Alexandra Apicella (Class of 2019)

photo of Alexandra Apicella

  • junior Black World Studies; Latin American, Latino/a & Caribbean Studies; Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies; and Classical Humanities quadruple major
  • minor in European Area Studies
  • from Youngstown, OH
  • studied abroad in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, observing feminist and LGBTQ cultural practices (Fall 2016)
  • studied works of Jane Austen and watched Shakespeare plays during Literary London (Summer 2017)
"All the knowledge and experiences I've acquired at Miami will help me go to grad school, possibly in Europe. I've also volunteered with some non-profit organizations, including Women on Waves in the Netherlands and Wise Thoughts in London, which focuses on LGBTQ and BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) communities. After grad school, I think a non-profit is where I will ultimately end up."

Why Miami?

"I'm a bit of a spontaneous person. One day, while I was in high school, my dad said that we were going on a college road trip to tour a bunch of colleges throughout Ohio and across the country. Miami was our first stop, and I said, 'This is it.' I didn't need to put a lot of thought in it, since once I saw the campus, I was aesthetically drawn to Miami.

"My first year at Miami was tough, as I had not been completely prepared for the college experience in high school. However, I had a lot of passionate professors who were super involved in my academic career, and that really stuck with me. They were always willing to accommodate, even though I had no idea what I was doing 90% of the time. However, with their support as well as the support from a bunch of new friends, I was good.

"I began delving into international studies during my freshman year because I was eager to know if this was the right major for me. One of the first required courses in the major felt like it was more geared towards business and economics, while I wanted to explore cultural and social topics from the beginning. This is when I discovered my first 3 majors, all in the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies: Black world studies, Latin American studies, and women's, gender & sexuality studies (WGS). For me, they seemed more specifically focused on people, culture, and social conditions, and that's what drew me in.

"I have never taken a class for any of these majors that I haven't enjoyed. I feel that the topics are important, challenging, and extremely relevant."

Best Miami Experiences

Building facades in Prague, Czech Republic

"I've done a lot of traveling, as I've joined my father on many of his trips. Now, as a Miami student, I've been able to do my own independent study abroad trips, and they've been really good. My first experience came from one of my advisors in my WGS major and was for a 16-credit hour, 4-month program in 4 European countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. I took that trip during Fall 2016 and completed my WGS major requirements. It also added to my minor in European Area Studies.

"The purpose of this particular trip was to learn certain aspects of culture that were specific to those countries. For example, in Amsterdam we examined the LGBT movement, since the Netherlands, in 2001, was one of the first countries to fully legalize gay marriage. Our group spent about 6 weeks in Amsterdam and Utrecht, and then we moved on to Berlin for a full month before heading off to Kraków (Poland) and Prague (Czech Republic). The entire experience was amazing.

"I also spent part of last summer in London on another study abroad trip, Literary London, which is put together by the Department of English. I took two classes there on creative writing and the works of Jane Austen. This was my first time taking actual classroom courses while abroad, and I loved it.

"I spend a lot of time at the Office of Diversity Affairs in Armstrong Student Center. The staff, including (former) senior administrative director Gerald Yearwood, are fantastic and provide a great resource on campus. Gerald is now officially retired, but he had helped me a lot with not only study abroad but also on-campus activism.

"On the faculty side, three people come immediately to mind: professor Rodney Coates in Black World Studies (who has been a great mentor), associate professor Ann Fuehrer in WGS (who recommended my fall study abroad), and professor C. Lee Harrington in Sociology and Social Justice Studies (with whom I worked as a TA). All of them are phenomenal!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

Highgate Cemetery in north London, England

"Everyone knows that the world is becoming increasingly globalized. That includes our campus, since we have students from many different countries. My first three majors all focus on cultural and social theories and the way people live, work, and navigate the world — it's incredibly important. When most people look for a job, they think, 'What can I do in this field?' They aren't necessarily thinking about what they can do with the people in that field; so for me my majors offer a different approach for my career path.

"People tend to look to the STEM fields to get a job out of college, since many of us want to make a lot of money right off. But they'll be limited without the liberal arts. I almost chose to study computer programming, and that would've been all I could do. But at Miami and especially in the College of Arts and Science, everyone is required to take at least a couple of classes outside their major. This can really be an eye-opening experience. If you had been only focused on business and science, then the liberal arts exposes you to ways of thinking that are not A, B, C, and D — looking for one right answer. The liberal arts expands our minds.

"Everything I study in class has heavy historical grounding. It's not that all of us need to learn, for the sake of a career, about U.S. relations with Latin America or how Spanish is used in Mexico versus the U.S. and what translates to the culture. However, this is all very relevant stuff. When you graduate with it, you are going to have knowledge that can be applied in many ways.

"For example, last year I took a course taught by associate professor of history Tammy Lynn Brown called Race in U.S. Society (BWS 386), where we discussed the #BlackLivesMatter movement and recent cultural shifts leading to what has been happening in our country lately. I feel the class should be required for all students so that all of us can become more conscious of what is happening around us and why.

"Other examples of important and relevant courses I've had include one called HIV/AIDS in Media (WGS 370P), which addressed how the AIDS crisis has been modified and diminished in American history in terms of what people are learning nowadays, and how the current opioid epidemic could lead to a modern resurgence in HIV cases. I also took an African-American writing class, BWS 337, that was phenomenal, with a lot of great material from 1878-1945. I really have never taken a bad class at Miami!

"All the knowledge and experiences I've acquired at Miami will help me go to grad school, possibly in Europe. I've also volunteered with some non-profit organizations, including Women on Waves in the Netherlands and Wise Thoughts in London, which focuses on LGBTQ and BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) communities. After grad school, I think a non-profit is where I will ultimately end up."

Leading and Navigating the Literary Side of London

Alexandra talks about parlaying her previous experiences into a leadership role among her peers during a Literary London study abroad trip.

Leadership in Literary London Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"Don't be intimidated by your academic requirements. I know a lot of people are hesitant to get into CAS because of its requirements along with the Miami Plan. It seems like there's a lot to do, but in reality when you start taking the courses within your major, many of them are cross-listed, so some may also fulfill your other requirements.

"I also recommend taking classes in CAS that are not necessarily within your major. For example, I've taken courses in the Department of Classics, like one called Ancient Sexualities [CLS 336], which was absolutely fascinating. I've also begun taking on the Classical Humanities major because of the experience that I had in this course. Again, I have never had a bad class, so pick something you are interested in.

"Finally, while study abroad is a big part of what drew me to Miami, it's not the only worthwhile experience outside your classroom. Study abroad can be very expensive, and some people might not feel comfortable flying or leaving the country for any amount of time. Making friends can have a big impact on your learning — and in some ways that can be more important than travelling the world."

[March 2018]