Monday, July 26, 2010

July 15th & 16th: Exploring London

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Tonight is our last night in London and the last night of the McNair Scholars program study abroad experience. It was really nice that once we arrived to the dorms in London, the McNair Scholars from the University of New Hampshire greeted us and showed us the ropes.

While at the University of East London we were able to meet with some really brilliant people (John Locke and Daryl Newport). We also had the opportunity to watch our fellow McNair Scholars from UNH graduate from their summer research program at UEL.

The last couple of days we were able to explore London. While exploring London we were able to visit Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern Museum of Modern Art, the Shakespeare Globe Theater, the London Bridge Underground Experience, and the Winston Churchill Museum. We also were able to take a boat tour down the River Thames and walk across the Tower Bridge.

Monday, July 26, 2010

7.13.10: Departure from Croatia & Arrival in London

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We woke up incredibly early in order to leave Hotel Central in Zagreb by 6:30. Alen, Benjamin and Tomislav helped us make our way to the Zagreb airport. Katarina met us at the airport to see us off and give us one last sentimental detail.

Unfortunately, the time had arrived when we would have to leave this beautiful country and its wonderful people. We said our goodbyes and climbed onboard the plane.

Every one of us slept on that plane ride, despite the turbulence and the crying baby.

We then arrived in London. Some unintentional sightseeing occurred on the cab ride en route to the University of East London. And yes, we saw many red double-decker buses!

When we arrived at the University of East London (UEL) we were delighted to find our own individual dorms and immediately settled down for a power nap.

Around 6:00 we met up with three students from the McNair Program at the University of New Hampshire. Arisbelle, Katie and Michael led us through the maze that is public transportation in London during rush hour. This proved to be quite an interesting experience considering how exhausted we all felt.

After technical difficulties concerning the simple task of purchasing tickets, we made our way through a crowded subway over Oxford Street.

Monday, July 26, 2010

7.12.10: Departure & A Sad Fairwell

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Monday, July 26, 2010

7.10.10 & 7.11.10: Rest & World Cup

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After a long and amazing week the scholars rested on Saturday and took some time to catch up with their new found friends.  Some of the scholars assisted in the morning with the European athletics championship for persons with intellectual disorders.

On Sunday, the group got together by the town square in the evening to watch the finals of the World Cup.

Monday, July 26, 2010

7.9.10: Excursion  to  Hrvatsko  Zagorje (Krapina, Trakoscan, Varazdinske Toplice)

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This day provided us with yet another opportunity to explore what Croatia had to offer.

The experience was further enriched when a group of four students from Liverpool joined us for our trip. This much diversity in the large group of TWENTY-ONE provided a very interesting opportunity to learn from the different cultural differences.

Our first stop was the historic site, the Trakoscan castle.

Neanderthal Museum in Krapina.

Karaoke for Stephani’s birthday at Mea Culpa.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

7.8.10: SciBAr & Salsa

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Our day began with presentations from UCF students Amethyst Strickland and Lilian Milanes. To conclude our last official meeting of the conference, FOI students Katarina Pazur and Ozano Rokov gave their presentations.

The evening was filled with some additional surprises for our group.  The first was attending a SciBAr presentation. A SciBAr is an informal academic discussion on a scientific topic of particular interest to the general public. This month the presentation was being given by one of our new FOI friends, Robert Gregic, and his colleague Ivica Skokic.  Their presentation was entitled “Mission: Supernova Search”.  The event was free to the public and delivered in a relaxed environment in the downstairs basement lounge area of FOI.

The next surprise in store for us was a Salsa party. Professor Renata, knowing that the UCF scholars loved to dance, went out of her way to organize this event. A member of the FOI faculty was a salsa instructor and provided the group with lessons. The event was a huge success. It also brought us closer to the Croatian community. A few scholars even persuaded a few locals to learn the “electric slide.”

The night had a third surprise in store for UCF scholar Stephanie. With the leadership of Sanjin Brkic and the collaboration of both FOI and UCF students, a surprise birthday had been planned.

We headed to Palada and when the time came, Stephanie was successfully distracted and surprised with a birthday serenade in a mixture of Croatian and English. After a few broken plastic knives, the ice cream cake was finally cut and distributed amongst the group. It was a good night for all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

7.7.10: Exploring more of Varaždin

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Our day began with a visit to the Regional County Government, led by Dr. Violeta Vidacek-Hains. We were provided insight on Varaždin’s influence on governmental and environmental issues.

After this we visited Varaždin’s first elementary school. We spoke with the principal and one of the teachers of the school. Marcus felt right at home as we toured the classrooms. They discussed how the school was named an European Eco School for their outstanding achievement in improving the environmental quality of the school and community. This program is designed to incorporate environmentally sustainable attitudes and behaviors in young children.  This is where were also were introduced to two additional FOI students Benjamin and Tomislav.

After our visit at the school we had a quick lunch at the student restaurant. In afternoon we had research presentations by Stephanie Parenti and Laura Adarve.

These were followed by presentations by Student Assistants Zlatko Stapic and Goran. After a discussion on the topics covered this day, we disbanded, agreeing to meet in front of FOI at 6pm for a visit to Varaždin’s cemetery.

This was no ordinary cemetery. The locals treated this less as a place of mourning and more as a place of celebration. We learned that in 1905 Herman Haller had an idea to make the cemetery park-like with large trees, landscape architecture and alleys for citizens to stroll through. Because of this, the Varaždin cemetery is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe. It was truly a site to see.

After the cemetery, Dr. Violeta Vidacek-Hains led us to a local elementary school (gymnasium) to see a group of gymnastics students. It was amazing to see the level of talent of these kids.

It was then time for dinner. We went to a beautiful Italian restaurant called Rusticca. We were joined by Vice-Dean Dr. Blaženka Divjak and Professor Renata. The food was great but the conversation was even better. We shared a few words of appreciation and expressed how much we were grateful for the opportunity to visit their beautiful country.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

7.6.10: Visit to U.S. Embassy & Adriatic Coast

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We hopped on the travel bus pretty early Tuesday morning. Our first stop was the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb.

Once inside we were presented with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the embassy and how it functions. It was amazing to tour the U.S. Embassy. They went out of their way to make us feel welcomed. The visit was much more than we expected. Thank you to Renata from FOI for setting this up.

Another interesting twist to our visit was when we were able to meet a fellow Knight! We had the chance to meet Lieutenant Colonel Sean J. Cantrell who is the acting Defense Official and Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy.  Lieutenant Colonel Cantrell graduated from UCF in 1993.  We were just as shocked as the Sgt that half way around the whole we meet another UCF Knight. We discussed the changes Orlando has undergone since he graduated and how the campus has grown to become the third largest in the country. This meeting really made us feel “right at home”.

After an informative and intriguing visit, we set off on the bus once again; this time, headed for Opatija, a town on the Western Coast of Croatia.

The two-hour trip delivered a vast change from sunny blue skies to extremely heavy downpour. We sought shelter in a cozy little coffee shop named Leonardo’s. This experience allowed us to bond further with FOI students Katarina, Ozano and Robert.

After the rain passed we ventured off to walk around the town. We saw a beautiful park and its garden, a church, a free art exhibit, and of course, the Adriatic Sea.

The highlight truly was taking a dip in the Adriatic Sea. We were initially all hesitant, considering the freezing water temperatures and windy, cloudy day. Even so, one by one, we all decided to take the dip. Credit should go to Ozano for leading us in and Amethyst for being the bravest of the scholars to show us all that it can be done. We swam, threw a ball along, jumped off of a 30-foot diving board, and most importantly—laughed.

After a short swim in salty waters, we moved on to find dinner. We had a wonderful meal at an Italian restaurant. The large size of our group provided us with our own private room, a cozy setting for further interaction with the FOI students.

The ride home lasted a long three hours, only to lead us to go straight to bed to prepare for the following day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

7.5.10: Day One at FOI

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Today we started off the morning with the chance to meet with the FOI management board.  We spoke with the Dean, Dr. Tihomir Hunjak and the three Vice-Deans, Dr. Blaženka Divjak, Dr. Dragutin Kermek, and Dr. Vjeran Strahonja.  They were all very excited about our visit and shared with us the history of the university. We were also presented a very nice FOI pack back with some welcoming gifts.

We were then provided with a tour of the campus.  Later in the afternoon we had our first scholar presentations given by Marcus Sanderlin and Candice Torres.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

7.4.10: Touring Varaždin

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Today  we were able to experience Varaždin’s rich history. Guided by Bogdan, we visited the castle museum in the Old Town. Having served as a fortress centuries ago, this place carried us back in time allowing us to imagine how life was then.

After the tour and several group pictures in front of the castle we sat down to have some coffee and were delighted by a group of kids performing who attend a Rock and Roll Academy. We were treated to several performances by some very talented kids.

Our next stop was the Entomological Museum. The museum hosted an impressive collection of insects. After lunch at the student cafe the FOI students took us to the Varaždin pool.  The recreation center was an Croatian equivalent to an American YMCA.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Arrival in Varaždin, Croatia

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Saturday, July 3rd

Our day began at Hotel Central in Zagreb. After a fulfilling breakfast provided by the attentive staff of the hotel, we gathered our belongings and set off to explore as much of the city as we could before we had to catch the train to Varaždin.

As we walked near the Zrinjevac park, music drew us closer to a Promenade Concert. We visited the central shopping area, known as Jurisiceva, providing Marcus with the opportunity to fulfill one of his requests: shopping. After this, we quickly sped over to the trolley which took us up to Strossmeyer’s Promenade, a beautiful and shady area one could walk through or just spend time in relaxing with a book or friends.

It was then time to grab a quick lunch and head to the train station. The train ride lasted approximately two hours with several stops along the way, providing the scholars with the opportunity to see the breath-taking sights of Croatia. Katarina, the student coordinator for the trip, joined us at the Novi Marof stop.

Upon our arrival in Varaždin, we finally met the group of students from the University of Zagreb FOI that will kindly be our hosts for our short stay. We walked over to the student dormitories, where we settled in. Robert, one of the FOI students, bought us all lavender as a welcome gift, informing us that this native Croatian plant also served as a great remedy for bugs.

Once we were settled, we headed to dinner at Gostionica “Grenadir”. Dinner was prepared from scratch by just one woman for a group of twelve! The food was amazing.

After dinner we headed to the town center to enjoy a free concert.  Our first day in Varaždin was more than we imagined.  After months of preparing, it is great to finally be here. At the end of a long day, we headed back to the dorms and prepared for the next day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day One in Croatia

Friday, July 2, 2010

We arrived in Zagreb!!!

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We just checked into the hotel in Zagreb.  After over ten hours of  flying the scholars are happy to have their feet on the ground.  More details to follow……

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Story Telling Workshop

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With the assistance of Drs. Gunter and Kenny, scholars participated in a pre-trip workshop on filming and story telling.  During the study abroad trip scholars will be filming their trip experiences. Upon our return, the scholars will create a film that highlights the impact of participating in study abroad.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Focus on UCF Sustainabilty Efforts

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On Tuesday, June 22nd, scholars visited the UCF Arboretum to learn about their mission and explore the outdoor living laboratory.

Arboretum Mission: To provide UCF students, faculty, staff, and the greater community of Central Florida a comprehensive environmental and outdoor living laboratory for education, research, recreation, and human interaction with ecosystem functions.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scholar Team Building Exercises

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The scholars took part in a pre-departure team building exercise to assist in developing strong interpersonal relationships between the group. The activities were facilitated by alum scholar Natalia Marquez da Silva.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

UCF McNair Scholars Program: Study Abroad

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In less than 15 days, our scholars will be leaving to take part in what we hope will be a life-changing experience.  Marcus, Lilian, Candice, Stephanie, Amethyst, and Laura will be researching sustainability in Verazdin, Croatia and London, England.

Partner Institutions:
University of Zagreb: Faculty of Organization and Informatics (FOI), Varazdin, Croatia
University of East London, London, England

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

About the UCF McNair Scholars Program

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The McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO program funded at over 200 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. McNair participants are either first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential.

McNair Mission: To increase the number of first-generation college students from low-income families and members of underrepresented groups in the nation’s professoriate.