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UMBC hitting aces on, off the court


Sugene UMBC 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Even though the University of Maryland Baltimore County won’t win the 2018 Tennis On Campus National Championship title this weekend, one player on the squad is still working hard to make sure she aces her final school paper.

Graduate student Sugene Shin is using her trip to Florida to work on a project for her English class. Her initial thought was to interview other students on campus about what they know about Baltimore, but after qualifying for Nationals, a 64-team competition with colleges and universities from across the country, she knew she had a unique opportunity to do something bigger.

The topic of the project was “The Uprising of Baltimore,” and Shin needed to either write a 40-page paper, record a 90-minute podcast or produce a 60-minute video on something related to the city.

She decided to make a video, but she was concerned that if she was quizzing only fellow Retrievers about the city in which they live and study, she’d get a lot of similar answers. One trip to Nationals solved that problem, and she was able to get a wide range of insightful answers. After all, what other events give you access to 600 students from 32 states and 19 countries?

So, flanked by her teammate and videographer Fernando Aguilar, Shin has been busy between matches talking to as many people from as many places as she can.

“It was a happy coincidence,” said Shin, 25, who earned her undergraduate degree at UMBC and is set to graduate with her masters in English from the university next spring. “Before we knew we were going to Nationals, I was going to have to ask much different questions because the students knew the area so well. This works out much better.

“It’s crazy because every school, every student is different. The schools that are most ethnically diverse have lots of different opinions, and then they start discussing and disagreeing on things.”

Shin asked each team she came across in Florida the same questions, mainly around the first thing they think of when they hear “Maryland,” their thoughts on the city of Baltimore and whether Baltimore has more of a positive or negative reputation.

She then asked whether they would work or go to school in Baltimore and whether they knew any events that have taken place in the city. Finally, she surveyed whether or not they would recommend living in Baltimore to a friend or family member.

Some of the results were surprising to Shin, even though she started the assignment knowing that not everybody across the country knows everything about Baltimore.

“A lot of people in California said they could not live there because of the weather,” Shin said. “Some of the people in Colorado said Baltimore was too uptight, and Georgia Tech had a lot of opinions on the social events that happen in Baltimore.

“It’s a little bit nerve-racking, going to speak to other schools, because they might not want to do it or might not want to be on camera, but everyone has been so nice.”

Shin has already interviewed players from 22 teams. With at least one more match scheduled for Saturday, expect that number to climb even higher as she makes more friends at the USTA National Campus.