You have probably heard of “on the job training,” “cooperative learning,” or “apprenticeships”? In some countries work experience interspersed with classroom study is a standard feature of a university education. At UMBC, there are many ways to extend your classroom learning out into the world, with tremendous benefits.
In fact, experiential learning (the term now in vogue) is so important that we can be so bold as to say:
EVERY STUDENT AT UMBC SHOULD DO EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
There, we said it. Internships, shadowing experiences, international travel and study, independent research, and service learning are still possible even if you have crossed over the 60 credit line into your junior year.
WHY IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT FOR EVERY STUDENT
Here are 10 very good reasons:
1. You gain skills and experience.
2. You make connections with people in the real world who can be mentors and sometimes future hiring managers.
3. You “broaden your horizons” to see another part of the world, other languages and cultures, another type of workplace, etc.
4. You find out whether you would enjoy working in a particular field.
5. Through research, you add to our collective knowledge of the world.
6. Through research, you learn whether graduate school and a research career are appropriate for you.
7. Through service learning you assist real human beings standing right in front of you who need your assistance.
8. You demonstrate reliability and independence.
9. You break up the monotony of cycling from dorm to class to dining hall!
10. You ease your transition into the post-UMBC working world
And those are just some of the benefits!
If you are not yet convinced, consider this: Have you ever heard a fellow student or a recent alumnus say:
“I wish I had not done ________________ (fill in blank with internship, study abroad semester, or research project with faculty mentor). That was such a waste of time! I did not learn anything. College should just be classes and grades, textbooks and tests. There is no benefit to having more “hands on” or “experiential” learning.”
Quite likely, you have not heard that, but just the opposite.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING AT UMBC
Even if you have crossed the credit threshold (60 earned credits) to become a junior, you still have time to work experiential learning into your remaining time at UMBC. Here are some specific suggestions to act on now.
1. Sign up for a travel-study course or plan a winter, summer, or senior year semester abroad. (Yes, it is possible under UMBC policy to study abroad as a senior.)
2. Line up a strong summer internship for next summer. The competitive internships recruit in the early fall for the following summer!
3. Learn how to apply for an Undergraduate Research Award and develop a sound project idea
4. Use your own wiles and resources to arrange a “shadowing” opportunity in an office or work setting you want to know more about.
Extra Credit Discussion Question
Do you have tips or suggestions for students who have not yet participated in experiential learning but would like to jump in now? Please share your ideas in the Comments section below.