Saturday, June 30, 2012

Creating Friendships with German Students.

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

.        On Thursday we attended day two of the conference, where we listened to paper sessions and asked questions to the presenters. Everyone was very knowledgeable about their research on the education system and I took away a lot of key points, especially from the presenter who talked about her first-generation school in South Africa (now I REALLY want to go and visit the school!) Later that night, we went to the botanical gardens for the closing reception to the conference. Aside from the greenery, we were able to mix and mingle with the presenters and fellow college students, which really allowed us to bond with the students who were attending from Germany! We went out to dinner afterwards and enjoyed each others company. On Friday, we heard Alen present as a part of a panel regarding the education system, and he did an excellent job! We then attended the U.S. embassy, where we learned about all of their positions there and all of our speakers were so motivational! After our trip to the embassy, we went to the town square for dinner and shopping, and it was just relaxing and refreshing to just be able to enjoy our last Friday night in Zagreb. It’s hard to believe it is almost over!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

SiS Catalyst and European Access Network Conference

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

.      On Tuesday we took a break and went to the main square for the first time. There were SO many people there! Alen showed us around the town and it was truly wonderful. I enjoyed seeing all of the sights and people hanging around in the capitol city of Zagreb. The shops were full, the streets were busy, and we felt right at home :) We ate at a traditional Croatian restaurant for lunch and I really enjoyed it! We spent the entire day in the main square just looking around and enjoying the people we were with. On Wednesday, we started the 21st EAN conference and it was a great experience! We participated in a student international forum about the similarities and differences between the European education system and our system in the U.S. It was very beneficial to be able to sit with fellow scholars and students at international universities. My eyes were opened to the possibilities of earning a higher education degree abroad, which is something that I had never even considered before! Needless to say, it was a wonderful chance to network with others and share valuable information with the attendees.

A few of us were privileged enough to be able to visit a Social Sciences Institute where we got to speak with a school psychologist, which made my day! She was very insightful and I look forward to learning from her thorough future conversations. Later that night, we attended a reception where we heard Roma children from the ages of 5-18 years old, speak 5 different languages and express their interests in higher education. It was absolutely amazing to see children so young, with so much to gain, be SO enthused about going on to college and earning their degree! In Croatia, Roma children are characterized as often coming from low social economic backgrounds.  It really touched my heart to see all of their talent and potential. They truly inspired me!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Weekend Excursion: June 21st – 25th

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

This weekend was SO hectic! We traveled back and forth between Varaždin, Karka, Sibenik, Split, Dubrovnik, Trogir, Zadar, and finally we ended in Zagreb. We left for Split at 5am and spent four hours traveling! We did the traditional stopping along the way for the best ice cream we have had so far, and of course to eat. Once we arrived, we stayed in a hostel and enjoyed the night life of Split! It was a lot different from Varazdin, as many of the towns people were out and about until well past midnight (the shops and things closed at about 9pm in Varaždin). While in Split, we went to the beach and enjoyed the “liveliness” of the city with some of the BEST burgers you could ever have! Along the weekend excursion, we stopped in Dubrovnik to walk along the historic walls and some of us hung out in the shopping center in the town square. We also saw some AMAZING waterfalls at a natural park, and traveled to Trogir to see Old Town and then to the city of Zadar. Zadar was by far my most favorite city because the scenery was BEAUTIFUL! I sat at a roof top restaurant and it was the most peaceful place I think I have ever been. The waves were so calm and the city was glowing over the water! It was so serene and majestic, I absolutely loved it! Upon our return to Varaždin before leaving for Zagreb, we were able to experience traditional Croatian kabobs, and they were absolutely delicious! We were all sad to be leaving Varaždin though because we have made some wonderful friends here and truly began to feel like we were a part of the culture. We are excited to now be in Zagreb and looking forward to the conference this week! Today we attended the cultural dance activity and tomorrow we actually get to see a few presentations, so it’s back to business after our weekend long exploration. It should be a great rest of the week :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Walking around the city…

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

.      As usual, today was busy, busy, busy!  We went to tour a technical high school, which was very interesting because one of the physics teachers gave us a few demonstrations using his materials in the classroom (he actually made a golf ball dangle in mid air!). After the tour of the school, we went to city hall and learned a lot about the history of Croatia. After this, we ate lunch and then we finished the seminar with our final sessions for the 3rd annual symposium, and the Vice Dean of FOI presented us with certificates of completion. It felt really nice to finally be able to say that not only have I presented at a conference, but it was an international conference, thanks to McNair :) After our brief celebration, we were given free time to “tour the city”, and I decided to walk around the town square with my fellow scholars, which was a great time to bond before enjoying our last dinner in Varaždin. Although the day was short, it has been well worth it! Tomorrow we take off on our excursion to Split, and I am so excited!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things just keep getting better…..

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

Today was another eventful day in Varaždin! We started off the day with another venture to an elementary school, where we got to speak with a school psychologist for one of the largest schools in Varazdin county (the school has 800 students, which is pretty big for this small country). She told us how she tests children for ADHD and how she helps them to avoid behavior issues in the classroom so that they can succeed, which was of huge interest to me as I want to become an adolescent counseling psychologist myself. She was very insightful and helped us to realize some of the differences in the Croatian school system versus our own in the U.S. For instance, their students have to purchase their books, even in elementary school! This definitely made me appreciate the privileges that we receive as Americans when it comes to receiving a standardized education before going to college.

After the visit, we took a tour of the facility and then headed to lunch, which was great as usual. We then attended more presentations, which was very exciting because I FINALLY got to present! I think it went really well and I truly hope that the students at FOI and DePaul took away something interesting about UCF :) After the presentations, we went and pulled weeds around a garden at another school and then headed back to FOI for dinner. After dinner, we took a walk to get some ice cream (which was delicious) and then we attended an outside “play” about Croatian history. All in all, it’s been a pretty awesome day! Things just keep getting better :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“You do the hokey-pokey!”

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

Today has been by far the most amazing day that we have spent in Varaždin. We started the day off with a visit to the kindergarten school and we learned about some of the teaching methods that many instructors use to keep the children “motivated” and engaged. It was really interesting to find out that in Croatia the teachers allow the students to show and tell them what they want to learn about instead of having a set lesson plan like in America. After this brief session, we took a tour of the classroom and facilities, and then one of the classes put on a little show for us! They sung a few songs in Croatian, and then did a few dances to American music (my favorite one was the “hokey-pokey”, hence today’s blog title). After they sang and danced for us, they presented each of us with a hand drawn Croatian flower, attached to a star or flower on a stick and each one had a little message attached to it. It was truly heart-warming to be so welcomed by people who were only 6 years old and were just learning English! After the visit, we toured a museum, ate lunch, and then had a few presentations on the history of Croatia and some research from scholars at DePaul. We ended the night with Salsa lessons (Croatian style of course) and the best surprise that we have had all week…some of the students from the pre-school came and did a traditional Croatian dance for us! We all danced with them and truly had a wonderful time. I really enjoyed myself today and I am excited to see what happens tomorrow!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Today was quite an eventful day!

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

.    Today was quite an eventful day! We started our first sessions at FOI and we learned some pretty interesting facts about the history of Croatia, the education system in Varaždin, technology in the classroom, and other McNair programs in America, just to name a few. We also had the chance to meet the Dean of FOI, who welcomed us openly to the campus. After the first sessions ended, we had an amazing lunch that was “traditional style”. There was a lot of different cheeses and meats, as well as an assortment of bread and fruit. Once lunch was over, we headed over for a bike tour of the city and the sports center, where a cheerleading team greeted us and showed us a few of their stunts (this was by far my favorite part of this excursion because I am a former cheerleader myself, so it brought back a LOT of memories!) After the tour of the facility, we finished the bike tour at the river, where we played games and just hang out with each other. Once the tour was over, we went back for dinner, which again was delicious, and then some of us went to watch the Euro Cup “futbol” (or soccer) match, while others of us headed inside early to prepare for our presentations later on in the week. All in all, it has been a great start to our international conference!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day one in Varaždin

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

.     Well, we are FINALLY here!! It only took about 11 hours and three separate planes to get us here, but we made it! This has by far been one of the longest days ever, but it was totally worth it!! Upon arrival in Varaždin, we were greeted by the host students at FOI, and they seemed just as excited to see us as we were to see them. After our warm welcome, we went to the pier cafe of the airport and talked for a little, while waiting for the scholars from DePaul University to arrive. After their arrival, we sat in a little cafe and had our first taste of Croatian water From there, we journeyed to our hostel suites, dropped off our luggage, and left for lunch…needless to say this may have been the most anticipated part of today’s journey, aside from the actual arrival of course. We ate noodle soup, salad, & then chicken with vegetable rice, followed by a delicious chocolate crepe! After this, we went to the town center where many scholars stood and waved at their families back home via the webcam, before stopping for one more rest and another refreshing drink. Although I had to head back to the hostel early due to feeling under the weather, I know the other scholars enjoyed the brief tour of the art museum that followed. It is now time for bed and I am looking forward to resting up and feeling 100% better by tomorrow. I will keep you posted on our journey!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

“Tomorrow, Tomorrow!”

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

Tomorrow is the BIG day! It’s almost time to take off on our adventure to Croatia and I could not be more excited! I have FINALLY finished packing and getting everything ready to go. It’s hard to believe that our journey is about to begin in less than 24 hours because it feels like we have been planning this trip forever! With my passport in hand, I am truly eager to explore Croatia and all that it has to offer, including being able to engage with my fellow McNair Scholars at FOI. I believe that this trip will truly be one in a lifetime. So fasten your seatbelts, we are ready for liftoff! Ready…set…GO!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5 days and counting!

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

.      I can not believe that this trip is now only 5 days away! I still feel like we just found out that we were going to Croatia yesterday. The anticipation is surely building and I think by the time we actually board the plane I will be too excited for words! There’s still a lot to do to prepare for our departure, like PACKING (it seems like such a tedious chore when you would rather be excited about the trip in general than to have to focus on not over-packing). I am trying to prepare my mind daily to be open and ready to take in all of the experiences that we will have abroad, by trying to familiarize myself with some of the culture and even some of the native language. I think this trip will definitely be one to remember and I will continue to count down the days until take-off. I am truly excited that I am able to take each of you with me via my blog, so hold on tight!

Monday, June 4, 2012

“I am truly grateful”

Posted in Raven K. Cokley |

Words really can’t describe how I am feeling about this upcoming trip to Croatia for McNair! I feel incredibly honored and blessed to have the opportunity to travel abroad for two weeks and learn some incredible things along my journey. At the moment, I am very anxious and excited, and incredibly curious about what is in store. Although I have traveled abroad before, I think this experience will be unlike any other and I cannot wait! I am excited to meet new people and share McNair stories and experiences, and hopefully be able to make lifelong connections with the students at FOI.

I am truly grateful for the experience and I am anxiously awaiting our departure. I think what is exciting me the most is the opportunity to attend the research conference and visit the US Embassy, although I know that everything that we will experience will impact me in some way. I truly hope to gain a lot of knowledge and insight into the growing world of academia, and I cannot wait to share these experiences along the way!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

McNair Scholar Spotlight: Raven Cokley

Raven K. Cokley was born and raised in the beautiful city of Sarasota, Florida. In 2009, she graduated from Riverview High School’s International Baccalaureate Program. She is a psychology major with a Spanish minor and a certificate in leadership studies. Raven has always had a passion for working with and mentoring troubled youth, by helping them to grow, develop, and ultimately find their place in society. Her research interests include all facets of multicultural counseling: self-esteem issues in teenage girls, addressing minority high school retention, adolescent pregnancy rates, and exploring spiritual concerns. Upon graduation with her bachelor’s degree, she plans to earn a Ph.D. in adolescent counseling psychology.