#WhyMAIS: Stephen Schneider

As admission decisions are going out, and new students begin to join the MAIS community, we turn to current students to explain #WhyMAIS was the right choice for them. In this post, we hear from Stephen Schneider:

Stephen Schneider1

What attracted you to USF and the MAIS program?
The San Francisco Bay Area is an important and interesting part of the world and I’ve always wanted to spend time here. After surveying a number of graduate programs in the area, I decided on USF and MAIS because of its clear commitment to applying knowledge towards social justice causes and because I wanted to study at a progressive, academically rich institution. Having focused on Global Studies for my undergraduate, I wanted to continue pursuing this highly interdisciplinary and timely field at a professional level in an evolving world city. The program length, course content, high quality of the faculty and staff, and recommendations by alumni all contributed to my decision to attend MAIS.

Describe your first semester in one sentence.
The first semester at MAIS consists of stuffing an incredibly dense and broad body of theoretical and practical knowledge into your brain, then unpacking the way it collides and combines with previous world views, and finally attempting to sift and remix the contents in an academically coherent and personally enriching manner.

What’s the most interesting assignment you’ve completed?
There have been quite a few awesome assignments that have allowed me to explore my interests in a creative way. The most interesting assignments are those that ask us to think about and propose solutions to specific issues using the theories and tools from the course work. My favorite was developing a plan centered on human-powered electrical generation as an implement to reduce energy poverty and corporate exploitation in rural areas.

What is your favorite San Francisco or campus spot?
The hilly parks in the city are fantastic—Bernal Heights, Twin Peaks, Bayview Park, John McLaren Park, etc.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
First, plan for housing very early and try your best to get as close to campus as possible. Being closer to campus allows you to more easily participate in social events, talks, sports games, going to the gym, and could lead to a richer student experience. Secondly, refresh your knowledge about academic writing rules and styles so that you can focus on doing your best work without having to scratch your head too much. For international students, read up on American academic standards, and never be afraid to ask questions or challenge assumptions. Third, come with high expectations about the level of dialogue and discussion and bring your own story into the conversation. MAIS is comprised of folks with an amazing range of backgrounds and interests, and each person contributes to the learning experience. Expect to speak in public, share your opinion against critique, and be able to back up your voice with research and experiential evidence.

Most importantly, take every opportunity to hang out and discuss the issues with your fellow classmates.  Essential reflection and further learning happens outside the classroom, so grab a burrito and dive into the complexities of the wonderful world of International Studies. The planet right now truly needs the kind of concern and inquiry that MAIS allows us to foster, so make this your time to really dive in. Lastly, enjoy it! Remember to take one day at a time and find your way to enjoy the distinctive experience as a graduate student at an outstanding university in a remarkable city.

Student Stories: Colombian Coincidence

by Natalie Murphy (BAIS ’17)

Over spring break I traveled to Colombia with fellow international studies senior Cherine Adly. There were two Arrupe Immersion trips going to Colombia as well, but we were going alone to see as much of the country as we could in the period of short time. About a week before leaving, we discovered that another senior in the IS program was also going to Colombia with family. Adriana Levandowski (BAIS ’17) was headed off a day or two before us, but we would be on an in-country flight together a few days into the trip. We took a look at our itineraries and tried to figure out where we might be able to meet up. Taking into consideration which areas we were staying in, it looked like we’d only be able to meet up once—little did we know how wrong we were.

We tried to get dinner with Adriana on the first night that we arrived, but it didn’t work out. There went our only opportunity to meet up. The next day we were all on the same flight to Santa Marta, but being on a plane in different rows didn’t afford too much time to chat. Two days later, Cherine and I had camped the night before in Tayrona National Park. We were on a beach a few hours’ hike from the entrance of the park. We were  walking out of the entrance of the beach area to start on the journey out of the park when I hear my name being called. I look up, and there is Adriana, her mom, and her cousin. They had hiked for three hours to get to the beach. If they had taken just a few more minutes, or we had left a few minutes earlier we would have completely missed each other. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We only had a few minutes to say hello and offer some suggestions before we had to continue on back to Santa Marta. We parted ways saying we’d see each other back at school, not anticipating running into them again. I bet you can guess what happened next.

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Natalie, Adriana & Cherine in front of Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis with the #ISatUSFCA stress ball

The next day Cherine and I wandered around Santa Marta in the morning before we were scheduled to catch a bus to Cartagena in the afternoon. We stopped at an ATM and while I waited in line, Cherine went around the corner to buy some water. While waiting, I looked up only to see Adriana’s cousin buying a coconut from a street vendor across the street. I did a double take, and then saw Adriana beside him. We had a little longer to chat this time, exchanging stories and suggestions for the city before parting ways so Cherine and I could catch our bus. But the coincidences don’t end there.

On the final day of our trip we returned to the Bogota airport. Once checked in to our flight and through security we decided lunch was in order. We entered a restaurant and were walking towards an open table when I heard my name being called yet again. Adriana and her family were eating lunch at the same restaurant and were on the same flight back to San Francisco with us. As we got seated on the plane, we also found out that one of the Arrupe Immersion groups was on the same plane as well.

Who would have thought that in a country more than twice the size of California, we would run into our fellow Don not once, not twice, but three times. Whether you want to change the world from here, or have plans to change it from somewhere else, do something because the world is a pretty small place either way and Dons are EVERYWHERE!