Recent Grad Reflects on UMass Amherst Influences and Opportunities
"I came to UMass Amherst because it was just the right distance from home,” says Stephanie Feuer-Beck ’06 (psychology and elementary education), who hails from Brookline, Massachusetts. “It offers something for everyone, and I felt that with so much going on, certainly I’d have room to grow." Feuer-Beck was right.
“My academic experience was awesome,” she says. “I learned that I could learn well in lectures of 500 as well as in small seminars of 15. I became very involved in the Anthropology Department’s Grassroots Community Development/Alternative Spring Break courses that allowed me to link theory with practice. I got a lot out of the traditional classroom, did a pre-practicum student teaching, was a research assistant and teaching assistant, and was part of student-led classrooms.
Throughout college, Feuer-Beck says her adventurous spirit “kept nudging me, reminding me to go exploring. I heard about the Oxford Summer Seminar at Trinity College while working as a peer advisor at Commonwealth College. I was totally enchanted by my friend’s stories and photos. Given that I love literature, part of me always wanted to add on an English major or minor to my academic program. I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity to take English courses and explore another country at the same time. And getting the Ansin Study Abroad Fellowship helped make the experience possible.” It was, without doubt, a terrific time.
“Whether we study in a country that is in deep poverty or in a wealthy one, learning about other cultures through first-hand experiences will stay with us,” says Feuer-Beck. “The memories I hold most dearly are the routine ones: going to breakfast in our Harry Potter-esque dining hall, squeezing into my teacher’s tiny living room to workshop our poetry, lounging on the lawn during tea time or in the evening under the stars, walking around Oxford and finding meandering roads and unbelievable architecture. I broadened my understanding of international education, and the experience underpinned my independence and confidence. Learning how to spend time alone, build friendships, navigate foreign territory, manage time effectively and understand another culture has influenced my view of the world.”
But Feuer-Beck is quick to add that none of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for self-initiative. And to future generations of students, she offers some advice. “UMass Amherst offers so much, but it’s up to you to grab the opportunities: study abroad, five-college interchange, speakers, events, etc. If you are like me and worry about getting lost in a large school, have no fear. If you take the initiative and try new things, you will make wonderful connections with others while doing things you like to do.”
Nearly half a year since graduation, Feuer-Beck is immersed in a one-year service corps program, and has plans to teach elementary school after that. “It is important to me to leave the world a better place than I found it,” she says, noting that she is passionate about teaching and plans to get her master’s degree in education. “To me,” Feuer-Beck adds, “teaching is social justice work, and I intend to help children form the foundation upon which they can continue to improve the world. And I fully intend to bring my UMass Amherst and study abroad experiences into all aspects of my life—lifestyle choices and social interactions that go beyond vocation,” Feuer-Beck declares.
November 20, 2006