A Life in the Year of a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow ~ A Personal Account ~ by
Arjana Blazic 2014-2015 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow traveloteacher.blogspot.hr
~ I am a Language Arts Teacher and Teacher Trainer from Zagreb, Croatia. It has been one of my greatest desires ever since I was 13 to live and study in the USA so when my application for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship was accepted, it was a dream come true. The Humphrey Program is a Fulbright exchange activity sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education. Every year about 200 fellowships are awarded to working professionals from across the world. They are selected based on their potential for leadership and their commitment to public service. I am the first high school teacher in Croatia who has been awarded this prestigious honor. I blogged about my experience as a Hubert Humphrey Fellow during my Fellowship Year at Penn State University in Pennsylvania and in Washington D.C. from August 2014 till June 2015. This e-book is a compilation of my blog posts about studying at PSU and living in Pennsylvania, about my professional affiliation in D.C. and my travels across the US, about learning and sharing, about friendships and potlucks, about chocolate and football, about all those great people and events that made my year in the USA a memorable experience.
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship about to begin (2014-08-11) My Humphrey Fellowship officially begins tomorrow. I'm about to embark on a new ten-month learning journey at the Pennsylvania State University, one of the leading US universities. I'm thrilled to take part in this year's program at the College of Education along with 9 fellows from 8 countries. We're part of a 2014/2015 cohort of 150 fellows from all over the world. As I'm the first Croatian school teacher to have been selected for this prestigious scholarship, I'm going to blog about my year as a Humphrey Fellow as often as possible.
So I'm writing this pre-departure post from my home in Zagreb. My bags are all packed and yes, I've packed everything but the kitchen sink, which was actually quite easy. But parting from my family is not easy at all, it's unbearable! But I'm sure we'll manage to go through it.
Weeks 1 & 2 (2014-08-22) It's been ten days since my arrival in the US. Ten days so busy that it seems to me that I've been here for at least a month. On the first morning when I entered my unfurnished apartment, I thought I would never furnish it! But thanks to Janis, my amazing, amazing host, only four days later my apartment already felt like home. Those first four days were all about the bare necessities - buying an inflatable mattress to sleep on until I get a proper bed, buying kitchen stuff, pillows, comforters (even though I still don't quite get the difference between a duvet and a comforter, I bought a nice zebra patterned comforter), visiting yard sales and giveaways (my first yard sale ever).
Also, getting my student ID, opening a bank account, registering my computer with the PSU ResCom service, purchasing a new sim card and finding a plan that will allow me to be connected on the go, are just a few things that I managed to do successfully during the first week. Our three wonderful coordinators, Jane, Leila and Talat took great care of all of us and made sure it all went smoothly. The second week was about getting to know the campus, classes to choose from and team building. My fellow Humphrey Fellows are all wonderful people and we get on really well. We gave short 15-minute presentations to get to know each other, went to Milbrook Marsh and Niagara Falls and had a lot of fun together. I even managed to overcome my fear of sleeping in outside corridor motels.
The only thing missing is my family.
Week 3 - Classes begin (2014-08-31) We were eased into the new academic year by visiting Boogersburg School in Pleasant Hill. This one-room school where students were taught from 1877 - 1952 is now a museum where local school children and visitors from afar can come and see what it was like to teach and learn in the times past. Teachers in period dress, a register book with names of children and their grades, a potbellied stove, slates, small desks and chairs, some now funny, yet strict rules for teachers ("Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.") brought us back to the times when education became public and free for all.
During the first week, which is also known as "add and drop week" we visited different classes and by the end of the week we had to choose those that we would take for credit, audit and sit in. (Almost) all the classes last three full hours with no break at all in some classes, or up to a tenminute break in others. While visiting the classes I experienced my first culture shock - it was so unusual to see students eating during the lesson! Now I'm pondering if we are too strict regarding food and drink in my country; will students learn more if they are not allowed to eat in class; should eating be restricted to dining halls only; if eating doesn't interfere with active participation in the learning process, should we allow it? The professors whose classes I attended amazed me! They are leading experts in their fields, prominent researchers, prolific writers and highly cited professors, yet they are so friendly, so supportive and so willing to help! I'm indeed very lucky to be able to study here at Penn State, one of the top 1% universities worldwide, and especially so because my mentor is Dr. Kyle L. Peck, Professor and Research Fellow in the College of Education, Co-director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning and Principal Investigator of NASA's Aerospace Education Services Project. I'm immensely looking forward to learning from him and sharing the gained knowledge with educators in my PLN upon my return.
Week 4: What's a tailgate anyway? (2014-09-09) For the second week of classes we were assigned books and articles to read, resources to explore and then discuss in the discussion forums on Angel and Yammer before coming to class for further discussion and sharing. So I dug into it and studied all the materials before the classes, but in spite of it, I was stressed out before each of them, because I wasn't sure how it would go, since it's been ages since I was a student. And once again I was surprised to see how the professors easily managed to create a pleasant atmosphere in their classes and make us feel relaxed and at ease. No stress at all, but a feeling of confidence and eagerness to learn. This week also marked the beginning of the football season. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions played their first home game and it seemed that everyone in State College went to the game and tailgate. Not that I'm a sports fan, but I wanted to see firsthand what a tailgate picnic looked like. And it was a completely new experience, my first football game and my first tailgate party. The game started at noon, but lots of fans came as early as 7 am in their RVs, vans, trucks and cars. They parked their vehicles on the parking lots all around the stadium and then put chairs and tables 6
at the back of their cars. Some of them brought food from home, while others had a barbecue or baked pizzas.
The game started at noon. I had my big purse on me but they didn't let me in with it, so I went home and came back without it! The seating capacity of Beaver Stadium, where the Nittany Lions played against Akron, is 106,000, which is twice as big as the biggest stadium in Croatia. The stadium was packed, there were 97,354 people inside! And what's fascinating is that the population of State College is only 40,000. This number doubles during the academic year, so that's 80,000 people. But, obviously, many more, alumni and other supporters came from all over the state and beyond. The fans were so passionately supporting their team that it was easy to get carried away and cheer for the home team, even though I know absolutely nothing about the rules and how football is played. But I cheered and booed, and yelled and raised my arms for the wave. And was happy. Because my husband was there with me :-)
Week 5: More than a thousand words (2014-09-15) We had our official photos taken this past week. Dress code was formal and we all spruced up for the occasion. After our individual photos had been taken we all headed for the Nittany Lion shrine where we took several official photos and dozens of silly ones, which we of course enjoyed very much.
The Nittany Lion has been a Penn Stateâ€™s mascot since 1904 and the Nittany Lion Shrine is the most photographed site on the campus. The word "Nittany" most likely derives from a native American term meaning "a single mountain". You can find more about all things Nittany here. The official photos will be published on the Penn State Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program website. The credit for the "unofficial" photos above and the photos below goes to Jane. 8
On Wednesday evening we were invited for a dinner at Dean David Monk's home. Dean Monk is the dean of the College of Education which hosts the H. H. Humphrey Fellowship program. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable and it was great to be there talking with Dr. Michael Adewumi, Vice Provost for Global Programs, our mentors and college faculty.
On Sunday we were invited for a picnic at Tudek Park. This event was hosted by the Global Connections, a not-for-profit organization that offers support to international students and provides friendship host families to Humphrey Fellows and other students.
My husband and I went on a short trip to Pittsburgh where we visited the magnificent Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. With its 42 floors, the Cathedral is the tallest school house in the world. But this is not the only reason why this building is unique. There are 30 Nationality Rooms or classrooms that teach. They are gifts to the University from the cityâ€™s ethnic groups. Classes are still held in these impressive rooms that take the visitors on a trip around the world. On the way back to State College we stopped in Punxsutawney, a.k.a. the Weather Capital of the World where Phil, the famous groundhog, predicts the weather every February. We also stopped in some small rural villages where the Amish people live and bought some of their home-made produce and were stunned by the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.
Week 6: The Great Gatsby (2014-09-23) On Saturday we were invited to the President's Tailgate at his residence. This tailgate was completely different than the one I wrote about two weeks ago. It was held in his beautiful lush garden. The tables and chairs were all white, the table cloths white and blue, the colors of the Nittany Lions.
There were lots of people there and at the beginning of the Tailgate the President introduced his special guests, and among the special guests were we - the Humphrey Fellows! Oh how proud and honored I was to be there wearing my Penn State T-shirt and waving at the other invitees. After the cheerleaders' performance accompanied by the Blue Band we watched a stunning performance of the Musical Theatre group. They danced and sang the songs from the 1920s and the songs, the dance and the setting made me feel as if I was at a fabulous Gatsby's party. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books and I felt great!
b After lunch we were bussed to the President's private reception in his private lounge which is on the top of the Beaver Stadium. Our seats were in the first row and we immensely enjoyed the view, the food, the Berkey Creamery ice-cream, delicious chocolate chip cookies, chatting with other people, and the game of course. I'm not very much into football, but I believe I could go to games like this every Saturday. I even started to learn the cheerleading skills.
Apart from being introduced at the Tailgate by the President, we introduced ourselves to the Penn State faculty at two occasions - during the Fall Meeting of the College of Education and at the Comparative and International Education Program Brown Bag lunch. Delicious food was served at all these events, but the real treat was Berkey Creamery. Their Death by Chocolate ice-cream is the best chocolate ice-cream I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot of chocolate ice-cream all over the world). No wonder it is the best, because, they say, only 4 days pass between milking the cows in the University's Dairy Production Research Center and selling the ice-cream in the University creamery. As for the classes, this week I had a wonderful and long-awaited opportunity to try the Google Glass. It was an amazing experience and despite its many flaws, I could get used to wearing it and using it every day. If only it wasn't so expensive.
Weeks 7 & 8: At the speed of light (2014-10-09) I really do my best to write my HHH diary on a weekly basis, but it's been almost three weeks since my last post because I simply didn't find the time to sit down and write. The things are busy, very busy here, what with the regular classes that I attend, the meetings that I'm invited to, the presentations that I give, the proposals that I write, tons of emails that I reply to, the eTwinning learning event that I'm right now co-hosting, the potlucks that we organize in my apartment, the talks I attend are just a few of my activities here at Penn State. Next to all of that, I got to go places over the past two weeks! First, we all went to West Virginia on a team building activity. There I did two of my firsts - roasting marshmallows and horseback riding! Both were amazing!
Then my sons arrived for a visit and we went to Niagara Falls, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. All wonderful trips. We saw a lot of sights and enjoyed it immensely.
Back in State College, my sons and I were among the 2500 Humans of Penn State who got to hear Brandon Stanton, founder of HONY - Humans of New York, give an inspiring speech as part of Distinguished Speaker Series at Penn State. I also had a wonderful opportunity to take part in a Q & A session with Bryan Alexander who was visiting Penn State to give a talk as part of COIL Fischer Speaker Series. It was interesting to hear his thoughts on the future of education. And I was delighted to hear that Bryan speaks Croatian, that 24
he has visited Croatia several times and that he thinks Croatian women are beautiful.
Weeks 9 & 10: Ode to the joy of learning (2014-10-19) Europe and European teachers were in the focus of my activities over the past days. The fourth learning event, Augmented eTwinning Reality, developed and run by the compagnons de route, as Bart likes to call us, took place in the eTwinning learning lab. Our first event was great, our second event was even greater and the third one was the greatest (so the participants!). So, yes, after the third event, as Bart wrote in his post : "This is the third Learning Event Arjana and I organized, but this one is really special. We have never seen so much enthusiasm, so much creativity, so much innovative attitude. Itâ€™s a learning roller coaster."
and while preparing this fourth event I felt rather panicky because 200 hundred seats for the event were taken in just a few hours. I didn't know if we would live up to the expectations of the participants, who, I was pretty sure, expected us to push the limits even further, beyond the superlative ... to the augmentative or to the super great. And now that it's over, I think we made it! I think we enthused and inspired the participants, boosted their creativity and originality and encouraged them to let their imagination run wild with augmented reality. Most of the teachers had little or no experience with these new technologies before the event. But in just a bit less than two weeks of intense learning about the pedagogical use of augmented reality, they became more confident and have already implemented these innovative approaches in their classrooms, not only with their students, but also in collaboration with other participants and their students. Their work represents great examples of best practice of augmented education. Today Bart and I were invited to talk about our learning events at an online conference for the 25
eTwinning ambassadors. We talked about the "ingredients" that we use to create a place where 200 teachers feel welcome, comfortable and happy to share the joy of learning with us. In the meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, things keep going at their usual, super fast pace. We were greatly honored to have Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology and a 2007 Nobel prize winner along with other IPCC authors, as a special guest at our office to answer all our questions and concerns about the climate change.
With Dr. Michael Mann. Photo by Leila
Yosra, the fellow from Sudan prepared a super delicious Sudanese luncheon for 80 people and I was one of happy helpers.
Yosra giving a presentation about Sudan. Photo by Marc.
We were interviewed by a Collegian reporter and the interview is published here. Our official photos finally arrived and are published on the HHH website at Penn State. I put my official photo on Facebook and it got a record number of likes and comments .... because it's so, so.... so much like a yearbook photo.
The October surprise activity and dinner for Humphrey Fellows took place at Jane's, where we went on a hayride up and down the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania.
Humphrey Hayride. Photo by Jane.
Beautiful Pennsylvania. Photo by Jane.
Fellows and Pei Wei on Jane's porch.
We went to a jazz concert at the Palmers Museum of Art and were impressed with the phenomenal performance by the Penn State Student Ensemble. And last but not least, I went to a meeting organized by the Altrusa Club to listen to a presentation about Croatia, which made me very homesick!
Week 11: The color of words (2014-10-27) Fall has arrived here in State College, with its spectacularly beautiful red foliage. In Croatia there are no trees that turn red in the fall, but yellow and brown in lots of different shades. That's why the Croatian word for fall JESEN bears the color of yellowish-brown in my mind. FALL of course has the color of red. Having lived here for 2,5 months now, fall is the word that now comes to mind before autumn. The color of AUTUMN is, for one reason or another, orange. But when I think of words, it's not only the color that they have, it's also the feeling that each word carries. Jesen is in my mind a bitter-sweet mixture of shorter, darker days and the end of summer on one side and on another, there's this intoxicating scent of autumn fruit that I usually buy in the farmers' market near my school. Fall is a different kind of bitter-sweet. It's composed of nostalgia, of loneliness and longing, of multiculturalism and a long-time dream come true. If you are reading this, what feeling and color does the word "fall" bear in your language? Is it your madeleine?
Week 12: It's ..... yeeeeeaaaaah .... Halloween!!! (2014-11-02) Needless to say, to celebrate Halloween was one of my must-do things while in the U.S. and I was lucky to have been invited not to one, but to two parties. The first one, on October 31, was thrown by Jackie, who was so kind as to prepare all kinds of things kids usually do on Halloween, like decorating cookies or putting hands in the feel box where there were some things like eyeballs, guts and some other gross stuff.
The other party we went to tonight is I think one of the most famous Halloween parties in this part of Pennsylvania! It is thrown every year by my mentor Dr. Kyle Peck at his home in the middle of the woods. There were about 100 people there wearing fantastic creative and original costumes, there was a band playing and we were all dancing, singing, drinking, eating, chatting, it was fun, fun, fun.
with the host, my mentor Dr. Peck
Adelina, who I thank so much for giving us a ride to the party
The Fellows with Adelina
Brinda and Yosra
Yes, I was cowgirl and was wearing a pigtail
Leila and Nick
Yes, his name is Andy
Elvis, of course
Jackie Brown and the Gill Street Band
Chatting by the bonfir
Week 13: Global Leadership Forum (2014-11-11) 2014 Global Leadership Forum was held in Washington D.C. from November 2-6. All the Humphrey fellows from 16 campuses got together in DC. There were 171 fellows from 98 countries!
The event was organized by the IIE and there were many events we attended, such as the dreamlike visit to the National Geographic Society or the grand reception at the Department of State where I met Mario Skunca, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Croatian Embassy and Maja Cakarun, 2013-14 Humphrey Fellow from Croatia.
The topic of the GLF was climate change and resilience and each campus gave a presentation. For the occasion we had T-shirts made with a print of a photo of all of us in the woods of West Virginia and Brinda and Muhammad, who delivered the presentation, rocked!
The GLF was also a great opportunity for us to meet with representatives from local organizations and talk about the possibilities of doing our professional affiliation in their organizations at the end of the Humphrey year. It was a huge pleasure and honor to talk about my PA with Dr. Cheryl Williams, Executive Director of the Learning First Alliance and Dr. Helen Soule, Executive Director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Excellent speakers were invited to the GLF. The most powerful and inspiring talks were those given by Dr. Gary Weaver on culture shock and by the Humphrey Alumni Shanta Nagendram and Agnes Igoye. The highlight of the conference was Sharing Cultures during which the fellows performed traditional songs and dances from their countries. It was a cultural trip around the world.
Week 14: Brown bags (2014-11-18) Brown bag lunches are very popular here at Penn State. A brown bag lunch is an informal meeting that takes place over lunch. It's usually an informative session about a topic that is of interest to faculty and students. They can bring their own food, usually packed in a brown bag, but sometimes the food is provided for the participants. I went to my first brown bag in September when all the Humphrey Fellows were given several minutes to introduce themselves and the work they do to the College of Education faculty. This past week I spoke at two brown bags and I'm speaking at another one this Friday. In two of them I spoke about Croatia to the staff of the Corporate Controller and I think they liked my talk and I hope I was a good ambassador of my country, especially as some attendees told me after the presentation they would like to go visit Croatia. I spoke about, I think, unusual things, like what coffee means in the life of a typical Croat, the secrets of lace-making from the island of Pag, the lighthouses, the sunsets, the wooden toys, the Dalmatians, Zinfandel and those beautiful Chicagoan Indians on Horseback by Mestrovic, to mention just a few.
In today's brown bag for the Teacher Leadership Faculty I co-presented with Bart Verswijvel, Education and Communications Officer from the European Schoolnet in Brussels. He joined us via Webex and was so kind to stay with us during the whole session, even though, unlike us, he didn't get a brown bag. Bart and I talked about the eTwinning network and how teachers are using it to launch projects, connect with their peers and develop professionally.
I also gave two webinars for Croatian eTwinning teachers. It was wonderful to speak to so many enthusiastic teachers who wanted to learn more about Lifelong Learning on the eTwinning network and the Skills of the 21st Century. Those were the first two of the three webinars that I'm leading as a Croatian eTwinning ambassador in November. The most emotional and the most cherished moment of the past week was about eTwinning again: I won the first prize for my last year's eTwinning project Coursera Kids in the national eTwinning awards competition. My project partner from Greece, Lina Kalliontzi, also won the first prize in the 42
same competition in Greece! So this must mean that the project was really great! What we did was rather unique. We enrolled our students in a Coursera MOOC and guided them through this fastpaced course. The MOOC was in fact a project within an eTwinning project, which enabled the students to learn more thoroughly, more slowly and more creatively how to develop their writing skills and get ready for their school-leaving exams. The Prize ceremony was held in Zagreb and I "Webexed" in to give a short presentation about the project. My head teacher, Ms. Svea Bielen was there to receive the award and take it to my school and to my students.
Photo by Suzana
There were also my dear friends Ivana, Suzana and Natasa. I couldn't see what they were doing, but I could hear them and I knew they were up to something fun.
Photo by Mrs. Bielen
The first 100 days (2014-11-20)
Today is the hundredth day of my learning journey in my Humphrey Fellowship year, so it's time for a small recap. The most important, the most impressive, the most powerful experience that I've gained here is meeting people - people from all the six continents, people so different in so many ways, yet so similar, so kind, so friendly, so helpful. Emerging technologies come next. Learning from experts is absolutely priceless. It feels great to be a student again, especially here at Penn State where I have access to all the books, journals, articles and databases! A whole new world opened up to me when I got my student PSU ID. All it takes to borrow a book or an article is just a click. In a semester a student can borrow up to 200 books and keep them for the whole semester! If only I had time to read all of them. What I still haven't learned is thinking in English. I'm still waiting for that click to happen to make me think in English spontaneously .. and speak it fluently so that the words come easily, naturally, magically. Come to think of it, this doesn't happen when I speak my native language, either, so obviously I'm not endowed with the gift of gab. Maybe I should have kissed that Blarney stone when I was in Ireland some years ago. Writing is different, sometimes easy, sometimes not so, but always somehow fluid, rolling, teeming with words and thoughts.
Weeks 15 & 16: Feeling thankful (2014-12-01) Teaching languages for me doesn't mean just teaching grammar and the skills, it means much more than that. It includes teaching about people, cultures, way of life, values, history, traditions ... One of the lessons in my English class is always dedicated to Thanksgiving even though all I know about it is from books, movies and from what my American friends have told me or from what they have shared on social networking sites. This year, however, I had this exciting opportunity to see what it is really like. And it totally lived up to my expectations. The food was absolutely delicious turkey, fresh cranberry sauce (my absolute favorite), cornbread, pumpkin pie and many other delicacies. But Thanksgiving is not really about food, it's about thanking and giving and it brings across the 44
amazing American hospitality also. The only people who stayed on campus over the past week were international students, but no matter how many of them were here, they all had a chance to experience the real Thanksgiving feel in an American home or at a church or at any other gathering for international students.
A Thanksgiving invitation
The Humphrey Fellows spent Thanksgiving with host families. I was amazed to see how the host families who travelled to other parts of the country and our three coordinators made sure that the fellows don't stay alone in their campus dormitories, but experience the real Thanksgiving in an American home. I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving at Dee and Richard's home and I'm thankful for that.
Thanksgiving with Dee and Brinda
Richard carving the turkey
Fresh cranberry sauce - yummy!
I'm thankful for being a Humphrey Fellow and for meeting so many amazing people. Most of all, I'm thankful for having the best host ever - Janis. I thank her for being such a kind, thoughtful, understanding, helpful, generous, friendly - or simply put - perfect host.
Janis, my perfect host
Want it or not, Thanksgiving is also closely connected with shopping - Black Friday, a day of huge savings begins on Thursday afternoon. Newspapers around the world simply bombard their readers with stories about people fighting to buy drastically reduced TVs, computers etc. on that day. Because we wanted to check if this was really true we went shopping immediately after Thanksgiving dinner. So there is another myth to be debunked: none of this is true! Shopping on Black Friday was a fun, enjoyable, relaxing experience of finding some nice deals and spending time with family and friends.
Humphrey Fellows shopping on Black Friday
Weeks 17 & 18: Chocolate (2014-12-16) There were quite a few things we needed to accomplish at the end of the semester. Even though the Humphrey Fellowship is a non-degree program, we are graded for our credit classes and we have to do certain tasks for our audit and sit-in classes as well. As part of my Computer Supported Collaborative Learning I moderated three heated discussions happening at the same time on the Penn State new collaboration platform, called "CREATE intelligent collaboration". It was interesting to see how different groups coped with the same problems, how these problems made some of them feel frustrated and disheartened, but also how teamwork helped them overcome issues and inspire them to lead some great conversations. A blog post on our Class Blog and an Exit Interview were needed for my favorite class of the semester, Emerging Technologies. For the Humphrey Seminar, I wrote a 5-page reflection paper and took part in a panel presentation on teacher education in Croatia, Mauritius, Myanmar and Nepal. After hearing all the presentations, I couldn't but feel sad because unlike in the above-mentioned country, the teaching profession in Croatia is spiraling downwards and right now this trend seems to be unstoppable.
Our coordinators organized the second Surprise Activity for us (the first one was the hayride). We did our best to make them reveal where they were taking us, but they were tough and didn't let it slip. We had all kinds of ideas on our mind, such as the Amish in Lancaster, the Governor in Harrisburg or the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to mention just a few. Coffee was at stake, but none of us won it. Where they took us exceeded our expectations. First we visited the Milton Hershey School, which M. Hershey and his wife Catherine founded in 1909. They couldn't have children and they felt morally obliged to give their wealth back to the community and so they founded this boarding school for orphans. Today 2000 students from underprivileged families from all over the U.S. study there at no cost to their families. We talked to some of the students and heard only a fraction of their sad and unfortunate stories and I can't even imagine what these children had been through before coming to this school, where, as one student put it, a million doors opened up for them. One of the school's alumni is the current CEO of the Hershey Chocolate Factory. Were it not for the Milton Hershey's vision and philanthropy, he most likely wouldn't be where he is today.
The school is managed by the Hershey Trust Company. They spend about 100,000 $ per student per year and their annual budget is $ 8 billion! A percentage of each Hershey chocolate that is sold goes to this school. Now I really do have a reason to buy my favorite Hersheys. From the Hershey School we went to the Hershey Chocolate World and from there to the Chocolate Ballroom for a dinner theater, A Chocolate Avenue Christmas. A very sweet end of the Fall Semester indeed!
Tis the season ... to look back and reflect (2014-12-27) It's that time of the year again: time to highlight those precious moments of the year. Without a doubt, the pivotal event of 2014 was my Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Award. Being selected in a very competitive selection process as one of the 171 fellows of the 2014-2015 cohort has been the greatest honor ever. Since the Fellowship program was established in 1979, there have been 4,800 recipients of the Award - only 22 of them are Croatians. What's more, I'm the first Croatian K-12 teacher who has received this prestigious award. For me, the significance of this award is twofold. Firstly, it means that my work has been recognized and it proved that I'm on the right track. Secondly, it has provided me with a terrific opportunity to learn, to gain new knowledge, to enhance my skills, to meet new people, to make new friendships and to grow both professionally and personally. I'm spending my year at Penn State University together with 9 Fellows from 8 different countries and I've been blogging about this outstanding experience on a weekly basis (or so).
Every year I launch or take part in all kinds of projects with my students, some more others less successful. This year my eTwinning project in which a Greek teacher and I experimented with using a MOOC as a learning opportunity for our students won the first prize both in Croatia and in 52
Greece! Coursera Kids was a truly unique project which enabled our students to learn how to effectively write in English, how to assess their own and their peers' work, how to use a distance learning platform and how to collaborate successfully in international teams.
This eTwinning project wasn't the only thing that connected me with European eTwinners over the past year. Another great honor and achievement for me was being selected as one of the 5 Croatian eTwinning ambassadors. It was also an honor to be a member of a five-strong team selected by the eTwinning Central Support Service to review eTwinning project kits for the new portal. Bart and I continued our work as expert teachers on the eTwinning platform. We developed and led two highly successful (so the participants) learning events, one on the use of social media in education and the other on augmented reality in the classroom. Just like last year, we also delivered a couple of workshops together - one online for the eTwinning ambassadors, one at the eTwinning conference in Rome (a combination of onsite and online). We also introduced eTwinning to the Teacher Leadership faculty at Penn State. I delivered a number of workshops, seminars and webinars for Croatian eTwinners. I was invited to assess some educational materials created by Europeana Creativa at the European Schoolnet in Brussels. eTwinning Slovenia invited me to give a plenary to an audience of 300 at their national conference in Kranjska Gora.
I delivered a number of workshops and webinars for CARNet's projects School 2.0, Inspiring Science Education, Open Discovery Spaces and Modern Technologies in Education. I was a member of the Program Board of the 16th CUC - CARNet User Conference. I successfully completed CARNet's e-Learning Academy.
Sonja and I organized the fourth round of webinars for seniors from all over Croatia to help them with their exit exams. The current Minister of Education was one of our guests.
I've also had some great opportunities to travel to Split, Dubrovnik and Brussels. Since the beginning of my Fellowship Year I've been on some amazing and unforgettable trips to Niagara Falls, West Virginia, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Hershey, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.
Last but not least, I plucked up the courage to go horseback riding and I loved it!
Week 22: New York, New York (2015-01-15) I spent my winter break with my nearest and dearest at home in Croatia. It felt like a dream to be home again after four months.
Naturally, it passed in a flash and I soon had to return to State College. My stand by trip was nerveracking as it always is. It seemed that half of the world population was heading to the US and that I'd never get a seat. But I did. I got a seat on the flight to New York City and from there I planned to take the bus to SC on the same day. However, it happened that during that particular week NYC hotels were unbelievably cheap so while I was airborne, my husband booked a room for me in a hotel just a few steps from Times Square. What's more, when I landed, not only did I have a room booked, but also a bus ticket to SC bought, my American phone refilled and a screenshot of how to get from the airport to the hotel sent to my email. Because I have the best husband in the world.
Photos from NYC:
Weeks 23 & 24: Snow (2015-01-26) Spring semester started last week, even though spring seems to be far, far away. It's been snowing on and off for days now, with temperatures below freezing. It looks nice and peaceful now, but 62
more snow is forecast for the beginning of next week as well as a "historic" blizzard, so as I can see on the news, people are stocking up on food and other supplies.
Again, the first week of the semester was reserved for observing classes and selecting the ones that are most relevant for us. My choices are Learning Design Studio, which "examines a range of skills, processes and theories for designing and developing interactive educational materials" and Disruptive Technologies with the focus "on the application of social theory to emerging and disruptive technologies in teaching and learning". At the beginning of the semester I had a fantastic opportunity to listen to and meet in person Dr. George Siemens and Dr. Dragan Gasevic, who is originally from Serbia but lives in Canada. Their talk on The Future of Learning and the Tools That Will Support It was inspirational and uplifting and it can be found here: The Future of Learning and ProSolo.
Just like the fall semester, the spring semester started with a nice lunch at the Nittany Lion Inn and a game - but this time it was basketball, not football.
Just like in the fall semester, now again there are lots of readings for the classes and there are also lots of different books that I want to read and have already borrowed from the huge PSU Library. So as I was reading Designing for User Engagement on the Web: Ten Basic Principles, I stumbled upon my name and my wiki project Greetings from the world as a recommendation for further exploration! What the authors think it could be worth exploring is whether I have designed my wiki for a specific context or for diverse users! Are these two consistent with one another and if not how they can be reconciled? That's an interesting perspective and perhaps I might look into it one day, but right now it just feels great to be on the Index Page together with Christensen, Hofstede, Rheingold and other guys whose papers I've been reading for my classes at Penn State. And BTW, I finally wrote a piece about Coursera Kids.
Week 25: Wisecrackers and Superbowl (2015-02-03) I don't have a TV in my apartment, but Super Bowl watching was organized in the commons area of our community. So with chips and dips, a cozy fireplace and comfy easy chairs, Humphrey fellow Wafaa and I spent nice 3,5 hours trying to understand the ins and outs of this still incomprehensible sport. Luckily, Croatia won - the coaches of both teams have their family roots in Croatia and the winner will be treated to a vacation in Croatia by the Croatia Tourist Board.
Anyway, the commercials and Katy Perry's halftime performance along with Lenny Kravitz were spectacular and really worth watching. The commercials are unbelievably expensive - my friend Myra told me that the placement cost is $1,500,000 for 30 seconds!!! This week I was invited to a fundraiser for the Mid State Literacy Council (where I've been doing my community service). It was held in the Wisecrackers Comedy Club where three stand up comedians performed. One of them was Billy Garan, who is extremely talented, performs so naturally and with great ease. His show was hilarious and I laughed all the time while he was on stage. In the meantime in State College, it hasn't stopped snowing since I arrived. Or better to say snow alternates with sleet, flurries, freezing rain, black ice and blizzard (that wasn't really), providing me with a great opportunity to learn snow vocabulary. It seems there'll be even more opportunities for learning as Phil predicted 6 more weeks of winter!
Last but not least, I just got an email from the IIE that I was selected for participation in the Community College Residency Program and will be spending one week in Boston! In spring!
Weeks 26 & 27: From the East Coast to the West (2015-02-17) Humphrey Fellows are provided with a wonderful opportunity to attend conferences anywhere in the US. With so many educational conferences taking place all over the country we're spoilt for choice. The budget however is not unlimited so careful planning is necessary. I planned a bit too carefully so my conferences didn't go as I had originally planned. As a matter of fact, less than three weeks ago I felt totally discouraged, depressed, pessimistic and let down. Yet in the end it all turned out well. I just arrived home from my trip across the US - from Washington D.C. through Nashville to San Francisco. Each of these cities, conferences and visits deserves a post of their own, so stay tuned.
Listen to understand (2015-02-24) Arlington is a city in Virginia, famous for the Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon. It lies on the River Potomac, directly across the nation's capital Washington DC. In fact, they're so close to each other that to me, they seem to be one city - Washington DC. But they are not, I've been told. So I took a bus to DC and then the metro to Arlington's Crystal City, where the American Management Association has its offices.
The seminar that I chose to attend was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I believe everybody has read the book by Stephen Covey, watched the videos, tried to follow the advice more or less successfully and so have I. But I wanted to find more about how to be more effective, communicate effectively, how to build good relationships with people, good rapport with colleagues, how to model the way, how to motivate and be motivated, how to say no, how to balance the private and professional lives. There were only six of us and I really enjoyed working with the participants from different walks of life. Our instructor was Franklin Covey's Vicki Nartker, who skillfully led this three-day workshop and made us feel comfortable and relaxed, even though she assigned us an evening opportunity (a. k. a. homework) after the end of each of the three full days. No one can develop a habit in 3 days, so we were paired up so that we can support each other and help each other build the habits and make sure we complete our contract - our big rocks over the next 7 weeks. The most revealing for me was emphatic listening. S. Covey writes in his book: "Seek first to understand" involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They are filtering everything through their own paradigm, reading their own autobiography into other people's lives." We've all been there and we've done that. How often have you said "He just doesn't want to listen to me!" - when in fact, he does want it, he needs you to listen to him, he needs you to hear and understand him. He doesn't want you to do anything, but listen. Don't talk, don't give advice, just listen and reflect his feelings and words, not yours. For most of us this is difficult. Most of us listen with the intent to reply. That's autobiographical listening - we see other people's problems through our own glasses. Emphatic listening takes time and it requires both intent and skill, but it is worth it. (It's not about the nail. - a video)
Perhaps we should use talking sticks for listening. Only a person holding the stick can speak for as long as they're understood.
My take-aways from Habit 5 are these three great tips for emphatic listening: Focus on your intent. Don't worry about the correct response. Don't be afraid of silence.
Weeks 28 & 29: Thawing out (2015-03-04) Everybody says this is the worst ever winter in State College. The University was closed this afternoon and students dismissed because of snow and freezing rain. Classes at Penn State are canceled only on rare occasions - so the weather is really, really terrible. However, because everybody wants this cold and snowy winter to be over there are many different events going on all around State College and University Park. (note to self: write a blog post about the difference between the two). From Wednesday 25 February till Sunday March 1, The Thaw festival took place with many interesting events. I attended the TEDxPSU and The State of Storytelling, both of which were very-well organized and featured some great speakers, storytellers and singer-songwriters.
On Sunday we attended the Global Connections Fundraiser - Passport on a Plate. The theme was the ocean and the Caribbean (everybody's yearning for sunshine) and each of the tables was decorated by a volunteer. For me, the most beautiful decoration was the one named People, Places and Things, made by our very own Jane Reese.
Here are some other decorations:
Delicious themed food was prepared by the renowned chefs from the Center County:
Of course, we were all dressed up for this occasion:
(despite the snowstorm raging outside)
There were also a silent and a live auctions organized to raise the money for the programs of the Global Connections with some really attractive auction lots, like a week in the Caribbean. There was another fundraiser organized in University Park last weekend - THON - the amazing Penn State Dance Marathon. Since 1977, Penn State students have raised more than $ 114 million for children with cancer and their families. This year they have raised more than $ 13 million. Fundraising lasts for the whole year and it culminates in a marathon during which dancers cannot 74
sit nor sleep for 46 hours. It takes places in the Bryce Jordan Center and everyone is invited to come and support the dancers any time during those 46 hours. The spirit, the atmosphere, that something that you can feel in the air was absolutely incredible.
Country music and homemade food (2015-03-05) I flew first class from Washington DC to Nashville. I have no idea how that happened, but it happened sometime during the exhausting five hours I spent talking on the phone with three travel agents and trying to resolve the issue of the cancellation of a Miami conference that I was supposed to attend. Anyway, after a short flight I arrived in Nashville, where my dear friend Myra was waiting for me. We first met ten years ago when both of us participated in the State Department's School Connectivity Project. Myra's warmth and her amazing hospitality made my stay in her beautiful house in Nashville a wonderful experience.
Nashville, also known as Music City, is famous for country music and for its Grand Ole Opry House. Myra was so kind to take me to a concert at the Grand Ole Opry, where we listened to Loretta Lynn, Claire Bowen and other famous singers and singer songwriters.
We also visited The Hermitage, the birth place of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States and learned more about his impressive, but also controversial life. I just found out that his face is on 20 dollar bill.
We explored places, old and new, those where we found memorabilia from the times past, those where we tasted delicious chocolate or those that are among the top 20 must visit coffee shops in the US.
It was a pleasure to visit the office of the Humphrey Fellows program at Vanderbilt University and speak to some of the fellows and their coordinators Shannon and Nancy.
At the end of each day we would come home and enjoy Myra's homemade delicacies. Myra is an excellent cook and everything she made was so tasty and delicious that my mouth is still watering when I look at these photos:
Weeks 30 & 31: Spring break on stand-by (2015-03-18) Spring break, just like any other break, means more travels on stand by for me and my family. Most stand-by travelers will agree with me when I say that stand-by travel brings along the most ambivalent feelings ever. On the one hand, it's the most nerve-wracking experience, because you never know if there will be a free seat on the plane you want to board until the very last minute - literally until the plane door is about to be closed - when you are either told that the plane is full or you are given a boarding pass. In the former case you are disappointed, but you rush to try your luck at another gate for another flight. In the latter you are elated because you are able to reach your destination. Once there, you appreciate it much more than ordinary passengers because you know how tight it was to get there. This time we appreciated it even more because of a terrible winter storm that caused cancellations 79
and delays of so many flights on the Eastern Seaboard so there was no point in careful planning of our spring break, but we played it by ear. And it turned out to be a wonderful vacation in two different climates.
Weeks 32, 33 & 34: Sources of inspiration (2015-04-07) As my Fellowship year is slowly drawing to its end, I just can't find the time to write my weekly (or bi-weekly) posts. The whole year has been very busy, but now it seems to me that my day should last 48 hours if I want to complete all the things on my schedule. The past weeks have been all about conferences. The TLT Symposium in University Park was a great event with some inspiring speakers and workshop leaders. Dr. Eric Mazur gave a great keynote on teacher education in the 21st century. He is an amazing speaker who engaged all of us in a heated discussion on a physics-related topic. Another presentation that I really liked and found very interesting and useful was One Tool Doesn't Fit All focused on Universal Design for Learning. The highlight of all the conferences and workshops that I've had a chance to attend during my fellowship year has been the P21 Summit on 21st Century Learning in Washington DC. It was just my perfect cup of tea. The keynotes, the panels, the workshops - they were all excellent. I especially liked Fredi Lajvardi's inspirational keynote Improbable to Unstoppable about a robotics team made up of four underprivileged students from a Phoenix high school where he works as a STEM teacher. A documentary film Underwater Dreams and a Hollywood motion picture Spare Parts have been made about him and his team and how they beat the MIT robotics and other university teams in a national robotics competition. I also liked the workshop The Critical Components of 21st Century Creativity. You can find more about it in the white paper Inspiring a Generation to Create: Critical Components of Creativity in Children that has just been released. And, BTW, at the conference, Dr Helen Soule, the CEO of The Partnership for 21st Century Skills announced the change of the name of The Partnership into The Partnership for 21st Century Learning. All the fellows have been working hard on their capstone projects and last Tuesday we had our poster presentation. The turnout was great and we did our best to present our projects that we're planning to implement when we return home.
I've traveled quite a bit over the past weeks, but it's not the travel itself that made these weeks so special. It was my family who was here with me, first my husband, then my kids, my sister and my nephew. I loved having them here in the US with me. If only they could stay with me until the end of the year! (Note to future Humphrey Fellows: bring your family with you!)
Week 35: Bunker Hill Community College (2015-04-11) Faithful readers of my blog (all three of them) already know that back in January I was selected for The Community College Residency Program. This is a program within the Humphrey Program 85
which provides the Fellows with a one-week visit of learning and exchanging experiences at a community college. Yesterday I returned from Boston where I visited Bunker Hill Community College along with Siradji Mahamane, a Fellow from the Vanderbilt University. I applied for BHCC because I wanted to see how they teach English to speakers of other languages, how they apply new methodologies in language teaching and I wanted to learn more about a new language initiative that they are implementing at their College. Also, I wanted to learn more about community colleges, because I only had a vague idea what they are and how beneficial they are for students. The visit exceeded my expectations. Our contact person and coordinator was Ms. Zoe Edwards who excellently organized our visit, skillfully coordinated all the activities and events and was very kind, helpful and knowledgeable. Ms. Laura Montgomery, Director of the BHCC Art Gallery, hosted us in her beautiful triple decker on Mission Hill. Laura was so kind to drive us to college and back every day and even though her house was not far from the college, Laura always took a different route to show us the sights of Boston. She is a Bostonian who truly loves her hometown and knows all its secrets and we immensely enjoyed the rides during which she shared her stories about Boston and the Bostonians with us.
On the first day we were introduced to Dean Maria Puente and Ms. Vilma Tafawa, Executive Director of International Center, who warmly welcomed us to their college. After that a reception was organized for us and we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the Faculty and the students from the Community College Initiative Program.
Over the next days we visited ESL classes, talked to several ESL professors, all of whom readily and gladly answered all our questions, shared their experiences and were eager to hear about our teaching practices. They are also very passionate about their work and their enthusiasm was contagious. Time passed too quickly when we spoke with them and I wished the visit lasted for at least a couple of weeks more.
We observed several ESL classes and we even had an opportunity to talk about our jobs, our countries and also about environmental issues.
A great pleasure for me was to meet a cohort of young professionals from all over the world who were selected for the competitive Community College Initiative Program. I really enjoyed talking to these young fellows.
The highlight of the visit for me was the Language lab. Launched in 2005 by Alessandro Massaro, who I had a pleasure to meet and talk to, the lab is a place where everyone is welcome to improve their foreign language skills in a variety of ways - by using language learning software, practicing on language websites, 1:1 tutoring or workshops - you name it, they will provide it! We even learned Chinese calligraphy in the lab and I wrote my name in Chinese!
Not only in the language lab do the students get whatever they need, but this is a school policy BHCC is completely student-centered and students are provided with everything they need education, career and financial planning, tax counseling, child care and also exchange programs funded up to 80% by the International Center.
This visit has greatly contributed to the enhancement of my practical experiences, especially with regard to using technology to enhance studentsâ€™ language skill and to achieve the required learning outcomes. Learning from educators who are at the forefront of the 21 st century education will significantly contribute to building my teacher capacity and to expanding my professional learning network. This visit also holds personal significance for me, because it was in Boston three years ago that I first submitted my application for the Humphrey Fellowship Program. I still remember, it was on the night of our arrival that I finally clicked the submit button, after having spent weeks and weeks on writing it, and on the next day I enjoyed exploring the sights of Boston as I was dreaming of being selected for the program. And the dream really came true.
With artist and educator Susan Thompson, whose exhibition we visited at the Mass Art. Post about our visit on the Bunker Hill Community College website: BHCC hosts Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows.
President in Town (2015-04-19) Back in February, just before I was about to leave for San Francisco to attend the Learning and the Brain Conference, the organizers sent us an email about special security measures undertaken at the conference venue, the Fremont Hotel, because of a high profile guest who would be staying at the hotel. Who might that be, was a question everybody tried to answer - Brad Pitt? or George Clooney? No, we concluded it must be a politician - possibly Vice President. However, it turned out that the high profile guest was no one less than the President himself. But no, even though we were in the same hotel I never caught a glimpse of the President. We kind of 93
hoped he would drop by and say hi to the attendees, however, the protocol didn't include our conference, but another one in Palo Alto, which was on internet security. Having him stay there meant long lines to pass the security checkpoint and enter the hotel as well as temporary road closures in the neighborhood. The conference was interesting with some great keynotes and workshops, but it was the city itself that made a huge impression on me. There was the usual hustle and bustle as in any big city, but the ambiance was more laid back and casual, more relaxed and informal than anywhere else. The visit to the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge confirmed that no matter how well I know a landmark from books, photos, songs and movies, it still gives the goose bumps and leaves an extraordinary impression. Just like Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world along with the beautifully steep streets that I first saw years ago in that crazy movie What's up, Doc?, starring Barbara Streisand and Ryan O'Neil. Interestingly enough, but not surprisingly at all, I googled and found my favorite scene with the glass pane on the steep streets of San Francisco.
Week 36: Cherry blossoms (2015-04-21) Cherry blossoms in Washington DC have been on my list for ever. Recently I traveled to Washington on several different occasions, but there was not a single blossom on any of the 2,000 cherry trees, not even at the end of March. So harsh and long was the winter this year. Luckily, the spring sprang eventually so when Jane took us on a trip to DC in the second week of April, all the cherry trees were in full bloom all across the city and especially around the Tidal Basin, where the air was filled with the intoxicating scent of the beautiful flowering trees.
The credit for the amazing photos below goes to Jane:
Later that day, we visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Dulles, where we learned how
to fly a Cessna and had fun pretending to be astronauts.
Happy Valley (2015-04-23) Even though I officially live in University Park, when people ask me, I usually say I live in State College. There is a difference though. University Park is one of the campuses of the Penn State University. It's the largest campus with 46,000 students and "the flagship" of PSU. It is located in State College, a cute little city of about 40,000 inhabitants. State College is situated at the foot of Nittany Mountain in a valley known as Happy Valley. This area was not hit as hard as the other parts of the US during the Depression, hence the name.
What impressed me most in State College is the openness of living - there are no fences around the houses and anyone can walk into a house straight from the street. In Croatia, there are fences around houses and in some parts of the country the fences are so high and made of concrete that they completely separate the residents from the rest of the world and keep them within the "confinement" of their house, their front and back yards. Does this mean that we are less sociable than Americans and don't want to hang out with our neighbors? I'm sure my fellow countrymen and countrywomen would resolutely defy it! Could theft be a possible reason why we are enclosed within the fence? Are we afraid of thieves more than Americans? No, I don't think so. It's probably the way of life that we've been leading for centuries, a tradition: as much so as not putting up a fence is customary here in the US. I can't now remember what it's like in other European countries. Fences or no fences? I have never paid attention to open spaces around people's yards while traveling around Europe. Maybe it's because it's the same as at home. We only rarely notice similarities, it's the differences that strike us most. Anyway, here are some of the beautiful houses in State College - small, open, cozy, inviting:
Some photos to debunk stereotypes (2015-04-26) Contrary to the beliefs and perceptions of so many people worldwide, American food is not the food you can buy at McDonalds, Burger King or Dunkin Donuts. American food is so varied as the country itself. Seattle's typical meal is totally different from Buffalo's typical meal. My favorite Bostonian clam chowder tastes completely different than its San Francisco variant. American food is delicious and yummy! Here are my top 5 list and some mouth-watering photos: 1. Boston clam chowder in a bread bowl 2. Philly cheese steak 3. Soups - all kinds 4. Cranberry sauce made of fresh cranberries 5. Chocolate chip cookies ... or let it be top 7: 6. Cheesecake 7. Apple pie, or any other pie for that matter ... or 11 8. T-Bone steak 9. Strawberry shortcake 10. Blueberry bagels with Berkey Creamery cream cheese 11. Death by Chocolate ice cream
Week 37: Reverse culture shock (2015-04-29) The academic year is drawing to a close and our flights home have already been booked. These 8,5 months have passed in a flash. When we came over we talked a lot about culture shock and how to minimize its effects. Now they're telling us about the reverse culture shock and how to minimize its effects. I somehow don't believe that I'll suffer from culture shock when I get back home - because it's HOME that I'm going to!
Week 38: Signed by the President (2015-05-02) This is my last week at Penn State. I'm writing this post in my apartment where there's nothing there, except the inflatable mattress that I bought upon my arrival here in State College 38 weeks ago. It's been an amazing experience. The highlight of the week was the Year-End Banquet, which started with a video message by President Jimmy Carter, who congratulated the Fellows on a successful completion of the program year. Dr. Michael Adewumi, Vice-Provost for Global Programs at Penn State University also congratulated us and Mayor of State College, Elizabeth Goreham, proclaimed that we are now citizens of State College.
Emily Heddon from the IIE awarded the certificates signed by President Obama to all the Fellows. Here's mine and I'm especially honored and proud to have received it. I'll cherish it forever.
It was a great honor to receive my Penn State Certificate from Dean Monk, who is the Dean of the College of Ed.
Brinda gave a wonderful on behalf of all the and after that the Awards were announced. I Talat announced that "the extraordinary community ME!
emotional speech Humphrey Fellows Community Service was thrilled when first prize for service went to ....
Herizal and Wafaa were also awarded for community service. All the three of us did our community service at the Mid-State Literacy Council, where we enjoyed working with English tutors and international students.
After the ceremony we took lots of photos and selfies and then had our last potluck in my apartment.
Tomorrow as we're leaving for other parts of the US, we'll say goodbye to our coordinators, Leila, Talat and Jane, to all our friends who we have met here and who have made our stay here a wonderful experience. I'm grateful to every one of them. Goodbye Penn State, goodbye Pennsylvania, I will never forget you.
And to my Humphreys: Be there on Tuesday 1pm no matter where you are.
Week 39: Professional Affiliation (2015-05-10) After submitting all my class assignments, making the apartment ready for inspection, packing all my things (for some unknown reason there was much more stuff than when I first arrived in the US) and taking special, loving care of my newly acquired certificate signed by President Obama, I embarked on the second part of the Fellowship program - professional affiliation. PA is the culmination of our year - it is a professional development opportunity to meet and exchange information and share experiences with our American colleagues. I'm fortunate to be doing my PA at CoSN - Consortium for School Networking:
But CoSN is much more than that! CoSN is the amazing people who I have a pleasure to work with and learn from. They're all very knowledgeable, willing to share and very supportive. So over the 117
next six weeks I'll be learning about educational technologies and the certification of education technology specialists, about global leadership and the digital leap, about connected learning and leading with social media and mobile technologies I'll be meeting and working together with district leaders and CTOs (chief technology officers) from all over the US. And upon my return home, I hope to share the knowledge I gain with my fellow teachers from across Europe.
Week 40: Shopping (2015-05-18) I've been in the US for 9 months now and people often ask me if it's cheaper or more expensive to live here in the US or back home in Croatia. Of course, there is no yes/no answer to this question, so here's a brief comparison of some of the bare necessities or so. Clothes, shoes, accessories - you can find some great bargains every where every day, not only at sales. Actually, there are sales almost all the time - next week for example, all the shops will have a three-day Memorial Day sale. If there are no holidays on the calendar then shop owners would just introduce a three-day kick off sale, whatever that may mean. Then there are outlets where you can buy some ridiculously cheap things, with discounts of 70%, like my new green bag below.
Fruit is much more expensive than at home, for example, 1 orange was 1 $ at one of the grocery stores this winter, whereas at home I can buy two pounds of oranges for 1 $. Milk is almost the same and so are the other groceries. Bread is more expensive, except at Walmart where they sell one loaf a $. Cosmetics are much cheaper here: decorative products, skin care, perfumes, everything. Cars are much cheaper and gas is ridiculously cheap. Right now gas is sold at 2,59 $ a gallon. Car rental is easy and affordable - we recently rented a Mazda 6 for three days, paid 160 $ with all the waivers included, drove 400 miles and filled it up only once for which we paid 30 $.
My Croatian salary is three times lower than the salary of my American peer. So yes, she can afford much more than I can. Her purchasing power is higher when it comes to eating out, too - restaurants are more affordable for her than for me. However, things get tough for her when it comes to health care and higher ed. A doctor's bill can easily come up to several thousand dollars! How can a family afford to send their child to college, I have no idea at all, when a year in college costs 40,000 $ and more (and this is for tuition only). Higher ed and health coverage are unfortunately out of reach for many.
Week 41: Working in DC (2015-05-26) My working hours are flexible, I can come to my office on the 10th floor anytime between 8-9 am and leave anytime between 4-5 am. I like that because I donâ€™t have to rush in the morning and worry if Iâ€™m going to be late even though I leave early, before rush hour really begins so I'm at the office at around eight.
On the bus there are the same people every morning, most of them with their heads buried in their phone screens. The metro is more crowded than the bus, but early in the morning it’s not too bad. I like when the Yellow Train suddenly pops up from the underground tunnel to cross the Potomac River. The early morning view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument is absolutely unbeatable.
I get off at the White House. This area is a bustling business district with high-rise office buildings with lots of restaurants. Tens of thousands of office workers work there. When the weather is nice, everybody eats outside in the parks – sitting on the grass or on a bench, it doesn’t matter – as long as it’s cozy and with colleagues from work. Food trucks that are especially popular with 120
Washingtonians. Every day there’s a different offer of food – food as diverse as this city, or as this country – Ethiopian, Jamaican, Mediterranean, just name it, Washington has it all.
Especially popular with office workers is Farmer’s Market near the White House where local produce can be bought. I like it too, and my favorite is kale and green apple smoothie made of local produce.
It may be over 30 C outside, but inside the buildings it's rather cold. Air conditioning is set so low that you need a sweater (and sometimes even a heater).
Week 42: Living in Virginia (2015-06-03) Living outside of DC has its advantages and disadvantages. I commute to the District every day. It’s not a long commute, about 30 minutes on a good day. Traffic in DC is heavy, parking is scarce and expensive so lots of people use public transportation to get to the City (New Yorkers would say there is only one City and that’s not DC!). Because of that, buses and metro run frequently during the week, but at weekends they get really slow. So I tend to spend weekends in Alexandria instead of going to DC. I live in an affluent neighborhood where people know their neighbors, where even I know my neighbors. Passers by say hi to me even though I don’t know them. This is a neighborhood watch area and people often get together, like at the potluck by the community pool this past weekend.
Week 43: America Is Its People (2015-06-11) The question everybody asks me these days is what I like about the US most and what I'll miss most when I get home. I'm definitely going to miss the rich multicultural diversity of its people. For me, America is its people. Open-minded, generous, kind, helpful, supportive, warm-hearted, caring - people who have made my Fellowship year a once in a life time experience.
Week 44: The "I Made It Moment" (2015-06-15) Itâ€™s been a phenomenal, once in a lifetime learning journey - my Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship. Itâ€™s been an amazing year filled with friendships for life, laughter and joy, reunions and gettogethers, cheerfulness and bliss. But it's also been quite a challenging year marked by nostalgia, 125
lonely nights, tears, disappointments and frustration. It's been a year of determination and perseverance. And courage. And I made it happen.
ÂŠArjana Blazic, 2015 first draft created with BlogBook v0.5