Minerva University
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Minerva University

A Conversation with Minerva Student Maria

Meet Maria, a student in the Class of 2021.

Quick Facts

Maria Budig

Germany & Poland


Arts & Humanities
Social Sciences


Why did you choose to attend Minerva?
The main reason I chose Minerva was to take part in the global experience. I believe that travel is vital if we want to truly get to know ourselves. Through travel, not only do we learn to be independent, but we also learn about other cultures and traditions. For me, Minerva is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Never again will I have the chance to live in so many countries while being a part of such a supportive, resource-rich community.

What are some of your other passions and interests?
My main interests lie in the fields of theatre and the arts. I am trying to pursue these interests at Minerva, whether by working in my sketchbook during my free time, or going to improvisation workshops in the evenings. I believe that these two fields in particular inspire me to explore and work with what surrounds me — from looking at people on the streets and adapting to their behavior to going somewhere beautiful to gain new material for my art.

Other than that, I am very driven to learn new languages and deepen my knowledge of Spanish, French, and Japanese. I grew up bilingually and quickly learned how to effectively communicate in English. Despite learning Latin, Spanish, French, and basic Japanese, I no longer remember most of them. The lack of consistent practice can do that. After my Foundation Year, I want to pick up my old pace and study these languages, putting my knowledge into practice each summer by finding an internship in a country that speaks one of the languages.

What do you like about Minerva academics?
Minerva enables me to step out of my comfort zone and challenges my way of thinking. I have only completed one semester, but I can already see how the curriculum has impacted my everyday thinking. Outside the classroom, there are so many opportunities to engage with the city and community in which we live: attending a What I’ve Learned (WIL), volunteering, participating in Location-Based Assignments (LBAs). The list goes on. By enabling us to engage with what we’re learning in unique, community-based ways, Minerva is encouraging us to be citizens of the world.

What is a problem you would like to address in the world?
I have considered a possible career at the United Nations for years, so after finishing my education, I want to become active in the field of human rights. I attended the WIL with Brad Adams, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, and I realized that advocating for human rights is the field that concerns me the most when discussing global issues. How can we guarantee that each person on this planet has access to the same resources and is granted basic human rights? Who even determines what “basic” means? While working to help answer these and other questions, I hope to actively help make changes that will positively influence the lives of many.

Why did you decide not to attend a school with a traditional campus environment?
Our world is changing. Rising globalization and advances in technology mean that in a few years, many of the jobs that are commonplace today may no longer be around. Instead, there will be new, more innovative jobs centered around technology. I want to promote innovation because I believe that in order to improve our current situation, we must adapt. I came to Minerva to ensure I am prepared for the challenges of the future.

I hope to use the global experience to help tackle issues unique to each city, and learn how to approach them from different perspectives. Each city we will live in faces its own issues, be it homelessness, pollution, overpopulation, or otherwise. Understanding a city’s needs, as opposed to just doing what I want, will have a much larger impact on their communities.

Why did you decide to pursue an IB Diploma?
The main reason I joined the IB Diploma program was because it is a very rigorous academic program that demanded a lot of commitment. Coming from a German-speaking school, I was looking for more out of my educational experience. I wanted to challenge myself on a linguistic, as well as academic level, which the IB program enabled me to do. I also wanted to pursue an international education after high school and the IB seemed to be the perfect fit for me; I thought it would give me a good base for my life as an global citizen.

How did you shape your IB Diploma to your interests?
The IB definitely helped me pursue and strengthen my interests. Taking courses such as Theatre Higher Level (HL) or German Literature, I was able to explore my interests and, in a way, have an “excuse” to spend a lot of time doing what I enjoyed. Perhaps as importantly, I learned what I don’t want to do in life. Two years ago, I was certain that I wanted to study physics at a traditional university. Hence, I took Physics HL. If I had not had the chance to take this course, I would have probably made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. As it turned out, I realized that I was not interested in physics and instead just enjoyed excelling at it in my old high school.

Who inspired you in high school?
My first IB coordinator and Theory of Knowledge (ToK) teacher was inspiring. Maybe it was the fact that he studied drama for a while, or perhaps it was his extroverted character, but his classes were very engaging. He managed to motivate all of his students. He used to take us outside for classes, and preferred class discussions or psychological experiments over learning from a textbook. It was this shift from traditional learning methods that made us students value him — not only as a teacher but also as an individual.

How did TOK prepare you for Minerva’s active learning experience?
Our ToK classes, as well as some of Minerva’s initial classes were very similar — not only in the style of teaching methods but also in the curriculum itself. Even though I was unaware at the time, we talked about complex systems and emergence in our ToK classes. For example, we watched Black Mirror episodes and, indirectly, set up theses to interpret the show’s messages. We touched upon the scientific method and used practiced keeping an open mind throughout the process. Now that I am at Minerva, my understanding of the content I learned during ToK classes has only deepened. I am able to draw connections that, at first, I did not realize existed.

How has the IB program influenced your experience exploring the world, and living and learning in new cultures at Minerva?
The simple fact that I was able to experience an international school was reason enough for me to be grateful for the opportunities I was provided while I pursued the IB program. Even though I am now in San Francisco with Minerva, sitting on the window of my room, that realization is only now setting in. Is it really true that in four years I will have travelled the world? I cannot quite believe it. And though I am not fully there yet, I do know one thing for sure: I will enjoy every single moment of it and remain thankful the whole way through. Just like the IB, Minerva is an experience I should not take for granted.

How is Minerva shaping the future, in your own words?
By shaping how students think, Minerva is indirectly shaping the future. Through teaching us how to think, instead of telling us what we should think, Minerva’s curriculum is preparing us for our future lives. Instead of doing what most traditional universities do, Minerva aims to make sure we are actively participating in the learning process and applying our knowledge when solving problems on a national, or even global level. In this way, we students will be prepared to adapt to a changing world and can make it a better place by putting our visions into practice.

How did you get involved with Model UN (MUN)?
The first time I encountered MUN was in eighth grade. My former English teacher approached me because one of the students from the grade above me gave up her spot at an international MUN at the last minute. I decided to give it a try and put my — at the time — relatively poor English skills into practice.

My first conference was a big challenge. Everybody was experienced with the procedures and there were international participants whose English was excellent. What is more, most people were at least two years older than me. As the debate evolved, however, I became more and more confident speaking up and found a sense of enjoyment in speaking in front of such a large group. My first conference was followed by my second, my second by my third, and so on. To date, I have gone to a total of 13 conferences, founded the MUN working group at my old high school, and am currently working on bringing MUN to Minerva. This is all thanks to my former English teacher for having confidence in my skills.

What skills or lessons did you learn that have been useful in your studies at Minerva?
MUN taught me how to speak up, even if I’m not entirely confident. I learned to make effective arguments with the information provided and saw firsthand how presentation matters. Furthermore, I learned to love raising my opinion and started paying more attention to how I let other people perceive me.

Why is international cooperation critical to resolving the world’s biggest challenges?
In order to preserve world peace. If every country just did what was in their own best interest, the world would be a place full of chaos and disagreement. Collaboration enables us to not only identify problems and find more holistic solutions, but also gives us the ability to implement them. Also, the more countries that come together, the more resources available to enable solutions.

What advice do you have for MUN students who plan to attend Minerva?
When you come to Minerva, remember to change your perspective every now and then, just like you had to at MUN. Even though living in an international community might be exciting and can seem like an adventure, it also comes with challenges. Different cultures mean different views, traditions, and ways of acting and thinking. Remember what you learned about other countries at MUN and how what might seem normal for one country can be a taboo for another. Bear that in mind when you are in a dispute, and use the same open-mindedness you practiced at MUN.



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