Jennifer Castano, Criminal Justice (Homeland Security)
“Studying and traveling abroad benefitted my character and my future career.”
While traveling from Morocco to Spain, where she was spending a semester in Barcelona, Jenn Castano saw a man swim toward her docked ship with the intention of stowing away. When the crowd on board alerted the police, the swimmer returned to shore. Jenn, a criminal justice
major concentrating in homeland security, was fascinated. Her class on international relations had recently discussed issues of migration from Africa to Spain. “It was very real, very impactful, to see someone make this attempt at a different life,” she says.
Jenn was born in Colombia and moved to the U.S. when she was nine. She chose UMass Lowell because the diversity of the student body appealed to her, as did the criminal justice program and the opportunity to study abroad. During the spring semester of her sophomore year, Jenn, who is bilingual, lived with a host family and took classes at Pompeo Sabra University in Barcelona. “It was so interesting to study terrorism from the international point of view,” says Jenn, who enjoyed hearing new perspectives from her peers.
Outside of school, Jenn volunteered in a second-grade classroom in Barcelona and also kept a blog for a second-grade class in the U.S. She met with the latter on her return as part of a service project through Reach the World. “I would love to inspire others to seek out experiences like mine,” she says. She took the opportunity while abroad to travel throughout Europe and to North Africa. One highlight was riding camels and spending a night with a Berber family in the Moroccan desert. “It was wonderful to experience dinner by candlelight, and drumming and dancing for entertainment. The contrast to our own lives was great,” she says.
Jenn says her experience opened her eyes to new possibilities and perspectives, and helped her become more independent. An honors student, Jenn hopes to earn her master’s in criminal justice at UMass Lowell and to eventually work in immigration services. “Immigration is part of my own family’s experience and it’s an ongoing issue in the U.S.,” she says. “I would love to help others achieve legally what I’ve been able to achieve and to have similar opportunities.”
Earlier in the year, Jenn won an international writing competition sponsored by the ASIS (a professional organization for the security industry) with a paper that addressed the challenges of securing cyberspace in the 21st century.
Watch Jenn speak about her experience as a criminal justice student and her research on the Panama Canal as an American Imperialist Venture: