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A Stepping Stone for Future

It feels like it was just yesterday that I began to pursue my Bachelor's Degree with Individual Concentration while carefully planning and constructing my curriculum for my individualized major. With the guidance and help of peers, advisors, and faculty I was able to create my "Artistic Entrepreneurship" concentration which entailed a lot more than just classroom instruction. As I continuously looked for something that would fulfill all of my dimensions as a student at UMass, I thought something I was so familiar with couldn't be the answer.

That was just the case! I have worked in the BDIC office since my second semester on campus and it turned into a key part of my experience at UMass. Due to the design of my own major I am currently studying as an exchange student at the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras. One of my goals in obtaining a self-designed degree was to do so in a non-traditional way. I wanted to be exposed to different experiences while discovering more about myself. Being from the Dominican Republic and Hispanic descent, I knew that I couldn't go on to the professional world after college without learning more about my heritage, which in turn helps define who I am.

Thus far in my experience as an exchange student in Puerto Rico has been fulfilling. Not only am I surrounded by my culture while taking all my courses in Spanish, but I am learning a lot about the history.This is exactly the edge I wanted to give my degree while pursuing my interests in Fine and Performing Arts. It just didn't feel right without having part of who I am incorporated into my education.

The classroom experience has also been different in several ways. Having professor's that are teaching in my native language and add cultural mannerisms and perspectives to the courses make them that much more interesting and relatable. The beauty that comes along with being a BDIC student on exchange is that I get to enjoy and tap into the fruits of various departments here at UPR. I have noticed that other exchange students strictly stay within one department, where as I am taking courses in five different departments.

I have gone on so many cultural trips and attended various events that have also contributed to the overall experience. I have enjoyed several national historical sites like the capital of Old San Juan and the well known fortresses there El Fuerte de San Crist bal and El Fuerte San Felipe del Morro. I have gone hiking in the National Natural Rainforest of Puerto Rico El Yunque. I have also gone to and camped on some of the best beaches known on islands that pertain to Puerto Rico that are off the coast of the main island in Culebra and Vieques. Being here I have been able to enjoy the culture everywhere, especially in local areas where I can enjoy the music, food, weather, and meet new people.

Overall being here is just a stepping stone to what is to come in the future. Going on exchange and attending the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras has definitely fulfilled my goals and is leaving me with cravings of more. This has only ignited the beginning of my growth as a student, and I have no regrets about breaking out of my shell and doing something completely different and new.

Manuel Lopez PR