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.
When Craig Miranda arrived at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, he had one goal.
“Even though I’m just a freshman, I want to start big. I want to make an impact,” the first-year computer science major said at the beginning of the academic year.
Miranda did more than start big. He finished big.
Through the course of the academic year, he excelled in the classroom, joined numerous campus organizations, started his own club, joined the tennis team and even presented a project at the Clinton Global Initiative University’s 2015 meeting, held this past March in Miami.
It’s not how Miranda expected his first year to go when he set foot on campus last August.
“I came here thinking that I would be more secluded. I thought I would just focus on getting my work done to get through, but it turned out to be the opposite,” he says.
Miranda credits the friends he made at Behrend with helping him get involved. Being so far away from home can be challenge, but he’s begun to build a strong support system at the college through the friends he has made.
“Friends are what help me to keep going,” he says. “They give me an escape to get away from whatever I’m feeling, whether it’s homesickness or something else.”
Together with his friends, Miranda created the Penn State Behrend Performance Band student organization as an outlet for anyone who enjoys singing or performing live music. By the end of the semester, the band had 12 members and had performed six concerts.
“We want to reach diverse groups of people, who come from different cultures and might have different tastes in music,” Miranda says of the student organization. “One of the songs we performed this year was an original written by two of our members, and it included both English and Chinese lyrics.”
An emphasis on musical diversity is a reason why Miranda, currently president of the club, has already begun the process of having the Penn State Behrend Performance Band brought under the college’s Multi-Cultural Council (MCC) banner. As the group grows, he envisions it being used even more to promote diversity on campus.
Miranda’s work with the band, coupled with his other accomplishments, made for a busy year, but he says he has no plans to slow down over the summer. Now back home in Kuwait, he reports that he’s already thinking about returning to Behrend in the fall, with plans to do “do something a lot bigger.”