St. Mary’s College students get glimpse of study abroad opportunities
Seniors Rebecca Quick, center, and Yasmin Sanchez, left, discuss Wednesday where in Africa they had visited during their studies in The Gambia last year during the study abroad fair inside Daugherty-Palmer Commons building at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Many from St. Mary’s College chose to travel for semester by Jesse Yeatman Staff writer
Enterprise Each year about 350 St. Mary’s College of Maryland students venture out across the seas to study at a foreign university.
They take courses, visit interesting sites, speak with locals and generally soak up the culture over a few weeks to a semester in a way that often changes their lives.
Naomi Garcia of Baltimore said she chose to study abroad for two semesters. Last fall she attended school in France and followed up with a trip to Argentina during the spring semester.
Garcia, who helped at a study-abroad fair on campus Wednesday, said her experiences overseas were invaluable.
“You’re part of a university,” she said. And while the classes she took were great, it was interacting with people and the places she lived that proved special, Garcia said.
She said a lot of students at the fair asked her about the types of culture they would be exposed to, including music. Garcia said she took her guitar with her to Argentina and was able to meet people that way.
“I did a lot of street playing, which was a really cool experience,” the senior said.
She said the experience did change her personality, making her more ready to take on challenges in life.
“It changes you as a person, in a really good way,” Garcia said.
Mandy Reinig, director of international education, said about 55 percent of students graduating from St. Mary’s College participate in one of the college’s 17 study abroad programs. Several students each year will participate in a program not directly affiliated with St. Mary’s College.
Students piled into a meeting room Wednesday to get information about the various opportunities to study abroad.
While past sessions were popular, the number of students was overwhelming compared to previous years, Reinig said. “They were waiting at the door this time,” she said. Popular countries to visit lately include Australia, England and the college’s newest program that sends students to Ireland for a semester. The Ireland program is open to all majors, including the sciences, which sometimes have limited choices of where to study abroad, Reinig said.
Tom Howard was on hand to promote the partnership with James Cook University in Australia. He said the university, which is located near the Great Barrier Reef, is an instant draw for many students. “St. Mary’s does it well,” he said of the college’s international studies program.
College staff present opportunities, but are not pushy in what students choose to do, he said. “They seem to self-select in different programs,” based on prior interests, Howard said.
Sophomore Carson Fehner from Montgomery County said he was interested in the Oxford University program in England. He will probably go there next fall semester, although he is thinking about a few other programs in Europe. The history major said both of his older siblings who graduated recently from St. Mary’s also went to the Oxford program.
The Promoting Educational and Cultural Exchange, or PEACE, program with The University of The Gambia is another popular choice for St. Mary’s College students. Baboucarr Jallow from Gambia was on hand Wednesday as part of a visit to the United States and to promote the study abroad experience.
Traditionally students would chose to study abroad during their junior year of college. “Now, we’re trying to get them to go a little bit earlier,” Reinig said.
Class requirements are usually less strict as sophomores, she said. And they can draw on the study abroad experience for a longer time while at college.
The pricing structure depends on the program, she said. Sometimes, students pay their regular tuition, room and board for some programs and most everything else is covered. For other programs they may pay room or board, or neither, to the college and then cover their own expenses while abroad, Reinig said.
In all cases students have to pay for air fare, but there are scholarships available from the college to help cover that cost. Other opportunities include studying in China, Japan, Costa Rica, India, Peru, Italy, Thailand, Belize, Spain and France.
jyeatman@somdnews.com
Marijuana decriminalization bill heads back to Maryland legislature -- Gazette.Net


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A bill making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil rather than criminal offense will be introduced in the coming state legislative session, after failing to advance this year.

Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Dist. 11) of Owings Mills said he will “absolutely” introduce a decriminalization bill in the 2014 General Assembly session.

A bill he introduced in the 2013 session failed to come up for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate approved the bill, 30-16, before sending it to the House.

Zirkin said Thursday he didn’t know yet if his new bill would have any substantial changes. This year’s bill made possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana punishable by a fine of up to $100.

He also didn’t know if other legislators planned to introduce similar bills.

Zirkin said he’ll submit another bill because decriminalization makes sense for the state.

“I firmly believe in it,” he said.

Zirkin said he has an upcoming meeting with Judiciary Chairman Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (Dist. 27A) of Upper Marlboro and plans to talk about marijuana decriminalization. After that, he’ll have a better idea what form his bill will take.

Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Dist. 15) of Rockville, the vice chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, said several committee members struggle with the concept of decriminalization.

Dumais said she believes the committee’s general philosophy is to take small steps on the marijuana issue. The state recently legalized medical marijuana and allowed police officers to issue citations for marijuana possession rather than arrest offenders.

She and other committee members had concerns in the last session about whether decriminalization would make it easier for minors to get access to marijuana.

“I think we’re going to have to wait and see” where the committee stands on a bill for the next session, Dumais said.

Zirkin said research doesn’t show any increase in usage among teens or other groups, or use as a gateway to other drugs in comparisons between states that have decriminalized marijuana and states that haven’t.

He said the state could save hundreds of millions of dollars on enforcement, as well as time by judges, police officers and prosecutors.

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring, who serves on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he thinks the days of marijuana as a cultural issue are over.

“Today, we are looking at this as a question of public policy and dollars and cents. People want to know whether it really makes sense to be putting people behind bars for simple possession,” he said.

Raskin was behind a 2011 bill that provided a defense for those possessing marijuana for medical reasons with a doctor’s order, and a 2012 bill that reduced the punishment for simple possession of the drug from 12 months in jail to 90 days.

Both he and Zirkin think the public is moving toward approving the idea of decriminalizing marijuana.

Raskin compared it to other issues the state has taken up in recent years.

“I feel like the question of the war on drugs is where marriage equality or the death penalty repeal were several years ago,” Raskin said. “People are beginning to assess in a very sober way the costs and benefits of criminalizing marijuana.”

Zirkin said he’s willing to have the measure go to referendum and let the voters decide, if that’s what it would take for the Judiciary Committee to approve it.

“I think the voters overwhelmingly would support this,” Zirkin said.



Staff Writer Kate S. Alexander contributed to this report.

rmarshall@gazette.net