Boren Fellow Blogging about Life in Brazil

By Alfredo Ramirez
Master’s Student in International Studies

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I am a graduate student in the International Studies master’s program and a Boren Fellow. My Boren Fellowship has given me the amazing opportunity to study Portuguese in Brazil for the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 academic year. In preparation, I also attended a six-week intensive Portuguese program at the Summer Languages Institute at the University of Chicago. I am using a blog to document my experiences in Brazil as part of my work with the graduate program at the Center for International Studies at Texas State University.

I am currently staying in the city Florianópolis, the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, with a population of around 500,000 people and estimated total metropolitan area of over 1 million. My host institution here is the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), a top Brazilian institution and one of several universities in the city. It has over 35,000 students enrolled in 106 undergraduate degree programs, 82 master’s degree programs, and 55 doctoral degree programs. This makes for a vast and vibrant academic community which I very much appreciate. My studies are organized through a Texas State University study abroad affiliate, called the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), who has a student exchange agreement with UFSC. This means that while I am here, I am a guest student of UFSC and can utilize the on-campus restaurant, library, computer labs, and other services.

Florianópolis is known throughout South America for its natural beauty. The city is situated on a sub-tropical island connected to the mainland by bridge. There are endless opportunities for beautiful hikes, world-class surfing, boating tours, fishing, trail runs, sandboarding, scuba, etc. My time will be divided between language study, cultural immersion, and language practice while interacting with all the various natural wonders.

While I am here, I am available to the Texas State community and will be more than happy to take questions on anything related to living, learning, culture, business, or day-to-day activities that I can research for you while in Brazil:

Até logo!

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Mr. De Leon Goes to Brazil

By Raymond D. De Leon
Master’s Student in Criminal Justice

20170411_171015Growing up in a working class family, there were many places I saw in books and magazines that I dreamed of one day visiting. Brazil topped the list as one of those destinations, but I never thought I would actually ever get to go. So when the opportunity came to take part in a study abroad trip to Brazil, I couldn’t pass it up.

I, along with six other students from the School of Criminal Justice, spent ten days in Brazil. It was an amazing experience, not only for the educational and cultural value, but also because it was my first time out of the country.

The first portion of our trip was spent in the city of Belo Horizonte. We had the opportunity to attend seminars at the University Federal de Minas Gerais led by criminal justice researchers that are influencing public policy on a variety of issues, including jail overcrowding, the juvenile justice system, and data collection.  We also visited one of their police stations and their juvenile justice center and witnessed a jury selection for an attempted murder trial.

Another highlight of the trip was visiting several favelas. Favelas are lower socioeconomic neighborhoods in Brazil that often sit side by side more affluent neighborhoods. In Belo, the favela of St. Lucia, where there is a high rate of homicide,  the organization Fica Vivo (Stay Alive) targets young men ages 12-24 (the at-risk demographic) to get involved in sports and art activities instead of gangs. In Rio de Janeiro, the favela of Babilona is dealing with gentrification as the rising cost of living in Rio is causing many middle-class families to move into the favelas, displacing many longtime residents.

While the entire trip is one I will never forget, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer was number one on my list. To be able to see with my own eyes this amazing figure that oversees all of Rio de Janeiro is something I cannot fully describe in words. I highly encourage everyone reading this to take advantage of study abroad opportunities. This trip has given me the travel bug, and I look forward to taking many more trips in the near future.

The Importance of Graduate Student Travel Funds

By Zane Wubbena
Doctoral Candidate in School Improvement

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Front to back: Zane Wubbena, Angie Wang and Peter McLaren at the Vault Kitchen and Market in Savannah, GA

On February 25, 2017, I presented a paper titled “Visually Framing a Pedagogy for Space during the 2011 Chilean Student Movement” (forthcoming in Policy Futures in Education) at the 5th Annual Critical Media Literacy Conference held in Savannah, GA.  Without the financial assistance of the Graduate Student Travel Funds, my attendance at this conference would not have been possible.

Academic conferences provide invaluable opportunities for encounters that enrich academic experiences beyond the university.  For example, I was able to speak at great length with Peter McLaren, a world-renowned critical scholar and one of the founders of critical pedagogy (along with Paulo Freire and Henri Giroux).  Dr. McLaren is currently a Professor of Critical Studies at Chapman University and Co-Director of The Paulo Freire Democratic Project.  He is also Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Miami University of Ohio.  The dinner, lasting for over three hours, was filled with scholarly debate and collaboration.

Experiences like this one not only provide opportunities for academic socialization, they also open possibilities for intellectual encounters that could not have been otherwise planned or expected.  I am deeply thankful for the financial assistance provided by the Graduate Student Travel Funds at Texas State University.

 

Study Abroad: “You won’t know until you go”

By Maria Scardetta
Master’s Student in Mass Communication

Maria Scardetta blog picMy London-Paris study abroad trip was the experience of a lifetime. Leading up to the trip, I was excited but I rarely showed it. Friends and family would call me out on my seeming lack of enthusiasm, but deep down, my expectations were tainted with apprehension. Europe had endured some terrible events prior to my departure; I was traveling with colleagues with whom I was only acquainted, at best; and, for the first time in quite a while, I had to leave my loved ones. Needless to say, I was nervous…but it really is true: “you won’t know until you go”! I am beyond happy I went.

I made new friends that probably had similar reservations but when we all got to know each other, they seemed to melt away. I learned how to be even more independent than I already thought I was. I can work a metro system so well now it isn’t even funny. Unfortunately, it is useless here in San Antonio, but I will be prepared for my next visit!  I also gained a lot more perspective and confidence going abroad. I found a new side of me that is adventurous and forward and isn’t afraid to ask questions. Before the trip, I felt more timid around other people, but I now feel like I can strike up a conversation with anyone since we were all forced out of our comfort zones.

The field visits that we attended as a group included global media and communication organizations such as CNN London, The Guardian newspaper office, Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm, UNESCO, Paris, and Sorbonne University’s communication department. Every field visit was not only intriguing but also educational, providing us with insights in international advertising, public relations, and journalism.

The field visits opened my eyes to the working world. I went from my undergraduate studies straight into my graduate degree: the “real world” is still a little bit of a mystery to me. While studying abroad, I met people who had been in the same shoes as me but who are now very successful working in their dream jobs. The field visits educated me on my future after graduation. The trip also provided an opportunity to learn hands on. I found that I prefer hands-on learning to the traditional test-taking I’ve had in prior undergrad or graduate courses.

The study abroad program in itself is a life-changing event. I used to think this was a little exaggerated when people would say that but now I completely understand what they mean. It does not mean you go home with a job or you pick up and move to Paris (and to those that do – kudos!). For our group, it simply means that each individual person experienced something that changed him or her for the better. The trip made me realize I have always been the confident, outgoing person I wanted to be — I just needed a little push to get me to realize it.

My study abroad experience was amazing and almost impossible to put into words. I am so thrilled have traveled and explored with a really fun group of people. I would advise anyone to go study abroad after this. Save up, work overtime, and apply for scholarships, because some experiences are just priceless.

Becoming a Grosvenor Scholar in Washington, D.C.

By Graciela Sandoval
Doctoral Student in Geography

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As a doctoral student in Geography, I am honored to have been selected as the 2016-17 Grosvenor Scholar, as part of the Texas State University’s Grosvenor Scholar Program located at the National Geographic Society (NGS) headquarters in Washington, D.C. This opportunity will allow me to grow professionally by working to support national policy, research and outreach programs in geography education and the Geographic Alliances. My passion for the discipline of geography is exemplified in the following volunteer activities and academic coursework of the past four years.

As a PhD student at Texas State in the Department of Geography, I have gained valuable experience in geography education and volunteering for special events and projects with the Texas Alliance and Grosvenor Center. In my coursework I took classes in geography education and learned about virtual courses on geography education and websites of current and changing geography departments nationwide. In 2012 and 2014, I volunteered with Maggie Hutchins-Wagner, the Texas Alliance program manager, as a judge for the K-12 map contest held in the fall. As part of the Grosvenor Distinguished Lecture series, I have volunteered to promote and write an article about the “Transformational Partnerships in Malawi” presentation by President Joyce Banda in September 2013. In April 2015, I also volunteered for the Grosvenor Distinguished lecture on “How Geography Enriched My Life” given by Texas State Hero Mr. Jesse Luxton.

Through my participation in the various geography student organizations, I have been an active officer, volunteered at departmental and university special events, and shared resources for research and curriculum development. In May 2014, I was the departmental chaperone for the New Urbanism Field Trip sponsored by the Department of Geography and coordinated by the Student Urban Planning Organization (SUPO). We visited an architecture firm in New Orleans who assisted in the Katrina relief and renovations.

For six semesters, I have been teaching GEO 1309 Cultural Geography or GEO 1310 World Regional Geography. This teaching experience has continued to strengthen my understanding of major issues in human geography. Through my research, I will continue to develop my passion for teaching, student success and fostering a sense of community collaboration in the field of Geography nationally and worldwide. My foci are in human geography, geography education and medical/health geography.

It is my intention to continue my teaching and research career in geography and this Grosvenor Scholar Program will help me grow as a professional in the field of geography. As a Grosvenor Scholar I will learn about and help develop new programs, policies and assessments in the discipline of Geography to change our discipline to fulfill our national and world needs, especially in climate change issues and educational attainment.

I will assume my role as Grosvenor Scholar in August 2016. For additional information about the Grosvenor Scholar Program at Texas State University-San Marcos, contact Dr. Richard Boehm, Director, Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, at 512-245-3615 or rb03@txstate.edu.

Research in Chile: A Combination of Passion, Experience, Work, Learning and Legacy

By Skyller Walkes
Doctoral Student in Education – Adult, Professional, and Community

Walkes-1I was one of eighteen doctoral students selected to participate in international educational research in Chile, in cooperation with Universidad Alberto Hurtado and several Chilean community organizations. As a result, we had the opportunity to apply theory to practice in a place unfamiliar in both culture and geography, which was incredibly stimulating.  Additionally, there was the exciting prospect of making connections that could resonate with the human experience through this unique and collective learning process!

In my experience, there tend to be three modes in which to engage academic learning- the cognitive, the didactic, and the pragmatic. For me, none of these proves to be as long-lasting as the sentient and experiential, and conducting educational research in Chile was a welcome opportunity to further that possibility. Though valuable, sometimes what we learn in our course work fails to be implemented in real world settings before leaving the classroom.

Being a 100K Strong-Gabriela Mistral Scholar under the tutelage of Dr. Michael O’Malley was an honor that allowed us to activate our knowledge in a unique space and place of simultaneous learning.

Experiencing this among peers with whom I’d had the pleasure of cultivating our shared interest through research design in the months prior to departure made for formidable efforts in preparation. Nevertheless, it was, undoubtedly, a worthwhile culmination.

Naturally, engaging individuals in a setting as both an active and passive observer insisted that I attempt to confront each interaction with a degree of sensitivity and openness, and by doing so, I learned just as much about myself as I did about the kind people who allowed me to experience their Chile. The community members with whom we partnered to develop collaborative relationships that we seek to continue in the future were integral to the cultural immersion learning experience. Even more, this experience broadened the skills essential to my desire to be a conscientious change agent in this world. Thus, Project LEARN-Chile will always be a transformative part of my learning here at Texas State University!

A Gates Millennium Scholar Reflection

By Christine Herrera
Doctoral Student in Mathematics Education

When I was a senior in high school my guidance counselor handed me what Gates Millennium Scholherrera2015ars like to call “the big packet”. It was like she handed me the golden ticket to higher education. As a high achieving, low-income, minority student I dreamed of attending college but I had no idea how I would afford it. At the time, I was living on my own struggling to pay the bills and buy groceries. So when I had found out that I had been awarded a full-ride scholarship that would pay for my undergraduate and graduate school I cried in disbelief. I was going to get to go to college! The Gates Millennium scholarship demolished the financial barrier between me and my dream of higher education.

The Gates Millennium Scholarship not only made my dream of going to college a reality but it transcended it to include pursuing my doctorate degree in Mathematics Education. Prior to receiving the scholarship, I was unaware of graduate school. The scholarship did more than open the door to higher education, it opened my eyes to a whole set of new opportunities. Without this scholarship, I would not be a graduate student here at Texas State University.

As I finish my last semester, I reflect on where I was before I began my journey in higher education and where I am now. I am fortunate to say that the Gates Millennium Scholarship alleviated the financial burdens that haunted me in high school; today I am not worried about affording rent but rather I am focused on completing my dissertation and graduating. When I walk across the graduation stage this May, I will not only become a proud Texas State Alumni but I will also be first and foremost a proud Gates Millennium Alumni.

Thesis-writing Journey: From Turkey to Texas

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By Tugba Somuncu
Master’s Student in Economics, Istanbul Technical University

Since writing a master’s thesis is a long journey, I was looking forward to getting some feedback about my first draft before completing my final document. When my supervisor showed me the website of the International Research Conference for Graduate Students at Texas State University, I decided that I should participate in this conference. This conference provides an academic environment in every aspect. I had the opportunity to meet with people from different fields and listen to their presentations. It enhanced my perspective on research methods as I saw how the same method could be applied to different fields. When I presented my research, it was great to see how people became interested in my topic and asked questions about it even though they were all from different departments. Further, the faculty member who was the chair of our panel gave me detailed feedback about my presentation and my English language ability which was invaluable for me. After this experience, I became more confident about the final version of my thesis.

Even though it was the first time I was visiting the U.S. and Texas, I didn’t feel like a foreigner because people were so friendly. People were always willing to help me with a huge smile. The International Office even helped me to solve my accommodation issue. I am still talking about my experience to whoever I meet in Turkey, and I am sure that this conference will have more Turkish participants in near future. Thanks a lot to all those who have contributed to this beneficial and amazing conference!

More Than an Assignment: An International Research Conference Experience

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By Melanie Morales
Master’s Student in Mass Communication

Working at The Graduate College for more than four years and seeing the past few International Research Conferences come and go did not compare to the experience I was able to have by attending and participating in the 7th Annual International Research Conference this year as a first-semester graduate student. From the start of the conference, I was able to hear the opening distinguished research panel discuss their research, the process and overall skills necessary to conduct quality research. This granted me access into a world that I was not accustomed to and, quite frankly, was intimidated by.  They answered very practical questions and gave answers like: “set calendar reminders,” “allot a certain amount of time for your research per day,” or “define your long and short-term goals.” This could have been seen as common sense, but to hear them say we must use these techniques showed how I could be doing it even in my own graduate classes.

What really made the conference a great learning experience was being able to actually present our research topic in a session. The presentation even allowed me to see the amount of teamwork it takes to go into presenting at a conference. Though only myself and one other team member presented, each person of the team contributed many of their skills to make our presentation the best it could be. Our session’s chair, Dr. Coy Callison from Texas Tech University, said “good presentation” several times while also offering suggestions for our research.

Though it was a good opportunity to take another stab at public speaking, I ended up taking more away from hearing other students’ presentation because it gave me insight to how they approached their research and gave ideas for the course of action in my own research.

After our session ended, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and listened to the keynote speaker, Dr. Victor Saenz from the University of Texas at Austin, bring his own research experience and enthusiasm to the conference. He took the time to educate us on an important Hispanic-education issue based on his own research. This reaffirmed the fact that when you perform research you are truly interested in, it can reveal notable results and also begin to change the environment around you.

I had a great experience being able to work with my classmates, visit with faculty, meet current undergraduate and hopefully future graduate students, and present at my very first research conference. I walked away with a whole new outlook of not only what it takes to do research and present a topic, but what you can learn from others around you, no matter where they are at in the process.

Interning in London: An exciting experience

Rebecca SilvasBy Rebecca Silvas
Master’s Student in Mass Communication 

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern abroad with the US Department of State at the US Embassy in London. As a graduate student in mass communication with a concentration in global media, I was thrilled to be working in the embassy’s public affairs office. I was able to do valuable work in the section and I learned something new every day. It was particularly exciting to be able to round out my graduate studies with hands-on experience pertinent to my academic concentration.

They say that one of the best reasons to do an internship is to find out more about yourself and what direction you want to take your career. This was absolutely true for me, and I would especially recommend an internship to students that have entered graduate school straight from their undergrad like I did. Not only did I apply my skill set in the real world, but I also made valuable professional connections and gained several career mentors.

The cultural experience of interning abroad was something that I’ll never forget. It was a pleasure to learn from American Foreign Service Officers who have been working in the mass communications field in some capacity throughout their long and impressive careers, as well as British staff that knew how to promote an event like nobody’s business. Some of my British colleagues even asked me to be in a video promoting the embassy’s USA v. UK cricket match. That’s me at the beginning!

I would recommend an internship abroad to other graduate students in a heartbeat. Grad students tend to have a competitive edge over undergraduate students in the application process, and the opportunity to gain hands on experience in the field is valuable whether you plan to continue in academia or enter the job market. So go forth, intern and prosper!