In August at our GMS alumni reunion, we caught up with Harrison McClain-Rubin (GMS Class of 2010), a junior in the Honors College at University of North Carolina-Greensboro. We were eager to learn more about his recent study abroad experience in Germany, plus how his nine years as a student at GMS shape his perspective on the world.
GMS: What inspired you to study abroad in Germany last semester? Tell us about one of the highlights of your experience.
Harrison: Being a political science student at UNCG, I had programs available in Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Germany. My fascination with German history elevated her above the other countries, plus her central position in Europe was perfect for all the travel I hoped to accomplish. I met so many great people while studying at the University of Mannheim that I now consider lifelong friends. It is hard to think of a single highlight of the trip, but one of the best things that happened resulted from my decision to go to Deutsche Bank to create a bank account one morning. This one morning I was tired (still jet-lagged), late to a bank appointment, and lost in this foreign city. By the time I arrived I found myself behind four French Canadian strangers. For some reason we started to talk, then we grabbed lunch together and proceeded to explore the city. By the end of the day my new French Canadian friends asked if I wanted to go to Munich for the weekend. In my head, I thought, “I barely know these people…maybe some other time… and shouldn’t I start to study?” But in the end, I took the risk and went to Munich. I decided to leave my comfort zone and go on this trip. It was the best decision I could have made because I made four great friends. We bonded during our time in Munich and it helped set the foundation for the best six months of my life.
GMS: Do you think you see the world differently as a result of being a graduate of a Montessori school? If so, how?
Harrison: Having been in Montessori from kindergarten to 8th grade I believe I have a more creative perspective when it comes to solving problems. When problems arise, I do not feel limited by the circumstances and I am able to think critically and creatively to figure out solutions.
GMS: What do you value most about your years at Greensboro Montessori School?
Harrison: I value the teaching environment. I have always been more of a hands on learner and Greensboro Montessori gave me the platform I needed to thrive and allowed me to focus on my passion for social sciences. The ability to have one on one lessons and focus on my specific needs was pivotal in my early education.
GMS: How did GMS prepare you for your high school and collegiate success?
Harrison: Greensboro Montessori gave me the tools to tackle long-term assignments and taught me to think critically which I fear a fair amount of my fellow students in high school and, even now, in university are still developing these tools. By the time I had left GMS I had written multiple longer papers, critically discussed and analyzed novels and conducted science projects. Leaving Montessori I felt confident in my abilities as a student and I did not feel overwhelmed once I left my graduating class of eight at GMS to my freshman class of 400+ students at Grimsley.
GMS: What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Harrison: My proudest accomplishment has been taking the initiative and deciding to go to Europe for six months, to a country where I did not know the language or any people. It was an important decision to take that step and just be open to what happens. I discovered how easy it is to travel, meet new people, and participate in local events. I grew more confident and open to new things. To other students considering traveling abroad, my advice would be this – don’t worry if you can’t do everything, it’s only natural and don’t feel that you have to be busy every minute of every day. It is just as important to take time for yourself and to relax. Your time abroad doesn’t need to always be a theme park ride. The best thing I did for myself was slow down and enjoy the smaller things like spending time in a park with a friend, go for a run, or even slow down and binge a Netflix series. Mannheim became my second home. I was able to spend some time traveling, but I also spent a lot of time just enjoying Mannheim. My time abroad opened my eyes to new experiences and the opportunities that rest outside of the United States. Attending the University of Mannheim was the best decision I could have made.
GMS: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Harrison: In five years I hope to be back in Europe. My time in Europe opened my eyes to life beyond the United States. Who says I have to go to graduate school in the U.S.? Why not Europe? And as for now that is my goal. Once I am finished at UNCG, I hope to attend graduate school in Europe and continue to travel and see the world.