Amazing Students

Ray Paleg

Ray Paleg, a senior majoring in geography and a Ramsey Honors Scholar, has studied or interned in Thailand (twice), Hawaii, Tanzania and Washington, D.C. She says her “undergraduate experience has been filled with adventure, growth and making memories with the people I love.”

Hometown:

Silver Spring, Maryland

High School:

Albert Einstein High School

Degree objective:

Bachelor of Science in geography; African Studies Certificate

Expected graduation:

May 2016

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Geography has only one universal law, called Tobler’s First Law of Geography. This law states, “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” This law has shaped my undergraduate experience. My various interests in environmental and wildlife studies, education and community development have taken me around the world. I didn’t want to just learn about these topics, I wanted to relate to the people and organizations striving to revolutionize these fields. As a geography major and a Ramsey Scholar, I am surrounded by mentors who have supported and guided me in my pursuits.

The summer after my freshman year, I was awarded a Freeman Asia grant to volunteer on an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand. I spent my time taking care of the 70 elephants at the sanctuary — bathing, feeding, exercising and playing with these amazing creatures. After I left the sanctuary, I ended up teaching English for a few weeks in a Buddhist temple. My students taught me lessons on love, patience and giving, and sparked my interest in curriculum development.

During the fall semester of 2013, I interned at a child development center on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. I worked full time in a pre-toddler classroom for children of active military members. After work and on weekends, I was able to take advantage of all the incredible activities Hawaii has to offer, such as scuba diving, hiking, skydiving and beach exploring. This job opened my eyes to the national education and child care system.

The summer after my sophomore year, I interned at KIWAKKUKI (Women Against AIDS in Kilimanjaro Center) in Moshi, Tanzania, thanks to an Honors International Scholars Program (HISP) travel grant and a Keds Brave Life career grant. While working on my Swahili proficiency, I worked in the community outreach department and led computer seminars for local university students. This organization inspired me to strive toward a career that would improve lives through education and community development.

The spring of my junior year, I went back to Thailand, this time to the island of Phuket. I studied at the Prince of Songkla University where I was the only American out of 3,000 students, and interned for Shark Guardian, thanks to a second Asia Freeman grant. I worked directly with the two founders of the Shark Guardian, giving shark education seminars to local dive shops and divers on boats. I also did data input and organization for the eShark database for Phuket, which uses community observations to track and monitor local shark populations. Through my internship, I began scuba diving with sharks to jumpstart data collection, and would see as many as 20 sharks in one dive!

The summer after junior year, I was awarded an Honors in Washington scholarship, where I lived in UGA’s Delta Hall in Washington, D.C. I interned at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, working with their Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite mission. I interned with their education and outreach team, helping to improve accessibility of the satellites’ data, and create educational material for teachers. My three bosses — Kristen Weaver, Dorian Janney and Dalia Kirschbaum — exemplified the kind of strong, free-thinking and passionate female scientists that I hope to one day be like.

While UGA has helped me to explore the world, it has also provided a great environment both personally and academically in Athens. On campus, I have been involved with the Prelude dance ensemble, Lunchbox Garden club, the UGA Swahili Club, Office of International Education ambassadors, Omicron Delta Kappa honors society, Sigma Delta Tau and the Office of Sustainability, which does some amazing work for UGA’s commitment toward a sustainable future.

I could not have imagined a better four years, and am so grateful to be a Dawg! My undergraduate experience has been filled with adventure, growth and making memories with the people I love.

Current Employment:

Urban agriculture intern for the UGA Office of Sustainability

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first in my family to attend the University of Georgia. Luckily for the Paleg squad, red accentuates everyone’s best features so we all benefited from this decision.

I chose to attend UGA because…

… of the UGA PillowPet that I presumptively bought on my first visit to campus, and which I feared I would have to give up if I chose any other college. Also, the contagious spirit of the student body, the abundance of opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom, and the variety of travel scholarships and opportunities offered to undergraduate students really appealed to me. While I was unsure of exactly what I wanted to study after entering college, it was clear that UGA had the mentors and programs to guide me in the right direction.

I was especially excited by the travel possibilities offered through the Ramsey Scholarship, as well as the community that lay at the heart of it. As I hoped, this has proven to be one of the best parts of my undergraduate experience.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…  relax and work in the geography-geology building rooftop garden. Through my internship with the UGA Office of Sustainability, I spend much of my time taking care of the plants and vegetables, composting, working with volunteers, and harvesting. The garden is such a beautiful and happy place for me; I love to spend my time there reading and relaxing, and also calling people’s names and then ducking out of sight when they look up toward the roof.

When I have free time, I like…

… to perform dance routines for my roommates with our dog, play the four chords I know on my ukulele repetitively while slightly adjusting my favorite songs to fit the tune, and have pizza eating competitions with myself.

The craziest thing I've done is…

The summer after my freshman year, I volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand. One of the sanctuary’s sources of revenue was selling paper made of the elephants’ excrement. While it was exhilarating and unforgettable spending my days playing with the elephants, the craziest (and also the smelliest) part of my summer experience was definitely learning the “art” of turning poop into paper.

My favorite place to study is…

… the science library. Not only does the building have the best assortment of snack machines on campus, the main lobby has one of the best exhibits on campus, which displays the remains of a giant sloth struggling to escape from the mud so he can go nap (I presume). I find this to be a somewhat appropriate metaphor for my studying habits.

My favorite professor is…

I have been lucky enough to have absolutely incredible professors throughout my time at UGA, but my three favorite are Dainess Maganda, Fausto Sarmiento and Steven Holloway.

Dr. Maganda, who teaches Swahili language and culture courses, is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and strives to turn her classrooms into communities. Her courses are filled with life lessons, dancing and food, and she makes sure every student feels cared for. When I spent my summer in Tanzania, she would even call throughout my trip to hear what I had been up to and help me out with my Swahili. She is currently leading a one-on-one directed studies course on environmental education and technology in Kenyan schools, allowing me, and all of her students, the chance to dive into the topics that interest us most. I am so lucky to have a professor who is also a mentor and supporter, not just to me, but to every student who walks through her doors.

Dr. Sarmiento teaches environmental and mountain geography, and is one of the reasons I chose to become a geography major. His passion for geographical studies is contagious and showed me that I could find an academic field that I loved and found fiercely intriguing. Dr. Sarmiento always has his door open to students to guide them in their personal or academic paths, and pushes students to exceed their personal expectations of themselves. His smile and love for life make every class with him joyful and interesting.

Dr. Holloway has taught my various urban geography courses, which have challenged the way I view the world and the urban environment. These have been my most interesting classes at UGA, and Dr. Holloway has proven to be the most intelligent professor I have ever had. Every single time I walk out of his class, I feel as if I have grown as a critical thinker and scholar. I highly suggest taking his courses as part of the urban studies certificate that will commence next year.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Beyoncé. We would have a wild dance party, where she would teach me all of her best dance moves and I would teach her the worm. Not only is she an amazing artist, she is an incredible and inspiring woman. Beyoncé is strong and fierce, yet is open about her insecurities and vulnerabilities. She is a feminist, but has demonstrated that as long as you believe in equality, this label can look different on everybody. She clearly cares so deeply for the people she loves, and still remains independent and true to herself. She has served as a role model for so many, including myself. I would love to ask her questions, hear more of her stories, and finally master the “Single Ladies” dance.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… be an astronaut. I would tie-dye and bedazzle all of the astronaut suits on the mission, and then go explore the galaxy!

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… get a swimming pool full of pizza and dive in. Pool full of pizza, I’mma dive in it.

After graduation, I plan to…

… take a short trip to Europe, visiting London, Paris and Barcelona before I begin working for Google as a recruiting coordinator in Mountain View, California. Google has revolutionized data accessibility around the world, and I am so excited to get this opportunity to work for my dream company.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… midnight meals at Snelling with all my best friends during freshman year. Living in the Myers Honors dorm was absolutely amazing, and helped me find my best friends at UGA, including my freshman year roommate who I still live with today. My hall mates and I would often go to Snelling to celebrate the end of tests, exciting events, or just the joy that is attending UGA. There is nothing like being surrounded by your best friends at an endless buffet of doughnuts and pancakes in the early morning hours.

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