Over the past few weeks, thousands of new students have committed to Montclair State’s Class of 2024. But few are coming from as far away as Karina Bloom.
Bloom grew up in State College, Pennsylvania, but has spent the last three years stationed in Okinawa, Japan, as a member of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band. She will be pursuing flute performance as her major at the John J. Cali School of Music.
“The number one thing here is experiencing the culture and meeting the people,” says Bloom, who was interviewed from her base via WhatsApp audio chat. “The locals here are the best people in the whole world. They are so kind and open and so welcoming and hospitable.”
Montclair State is consistently on the U.S. News list of the best colleges for veterans and Bloom is excited to experience the diversity of New Jersey and the proximity to New York City. However, she says her decision came “down to the environment and the faculty.” Bloom was able to take a virtual lesson with Wendy Stern, a Cali adjunct professor, in October, and reports, “I had a really awesome experience with her.”
The 22-year-old also is looking forward to sharing her experiences with fellow students.
“I want to be an advocate for helping young women find strength in themselves. I hope to be a positive influence to those who need this guidance,” says Bloom.
“The military is a tough place to grow into who you are, especially as an 18 year old experiencing their first real job living away from home. I want to assist young women on their journey of self development while also emphasizing the importance of fostering healthy relationships and give them the tools to recognize the signs of toxic environments and people.”
Bloom wants to combine her love of music, travel and people into one career. “Right now, I’m interested in entering the foreign service after graduating and after looking at a master’s degree. I want to bring music to other countries. I want to be versatile. There are a couple of programs I’m interested in for minors.”
Before being stationed in Japan, Bloom had to meet the same rigorous requirements as her fellow, non-musician Marines – and more.
“I graduated high school, and then a month later I went to boot camp, then to combat training, then to the Naval School of Music.”
COVID-19 has complicated Bloom’s plans in that she is unable to say goodbye to many of her friends in Japan in person. She will also need to enter quarantine when she separates from the military in North Carolina, then again when visiting her family in Pennsylvania, and again when she moves to New Jersey.
“I plan to move to New Jersey regardless of the schooling situation,” says Bloom, who longs to be on campus but recognizes that the fall semester may be socially distant. “This is the best way for me to have this experience.”
Story by Staff Writer Mary Barr Mann.