By: Spencer Derrenberger
Photo Credit: Ajel Balan
Senior MCS major Ajel Balan has been at UMBC since 2019 and is expecting to graduate in Spring 2023. Initially, Ajel started out with a different major, but later switched to Media and Communication Studies.
Recently, we sat down and talked with him about his MCS experience at UMBC, as well as his internship with the National STEM Honor Society (NSTEM).
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: So, why did you switch majors and choose MCS?
Surprisingly, I think I have an interesting story to tell. When I started at UMBC, I was actually a computer science major. I thought, oh man, coding stuff would be so cool, it’d be great. But then, after a while, I realized that this isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I remember looking back at some of my old hobbies, when I would make YouTube videos, edit them, and just fiddle around with digital media stuff. And so, I decided to choose MCS in order to try to learn some skills, get some understanding about it, and, hopefully, maybe, do something with social media.
Q: Looking back, as you’re a senior now, do you have any sort of pivotal moments that made you think, “Oh, this is why I do MCS” or just any favorite moments in your student career?
Actually, I would say taking MCS 370 (Making a Media Campaign). Working on a media campaign has definitely made me realize that this is something I probably want to do for the rest of my life. It’s very interesting. I’ve come to really enjoy video editing and I want to focus more on it. I have a passion for it, really. Using Adobe Premiere Pro has been exciting, too.
There was also Professor Anchor’s Making Visual Culture (MCS 377) and Dr. Snyder’s Social Media: Networking and Mobility (MCS 355). Those were really cool classes. I really just enjoy editing.
Q: Do you have any plans of what you want to do career wise after graduation?
Probably somewhere along the lines of like, something to do with social media. I would say maybe being editor, social media specialist, communication specialist– any of those roles. Again, since I only switched majors recently– I could have graduated as a comp sci major– I have had a lot spinning in my head. With MCS, you can go down a broad range of different careers and paths, which makes trying to focus on just one really hard. There are a lot of options.
Q: What about your internship? What’s that like?
I’m currently doing a remote internship with the National STEM Honor Society. Basically, they try to encourage students from K to 12 to pursue STEM and STEM careers. And they have all sorts of special little, I believe, exciting programs that will help them get into practicing it, you know, with rewarding them as well.
Q: What’s your role as an intern?
I work for the social media marketing department. I also work in another department about chapter development, where it’s basically doing research on schools and which schools would benefit the most from STEM opportunities.
Q: What skills have you learned from this position?
For the social media marketing department, I would definitely say getting a good understanding about making the posts and crafting them using stuff like Canva and, slowly, I want to try to upgrade and start using Premiere Pro as well.
In addition to that, I would say working with Excel for chapter development and working with a team. While I am still an intern and just doing basic stuff, it’s been really interesting to research. My role is to research the percentages of schools that are doing well in STEM. With this, hopefully we can give students, as well as teachers, recognition for their work.
Q: How has your experience at UMBC as an MCS student helped you during your internship?
I would say that, for starters, overall, when it comes to presenting my ideas and stuff, I believe it has definitely helped me a lot. In the past, presentations have been nightmarish, but it’s helped me. It’s helped me understand how media works, as well. I remember, as a kid, I actually didn’t really care about social media, but as I grew older, I’ve come to really enjoy it. It was kind of bizarre.
Also, it’s helped me with some skills, like editing and all that.
Q: Do you think you’d recommend this internship to other people? If so, what kind of person would you recommend this for?
When it comes to this internship, I'd recommend it. My experience personally has been a bit interesting, given that there's been a lot of changes going on. And I know that NSTEM is definitely looking for more and more interns. They’re looking for people into video editing and HR, too.
But yeah, if you want to do an internship, where you're overall free to make your own path alongside what else you want to do, or maybe even be a director and help lead a project, then I certainly recommend them for all of that. They ask you what three departments you’re interested in. Then, you can pick and choose which one you want to focus on. And from then on, you can just go crazy.