Erin O'Neal (Class of 2015)

photo of Erin O'Neal

  • junior double major in International Studies and Latin American Studies
  • minors in Spanish and History
  • from Canfield, OH
  • conducted research on the legendary Argentine gaucho as a 2013 Undergraduate Summer Scholar
  • participated in Miami's study abroad program at the Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg
"With my 4 majors and minors, I really think the liberal arts at Miami's College of Arts and Science have allowed me to take many different types of classes that I would never have had the opportunity to elsewhere."

Why Miami?

"Friends of mine as well as one of my high schools teachers had gone to Miami, so I had gotten a lot of recommendations that it was a good school. But after visiting the campus, it was the high study abroad rate that really kind of hooked me—because after graduating from high school I had done a rotary student exchange program in Argentina. I realized I wanted to come to a school where world cultures were more relevant, and I felt that I would fit in more in Miami after being abroad for a year.

"During my freshman year here, I already knew I wanted to be an International Studies major because of my year-long exchange program in Argentina living with host families. That experience was complete cultural and language immersion, and it really convinced me that I'd love to pursue international studies.

"The best thing about international studies is that it's an interdisciplinary major, and so I take classes all across the board like history, economics, geography, and so on. I actually got the chance to take Latin American Studies classes through this, and because of those classes I ended up picking up my second major in Latin American Studies in the fall of my sophomore year. So the classes I chose in my first year led me to my second major."

Best Experiences as a Miami Student

"The professors at Miami are fantastic—this school doesn't lie when it says it's one of the best schools for undergraduate education! I felt that even though Miami is kind of a large school, I've never been scared to go and talk to my professors. I feel very comfortable speaking with them, and they're very interested to work with students that have those interests and really want to pursue them. There are just so many opportunities.

Erin O'Neal on horseback

"My first faculty advisor was Dr. Melanie Ziegler, who I had for one of my international studies classes freshman year. Ever since then, any time there are any opportunities like scholarships or events, she notifies me. Actually, for about 10 days or so in January 2014 I will be participating in the Cuba in Transition [LAS/ITS 299] study abroad program with her as well as Professor Juan Carlos Albarrán.

"Dr. Ziegler does a lot of research in Cuba, and Professor Albarrán is Cuban, so being able to accompany both of them is going to be an awesome experience. It's especially great because Americans are normally restricted from entering Cuba except for educational reasons. We'll get to see how Cuba has evolved over the years, and I'm very excited for that.

"Also, I did a really interesting Undergraduate Summer Scholars (USS) research project with Dr. Elena Albarrán over the summer about the gauchos of Argentina. She was my mentor and really guided me on that project."

Favorite Classes at Miami

"The 2 history classes that I had with Dr. Elena Albarrán have been my favorites. One was History 217, Modern Latin American History, and the other one is History 319, Revolution in Latin America. These are the kind of classes that got me to pick up my second major in Latin American studies, and they really make history understandable and very engaging, where you can kind of see the patterns in history more than just reading a textbook. Dr. Albarrán does a really good job of making it understandable for us.

"I also have minors in both Spanish and history to go along with my 2 majors, all of which provide a lot of representation in the College of Arts and Science for me. Because of my study abroad experience in Argentina before I came to Miami, I was mostly fluent in Spanish, so now I get to take a lot of higher level classes like literature, linguistics, as well as a Spanish history class that's taught completely in Spanish. These are very cool classes!

"All these courses I've taken for my majors and minors are due to my interest in being an advisor for international students or study abroad. I think my major in international studies is especially going to help me to be exposed to various cultures and work with people from many different cultural backgrounds.

"After getting my undergraduate degree from Miami, I'd love to get my master's in higher education and student affairs (maybe at Miami!) in order to move into that kind of career. I've really fallen in love with academia!"

Miami and Liberal Arts Education

"With my 4 majors and minors, I really think the liberal arts at Miami's College of Arts and Science have allowed me to take many different types of classes that I would never have had the opportunity to elsewhere. Outside of the liberal arts, I would not have taken many of these courses and would have had to focus on one specific path. But I've really enjoyed courses outside of my majors, such as in economics and history. I actually picked up my history minor because I enjoyed the history classes I was taking for my major.

"Liberal arts allows you to see and experience things really all across the board. This includes even the sciences, which I'm not the biggest fan of, but they still contribute to my overall knowledge. Sometimes I pick things up from those different classes that I can apply to my studies and my majors."

Undergraduate Summer Scholar Research on the Argentine Gaucho

"This past summer I was an Undergraduate Summer Scholar, in which I chose to do a research project in Latin American studies about the Argentine gaucho, which is like the cowboy of Argentina. With my scholarship money I was actually able to do take my second trip there for two weeks to observe the culture and even see my host families from my first visit.

"Although gauchos no longer really exist, the culture is still very prevalent in Argentina. There's a lot of mythology and literature associated with them. I read a lot of poems and novels that were written about them, which was a lot of fun.

"Being able to do the trip along with the research really added to what I was doing, because it was more than just a tour. Before, during, and after the trip I did a lot of library research, and I presented my research to students in the Introduction to Latin America [LAS 208] classes. I think a lot of Arts and Science majors don't realize that any major can take advantage of these research opportunities—most people think it's only the natural sciences and psychology where they can do research, but really the opportunities are out there for anyone if you just look for them."

Study Abroad in Luxembourg

"My study abroad experiences have opened me up to a lot of different cultures. You think that the way you're living is just normal for everyone, but then you go abroad and it kind of throws you off at first because you realize that people live differently than you. It's a really cool thing to get to go and experience these other cultures.

Erin O'Neal poses in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France.

"Last spring I did the Luxembourg study abroad program at the Dolibois European Center, and that was a great way to really see a lot of Europe in a small amount of time. I took a lot of great classes with European and American professors, and a lot of those were my Miami Plan classes that I wouldn't have taken normally, such as music. I stayed with a family there and had two week-long breaks where we were able to plan our own trips. The first break was for Carnival, when I went to Venice, Italy. Carnival is huge there—there were people in costumes and masks, which were very elaborate and beautiful.

"For my second break I went to Paris and London. Honestly, however, some of the best trips we did in Luxembourg were with our professors. We had two study tour trips. I did one with my music class in Vienna, perhaps the heart of music in Europe, where we got to see an opera. The other was for a class called The Rise and Fall of Hitler, and we went to concentration camps and the ghetto in Auschwitz. It was freezing at the time, and we had all these layers on and could only imagine the Jewish people that had been there wearing nothing. That was a hard but quite eye-opening experience, one I probably don't want to have again, but I'm glad I did it."

Advice to Students

"In the liberal arts, there is something for everyone—you may have to look for it, but just take classes. If you think you're interested in something just pick up a class. It will probably count for the Miami Plan, and you may discover an interest that you never knew you had.

"As for study abroad, there are so many different programs to choose from. There's study abroad for business, study abroad for language immersion, and much more. If you go to your department and talk to them, they'll have a program that will fit what you want to do—and there are also study abroad advisors here at Miami for that reason that will help you find the program you want. There's definitely something for everyone!

[September 2013]