Teresa Maradiaga From the College of the Atlantic Speaks to Learn.org

The College of the Atlantic (COA) is a tiny liberal arts college situated on the beautiful Mount Desert Island in Maine. This unique school offers only one major - the interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts in Human Ecology - that unites its students in the pursuit of social and environmental justice. Learn.org recently caught up with Teresa Maradiaga, one of COA's many international students, to find out what it's like to study at this remarkable institution.

Teresa Maradiaga from the College of the Atlantic COA

Learn.org: You're originally from Honduras and Costa Rica, which are both pretty far from Maine. How did you hear about the College of the Atlantic and what attracted you to the school?

Teresa Maradiaga: I went to Lester B. Pearson United World College in British Columbia during my last two years of high school. United World College graduates receive scholarships from Shelby Davis to attend American universities.

I chose to come to COA because of its interdisciplinary focus, its small student body and the presence of many international students.

DD.org: What is your current year at COA and when will you graduate?

TM: I am a third year and I will graduate in June 2012.

DD.org: What have your favorite courses been at COA?

TM: Physics and Math of Sustainable Energy, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Calculus, Feminism and Fundamentalism and Japanese.

DD.org: Do you feel that being an international student has influenced your experience at COA? If so, how?

TM: Yes, we have a caring staff and faculty body who help us feel as if we were at home. We also have host families on the island. Although we don't live with them, they show us a little American culture.

DD.org: COA is a truly interdisciplinary institution - there are no academic departments and no individual majors. In what ways do you feel you have benefitted from this model?

TM: Human ecology has helped me to explore other areas of study I didn't know I was interested in. When I arrived at COA, I thought I was going to focus on biology. Thanks to the interdisciplinary approach, I found that my real passion lies in development studies.

DD.org: The College of the Atlantic recently performed very well in the National Survey of Student Engagement. In what ways do you feel that the faculty at COA help keep you engaged with your education?

TM: The professors do a great job of keeping students engaged. For example, we often go on field trips to see the theories we're learning applied in a natural environment. Also, math teachers show us real examples of how the concepts are applied in our daily lives, which I really enjoy. Finally, COA teachers are very passionate about their courses and confident about sharing what they know.

DD.org: COA prides itself on offering many hands-on education experiences for students who are eager to apply their learning outside of the classroom. Can you describe any exceptional internship or fieldwork experiences that you have had?

TM: COA encourages us to go into the real world and apply what we learn in the classroom in fieldwork, internships, residences and senior projects. During my second year, I had the opportunity to do fieldwork in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico for four months. There I was researching the effects of bilingual education in indigenous communities in the states of Yucanta and Quintana Roo. This year, I interned with a consultant company focused on housing microfinance that works with the Inter-American Development Bank.

DD.org: What are your plans for after graduation?

TM: After graduation I want to go to grad school and earn a master's degree in policy planning or urban development.

DD.org: What's your 'dream job,' and how do you think that your education at COA is helping to prepare you for it?

TM: I want to work in an organization involved with development work, perhaps the Inter-American Development Bank. COA is helping in many ways, including its courses and the opportunities it offers for hands-on education, such as internships and the senior project.

DD.org: What would you tell a prospective student who's considering attending COA?

TM: This is a place for people who are not afraid of speaking up and being in the spotlight in our small classes. Also, it a great place for people who are not ready to declare a major and are willing to explore different areas of study.

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