My semester exchange studying at the University of Maryland is coming to an end but my experience has been incredible and extremely self-fulfilling, one which I would highly recommend to any student interested in studying abroad. UMD is an amazing university in so many ways – it is full of incredible people and opportunities, is known for its world-class resources and academics, and of course the American college life is an experience in itself.
The courses I am taking are really interesting and enjoyed learning under a slightly different teaching method, tending to be more hands-on and a close-knit experience than what I’m used to at UQ. I have enjoyed developing my criminological understanding through class discussions and practical work as well as understanding how the American criminal justice system differs from that in Australia. Apart from studying, I have been fortunate enough to spend time at a police research institution in Washington DC talking to past police chiefs and researchers about their fields of expertise and discussing career opportunities. Alongside that, I have participated in police ride-a-longs and am approaching my graduation from a police-community academy.
At the start of the semester I joined a police-community academy with the University of Maryland Police Department attending classes once a week at a training academy. The academy is taught by police officers and recruit trainers and is like a fast-tracked version of the six-month long police academy for recruits, although in this case the academy is designed to provide us with an insight into the practical and academic training involved in police academies. So far, we have covered topics like criminal law and police use of force, have learnt about weapons and defensive tactics and have practised traffic stops and ceremony drills. It is so interesting to see how different American policing is compared to Australian policing in terms of the laws, policies and practices and the general policing approach. Through the police academy, I participated in a ride-a-long with a general duties officer during a morning shift attending to calls, patrolling the college grounds and issuing traffic tickets to name a few. Ride-a-longs tend to be quite common in America especially for criminology students as they provide such a unique experience and perspective important when studying and understanding policing in an academic environment. Ride-a-longs are interesting as you get to talk to the officer during the shift about their past experiences and training and depending on the nature of the ride-a-long and the personality of the officer, the opportunity can really change your views on policing and police officers in general.
I have just returned from hiking the Appalachian Trail through Tennessee and North Carolina during Spring Break where I climbed mountains, crossed waterfalls, met numerous American students and learnt about American culture and the backcountry. I am so thankful to Professor Lorraine Mazerolle for recommending this college to me and for putting me in contact with academics at UMD to talk and collaborate with. I must knuckle down now as I finish my assessment and the last stretch of my exchange and look forward to returning to UQ to complete the last semester of my degree.