Brenna Oelfke: College of Liberal Arts Honors Student
Perception is personal. It's unique. It follows us through every adventure and misadventure, challenging us to evolve and change. For Brenna Oelfke, two college adventures changed the course of her life and her way of thinking: the study abroad program in England and her experience as editor-in-chief for the UMD campus honors journal, Aisthesis. "The word Aisthesis is a Greek word that means perception," Oelfke said. "The honors journal is a series of student perceptions. In many ways, the journal is a collection of what we see as students and what we experience in college."
Although each chapter in the honors journal represents a unique student perception, the selection process sets it apart from many other college journals. The board of student reviewers accepts submissions from honor students on a national level, not just students from the UMD campus. "As an honors student," said Oelfke. "I've had to maintain a good GPA. I'm active in the community and I have been the editor of the honors journal. The student reviewers are honors students as well. Our college careers have focused on maintaining an honors status and that gives us a good eye when we review the submissions."
The content of the journal ranges from essays about geometric figures, artistic black and white sketches, photography, poetry, and many other scholastic subjects. “We don’t have a set subject matter other than that the work has to be created by a college student,” Oelfke stated. While the journal defines university study and what it means to be a student on the collegiate level across the nation, the editing is her favorite part of the entire project. “My dream job? Editor-in-chief for a publishing company of magazines, books, journals…as long as I’m reading, I’m happy.”
The confidence that Oelfke has editing submissions from across the country may have come from her experiences studying abroad in her sophomore year. When Oelfke traveled to England, she knew it would change her perception forever. The gray skies, the bustle of London, the quiet lonely hills outside the city limits—the mixture of hill and city called to her the way they had called to Jane Austen. “Jane Austen is probably my favorite romance author,” Oelfke stated. “When I went to England, the study abroad opportunity gave me a chance to reinvent myself. I didn’t know anyone from the group but by jumping into the program, I found myself opening up to complete strangers. To this day we keep in touch and we’re good friends.”
Oelfke studied in England for nine months at the University of Birmingham. She and a friend from the study abroad program also traveled during one of the curricula’s month-long breaks. “That’s when life got interesting,” Oelfke said with a smile. From the Czech Republic to France to Greece to Spain to Italy…“Those are just a few places I traveled. It was amazing. Public transportation in Europe is great.”
While reminiscing about her travels, Oelfke fondly remembered when she and her friend were on their way from Barcelona, Spain to Florence, Italy. They boarded the wrong ferry and were promptly asked to leave, wherein they found the correct ferry and traveled to Italy. Unfortunately, they ended up on the wrong train and when the train reached the end of its scheduled route, the language barrier between Oelfke, her friend and the conductor spiraled into gesturing and pointing with the conductor finally saying, in broken English, “What you doing on my train? Go! Go!” Oelfke and her friend quickly hopped off the train and walked back along the tracks to the nearest town where they figured out the correct train route. They eventually made it to Florence, laughing about their misadventure. "We enjoyed a phenomenal appetizer at a local restaurant. It was literally a ball of mozzarella. It was unreal and absolutely delicious.”
After four academic years and several summer courses between each year, Oelfke graduated on May 14, 2011 with a Bachelors of Liberal Arts degree. "The people who inspired me the most would be Greg Fox, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Operations and Director of the Study in England program, when I traveled. I have so much respect for him. He truly made my experience in England exceptional," she said. At the same time, linguistics professor Mike Linn was a positive influence for Oelfke. “The life stories professor Linn told us during class really taught me about the world,” Oelfke mused. “His favorite quotation was something his dad told him when he was a kid: ‘Don’t take life too seriously. No one lives through it anyway.’ I’d like to think that I’ll live by that motto.”
Written by: Christiana Kapsner
UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan, email@example.com