?
There are four dining halls and therefore many options for food choices. My favorite are the buffalo chicken wraps at York Dining Hall.
What is your favorite UMaine tradition?
Chants and singing the Stein Song at the hockey games.
What is your most memorable UMaine moment?
I really enjoy working for Maine Bound where I have learned a lot about the outdoors and have had a chance to take some very exciting rock climbing and water canoeing trips. Also, working as a student ambassador for Team Maine was a very memorable experience. It was always fun working together as a group and welcoming prospective and new students to our campus.
What do you hope to do after graduation and how has UMaine helped you reach those goals?
After graduation, I hope to continue my education at a graduate school. UMaine has given me a strong foundation of knowledge and it has helped me build great work ethic and work experience.
What was your first year like?
My first year was a very exciting experience. Although I didn’t know which major I wanted to pursue, I took some very interesting classes. Living in a first-year residence hall was really fun as everyone there was new to the campus. I had a great roommate and everyone in my hall got along very well.
What is there to do in Orono, Maine?
There is a lot going on on campus. UMaine does a great job providing entertainment to students throughout the week. One of my favorite events to go to is the Kickin’ Flicks. Every Wednesday the university shows a movie that is no longer in the theaters but not yet released [on DVD] to the public, and the entrance is free of cost to students. Many students like to attend sporting, art and music events. On the other hand, Orono is pretty small but I think it can be pretty entertaining. When the weather is nice, many students like to hang around the Stillwater River. The rope-jump is always fun and Maine Bound offers affordable canoe rentals. Bangor, being one of Maine’s largest cities, is in close proximity to Orono and it offers more options for things to do.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
Take advantage of everything that UMaine has to offer. Learn how to manage your time well so that you will have a lot of time to study and get involved on campus. Concentrate on what truly interests you and pursue any opportunities that come your way.