Life at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

By: Elizabeth Watt

I’ve been studying at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) since August. I’ve met so many amazing people here, my classes are really interesting and Maryland is such a great place to live! In fact, I love it so much here, that I thought I’d share my favourite things about this state. I’d never really been to Maryland before (I drove through it on the way to Washington but didn’t stop), so all these things are new to me, and are things I have discovered so far on my year abroad.

My favourite things about Maryland include:

  • The people. I have made some amazing friends over here and they have made my year abroad truly amazing; everyone I’ve met has been so nice. People I barely know have welcomed me to America, and told me they’re glad I’m here. Everybody has been so kind and made me feel so accepted. The people at UMBC have been particularly welcoming – from lecturers to the international office, to other students – but Americans in general are a very friendly bunch. The man in New Orleans who gave me $10 to buy another bag of beignets and the four year old boy on my flight from Orlando to Baltimore who gave me a lollipop shaped like Mickey Mouse and invited me to come and live with him and his family are perfect examples of this!
  • The university I go to is about fifteen minutes from Baltimore, Maryland’s biggest city. It was built in 1966 and has about 13,000 students. Although it’s a school that specialises in sciences, the American Studies program is great, and has so many interesting modules. I’ve also been able to join several humanities and creative clubs (If you come to UMBC, check out the Ancient Studies Council!) The mascot is a Chesapeake Bay retriever which is not only adorable in itself; it also means there are PAW PRINTS all over campus! The campus itself is really nice. It’s a lot bigger than Swansea but it’s small for an American college. But this means that it’s really easy to walk everywhere and it’s no hardship to walk to the library or the Apartment Community Center. Also, the entire campus is encircled by a ring road which is a great place to walk around.
  • I know, I know; I’m betraying Baltimore (especially as UMBC is in its county!) but Annapolis wins the prize of My Favourite City in Maryland (that I’ve been to so far). I went there over the winter break with my family and we all loved it. My main reason for loving it so much was simple: there was so much colonial history there! So many places were built in years starting with 16 or 17, and the town had really made an effort to preserve its history. It was a gorgeous city as well. Like Baltimore, it’s right on the water and you can walk down the cobbled high street looking right at the Chesapeake Bay. The whole reason I applied to UMBC for my year abroad is because I love this period in history and a lot of it happened in the Chesapeake area, so it was very exciting to see it with my own eyes!
  • I know Swansea has the beach and Singleton Park and a huge amount of seagulls but I really think UMBC – and Maryland more generally –has a huge amount of nature as well. For one thing, Baltimore County is not short on trees. It was the first thing I noticed when the plane was landing in BWI airport. As the university was so close to the city, I had expected the surrounding area to be suburban, but it isn’t at all. There are trees everywhere! The campus is completely surrounded by them. It is really nice to be a short drive from the city but to be in such a peaceful setting; very much the best of both worlds. There are plenty of animals around as well I saw deer on my first night in Maryland, and the campus has plenty of squirrels, and some very cute chipmunks. In summer the crickets can always be heard, although not from inside buildings. Maryland is known as “America in Miniature” and a big reason for that is its variety of nature. It has everything (except deserts). But there are mountains, there are beaches, there are woods and cities. There’s everything, basically.
  • How close it is to other major cities. Maryland has a fantastic location. Washington DC is half an hour away from where I go to school and Annapolis is about the same distance away. Philadelphia is just across the state line, and New York City is only a few hours away by car. BWI is about fifteen minutes from UMBC, and flights depart for all over the county. On the other side of DC lies the start of the South with Virginia, and while the drives to Southern cities might be a bit long, the airport is so close and domestic flights are so cheap that flying is a perfectly valid option. Maryland is definitely a mix of north and south; from its history to its accent. Baltimore might be classed as a North-eastern city, but plenty of people say “y’all”.
  • The flag. It is everywhere. I’ve never seen people wear the county flags of Hampshire of Devon, but state flags are popular in the US, and Maryland’s is held with particular pride. I walk past more than ten people a day at UMBC wearing clothing that makes it all too clear which state they call home. Jumpers, T shirts, hats, short, socks…The flag is flying everywhere as well, so you always know where you are. It’s a cool flag though.
  • The weather. To be completely honest, when I found out I was going to Maryland, I was almost disappointed, for one reason. I HATE the cold weather. All the other American universities I’d applied to for my year abroad were in the south, so the weather would have been a lot warmer. I didn’t apply to anywhere north of Maryland for this very reason.  But it really hasn’t been so bad. Having been to perishing New York over the winter break, I have learnt to appreciate the temperatures in Maryland, which at the moment, hover around freezing, but have yet to get down to the minus ten of the Big Apple. And while Baltimore might not be as hot as Texas or Florida, this can be a good thing. The heat has never been overwhelming, for one thing, and I’ve never had to deal with humidity. Although it did get really warm (over thirty degrees) for a few weeks last semester, it’s never been unbearably hot or cold.
  • Crabs are a big deal in this state. Unfortunately, I am vegetarian, so I can’t try the state’s main delicacy. But I have learnt how important crabs are here. You can buy stickers of crabs, toy crabs, and crab attire basically everywhere. And a true Marylander is supposed to be able to tell the difference between a male and female crab by looking at the stomach.
The UMBC Mascot

If anyone wants any more information about UMBC or Maryland, please check out my blog, which is available on the Swansea University website.

UMBC Campus in Autumn



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