Far from Home: Washington, D.C., trip is an eye opener for Craig Miranda

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Craig Miranda, right, spent his winter break visiting his brother Clive, who lives in Washington, D.C.

Craig Miranda, right, spent his winter break visiting his brother Clive, who lives in Washington, D.C.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Editor’s note: Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

As Craig Miranda made his way up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he could not help but stop to revel in the moment. The brisk air and tenacious winds that day were unlike anything the Kuwait native had experienced so far in the United States, but they did not deter his concentration from the history he was just then experiencing.

“I stopped right where Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” said Miranda, a first-year computer science major at Penn State Behrend. “I just stood there, and I started to film a video. I could just feel the inspiration.”

Miranda’s epiphany atop the Lincoln Memorial was one of the many memories he made during a visit to Washington, D.C., this winter break. Rather than return home, Miranda opted to spend the holidays with his brother, Clive Miranda, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in physiology from Georgetown University.

For more than 20 days, the two spent time touring the city’s monuments and sights. From the White House to the Washington Monument, every base was covered. For Miranda, whose exposure to the United States was previously limited to Erie, the trip was an eye-opener.

Protesters were everywhere. Public transportation was a new concept. And he had never done so much walking in his life.

“It really helped me compare and contrast Erie to other places that I have not yet seen,” he said.

For all of the trip’s unfamiliarities, one constant remained.

“I have such a strong bond with my brother,” Miranda said. “As soon as I got there, I could feel that bond being reunited.”

Miranda’s visit with his brother was also special because this marked the first time he spent Christmas and New Year’s Day away from his family in Kuwait. He says he missed home, but spending the holidays with his brother was the next-best thing.

Miranda even surprised Clive with a special — and appropriate — Christmas gift: a Penn State jersey.

The way that Clive expressed his gratitude might have been the best gift of all, though.

“He wore it onto the campus of Georgetown University,” Miranda said. “I forced him to do it, but it was so fun.”

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Far from Home: Craig Miranda experiences first finals week

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Editor’s note: Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Craig Miranda has experienced plenty of things during his first semester in America. He’s seen snow for the first time, traveled to New York City and even started his own musical performing club at Penn State Behrend.

Last week, the first-year computer science major experienced something new: the dreaded all-nighter.

For Miranda, it was not exactly a bad thing though.

“I usually leave a few things to the last minute,” the Kuwait native says. “I like the adrenaline rush that comes from it. You’re so stressed, but you’re also able to absorb so much information because of that.”

Miranda has not been pulling the all-nighters in vain. This week marks finals week at the college, and he has high expectations.

“I want to make the dean’s list,” he says. “I know my freshman year is so important when it comes to getting internships.”

Thankfully, Miranda has had plenty of help when it comes to staying motivated. In Niagara Hall, he and his friends get together to study each night. These study sessions usually go until 4 a.m., but that doesn’t mean they don’t sprinkle some fun into each session.

“We’ve been taking over the study room each night. Then at 2 a.m., just for a half hour, we will blast music. The music pumps us all up, so then we’re ready to study again,” he says.

With all of the late-night study sessions, Miranda estimates that he is now averaging just over four hours of sleep per night. That’s OK because he says that’s all he needs. After all, he already has the perfect recovery plan.

“I can hibernate during winter break,” he says with a smile.

Miranda’s last final exam for the fall semester will be this Friday, Dec. 19. He will leave on Saturday for Washington D.C. where he will spend the winter break with his brother, Clive, who is pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University.

Before he leaves though, he already has a personal celebration planned in honor of completing his first round of final exams.

“Since no one will be around, I plan on taking over the (Niagara Hall) lounge and watching movies and eating,” he says. “I also plan on going sledding. I still love the snow. The only problem is the wind.”

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Craig Miranda, a first-year computer science major, is in the midst of his first finals week. To help prepare himself, he’s been studying heavily, even if it means pulling an all-nighter.

 

Far from Home: First snowfall leaves favorable impression on Craig Miranda

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Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

“Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep!”

When Craig Miranda’s alarm went off at 6 a.m. last Thursday, he awoke with a feeling of eagerness. His friends warned him it was coming, but some things need to be seen to be believed.

“I was skeptical,” says Miranda, a first-year computer science major at Penn State Behrend. “When I looked outside, it was completely white. I immediately ran downstairs and I was the only person outside in shorts.”

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Craig Miranda had never seen snow until last week when the Erie region received more than foot of precipitation in 24 hours.

The Kuwait native had never seen snow before last week when the Erie region received nearly a foot in the span of 24 hours. In Kuwait, summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. Even in winter, average daytime temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees.

Miranda says he longed for snow and cooler temperatures when he decided to come to college in the United States, so last week’s storm was a welcome sight.

“It was just unbelievable,” he says. “After my exam that morning, I had a snowball fight with friends who also live in Niagara Hall. I don’t know how to make a snowball, but I’m getting there.”

As the day went on, more snow began to accumulate. Overall, Erie received 12.6 inches of snow, the earliest occurrence of a snowfall of this magnitude for the region.

The heavy snowfall might have been a  burden for others, but Miranda remained enamored with every flake that fell. He even shared his happiness with his family back home.

“I Skyped with my parents and took them on a tour around campus,” he says. “It was awesome because they have never seen snow either. They were so thrilled and just wanted to be here, too.”

For Miranda, the snowfall helped paint a picture of the holiday season, which he had only ever seen on television before.

“I’ve always pictured Christmas as caroling with snow falling from the sky, but I’ve never seen it until now,” Miranda says.

Given that he chose to attend college in America’s snowbelt, last week was probably only the beginning of the fun for Miranda; last year, Erie recorded 138.4 inches of snow fall and earned the honor of America’s snowiest city.

His friends have warned him that he might eventually tire of the snow, but he’s not buying it.

“I doubt I’ll ever get bored of snow,” Miranda says. “Coming from Kuwait, where it barely ever even rains, snow is just marvelous.”

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Far from Home: Craig Miranda finds culture shock to be not all bad

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Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

For some, it takes days, even weeks, before culture shock sets in. For Craig Miranda, it took seconds.

The Kuwait native, who is half Indian and half British, arrived in the United States this past summer for the first time. Disparities were everywhere.

Green grass. Trees. Leaves. Blonde hair. Couples holding hands.

Nothing was similar to what Miranda was accustomed to in Kuwait, which had been his home for all 18 years of his life.

“It’s a big culture shock coming from Kuwait, which is closed off from the rest of the world, to America, which is wide open,” Miranda says.

Miranda noticed these differences when he and his family vacationed in California in July and again when he arrived at Penn State Behrend in August.

But for Miranda, the culture shock wasn’t all bad.

“I love the changes,” he says. “Everything here is so pleasing to the eyes. I love that.”

Miranda, a first-year Computer Science major, says leaving his family was difficult.

“During my first week, I was missing my family and longing to go home,” he says. “It was a challenge knowing that I was not going to be home for a year.”

Miranda has found plenty of distractions to ease the transition.

He’s quickly made friends and has enjoyed his coursework. He has been working on his tennis game, and plans to try out for Behrend’s team this spring.

Miranda regularly calls his parents, Colin and Sandra, and he plans to visit his brother, Clive, during the winter break. Clive is pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“I thought it would be difficult, but the people here have made the transition so easy,” he says.

Miranda has also been proactive in making the most of his new environment. He’s taking advantage of the opportunities that Penn State Behrend provides and is already leaving his mark on the campus community.

Miranda, a self-described Adam Levine fanatic who likes to sing and play the bass guitar, has an affinity for pop music, and he wants to find a way to experience that music alongside fellow students. He’s currently in the process of getting approval for a new club that would accomplish just that.

“We have the Behrend musicians, we have the Acapella group (Tonacious), but there’s nothing where people can just come together to sing their hearts out. I want to have this club collaborate with the dance club and the engineering club, and I want it to be called the Penn State Behrend Performance Band,” Miranda says. “Even though I’m just a freshman, I want to start big. I want to make an impact.”

Miranda is in the process of getting approval for the new club, and he’s looking forward to performing alongside fellow students.

That’s not the only thing he’s looking forward to though. In Kuwait, summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. Even in winter, average daytime temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees.

“I’ve never seen snow, and I can’t wait,” Miranda says. “Everyone says I’ll hate it after two weeks, but I know I’ll love it.”

Considering the fact that Erie had 138.4 inches of snow last year and earned the honor of America’s snowiest city, it probably won’t be long until Miranda is up to his ankles (okay, shins) in the white stuff.

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