Saturday, June 30, 2012

Two more days until we are back to the United States

Posted in Christy Clarke |

.       Thursday was interesting at the conference. In the morning we continued to discuss the education systems, particularly the one in Germany. Afterwards I enjoyed a presentation on the first-generation gap and support for students in Africa. I thought the first-generation camp was a great idea to provide support for first-generation students. As a first-generation student myself, it can be difficult to find the right mentorship and support in order to succeed. On Friday, we started off with a panel which discussed higher education, a right, privilege or necessity. I enjoyed hearing each professional opinion, but I appreciated a students’ perspective from Alen Delic. I agreed with the comment he made that students do not have the power to create solutions to the financial part of higher education but if you educate us we will! The greatest part of the day was the visit to the U.S. embassy. It was home away from home. I liked hearing from each speaker but the ones I enjoyed the most was from Sita Sonty and a regional security officer. They provided a good overview of how things are done at the embassy and outside of the embassy and gave some inspirational advice. Sita was very specific and I appreciated that she provided information that I had no clue about. We also had a tour of the embassy and I actually saw the doors where the ambassadors’ office is. Overall the day went well and I cannot believe we are leaving so soon!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

First Day of the European Access Conference

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Today was the first official day of the conference. We started the day off by attending a student forum. There were students from Germany, Croatia, and the US there. The topic of discussion was issues of social inequalities, affordability in higher education, and the question of whether or not higher education is a right or privilege. I think it is definitely a right! We discussed the topic as a group and individually with the students from other countries. I found it very interesting because we were able to hear different perspectives of higher education and I was able to give my own perspective. Afterwards we broke off into groups based on country to discuss the current issues and ways to resolve it. I actually received the opportunity to speak in front of an audience and share my personal story and how I got to where I am today. Although it was last minute and I was unprepared, I was honored to have the opportunity to speak. I received very positive feedback from numerous people at the conference. After the last session, we attended a beautiful reception at the botanical gardens. We really received the opportunity to get to know everyone on a personal level. Our day ended with a group outing for delicious ice cream and coffee in the center of Zagreb.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Weekend Excursion: June 21st – 25th

Posted in Christy Clarke |

This weekend we finally parted off for our weekend excursion. Over the weekend we traveled to Krka falls, Šibenik, Split, Dubrovnik, Trogir and Zadar. On the way there, I was amazed by the scenery as we were driving. The view of the mountains, and hill tops were like something out of a movie. When we arrived at Krka falls, I was surprised the view looked just like the pictures. I felt really blessed to be able to experience that. Once we arrived in Split, I certainly noticed a livelier vibe. Many people flooded the streets with music and other excitement. I would have to say my favorite town visited over the weekend was Zadar. It was extremely beautiful and I enjoying seeing the ocean. My favorite place there had an ocean view and was reminisce of the beach.

All weekend everyone had the opportunity to souvenir shop and view historical sites. On Sunday night, we spent our last night in Varaždin by enjoying a kabob with some fellow scholars. I have to say I was a little sad we had to leave because I really enjoyed getting to know everyone at FOI and some of the people in Varaždin. Hvala again to all who welcomed us! On Monday, we finally arrived in Zagreb & started the day off by viewing traditional Croatian clothing & seeing an amazing castle. It is hard to believe that a family actually lived there! It was nice seeing the old traditional clothing that was hand sewed. My mom does embroidery with a machine and sometimes that takes long so I can only imagine the amount of effort it took to hand sew something. Overall the weekend was everything I expected and I look forward to seeing more in Zagreb at the European Network Conference.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Last Day in Varaždin…

Posted in Christy Clarke |

.   Today was our official last day in Varaždin = (Although I am excited to explore split and Zagreb, I am going to miss the atmosphere and way of life in Varaždin. Today we visited a high school, where we received a tour and background on their programs. Afterwards we visited the city hall and received a tour of that as well. We viewed the last bit of presentations and actually had a small ceremony afterwards where we received a certificate of completion for the conference. I had the opportunity afterwards to do some shopping with a few scholars. It almost brings me to tears to have to leave this beautiful city but I am truly grateful for the staff and students at FOI for their warm hospitality and I hope one day we can return the favor. I am looking forward to some beautiful scenery in split! Hvala all.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My first presentation of my research!

Posted in Christy Clarke |

Today we visited the elementary school and had the opportunity to discuss with a teacher about their education system. We actually walked all the way up to the roof where we could get a good view of the city of Varaždin. Afterwards, I participated in a press conference with my director, Michael. I was a little nervous, but one thing I definitely wanted them to know was that everyone here has exceeded my expectations for this trip. It has been amazing so far and I have really enjoyed myself and getting to know new people and a new culture. Today was especially important for me because I presented my research for the first time and it went great! I was happy by the positive feedback and questions I received afterwards. After having lunch, we visited another elementary school and participated in helping out with a garden. Although it was hot, it was a great experience.

I actually saw another preschool afterwards and I really loved the way it was set up. As stated in the previous blog, I appreciate the Croatian style of teaching where you allow students to freely express themselves by actually engaging in the activities we teach them about. I am considering coming back to Croatia to do some collaboration with the preschools down here =) After dinner and some delicious ice cream, we were invited back to one of the students house where we had official homemade Croatian pancakes with nutella, honey and chocolate ice cream. It was delicious! We ended up teaching them a few American dances and they taught us some as well. Overall it was a great day. Tomorrow is the last day in Varazdin, so I am certainly looking forwarding to doing all we can!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Best day in Varaždin so far!

Posted in Christy Clarke |

Today was the greatest day since I have been here! We started out by visiting a kindergarten which I was excited about. As we got there we were welcomed by the staff and some of the children and we were given a tour of the school as well as a general idea of how the school teaches their children. They organized a group of 6-year olds to sing a song to us in Croatian and in English. The kids were so cute! They all presented a drawing to everyone, specialized with our names on it. It really warmed my heart. =) I wanted to hug all of them and stay while they played outside. They emphasized that they use a holistic approach to teaching and they want to allow the children to learn from each other, from experiences, through play, and by using their senses. In some places in the United States, they believe that play is not beneficial for a child’s education. Many teachers and researchers are currently in the process of spreading the importance of play in the learning process. I thought it was important that the principal of the school stated that what the children learn in the early years is essential for the rest of their education. Overall, I love the Croatian style of preschool education and I hope I get the opportunity to make some connections at the school in the future.

After the preschool, we went to the museum located inside a castle. The scenery and artwork in there was stunning. It is a little hard to believe someone actually lived there! After resting up and having lunch, we all prepared for our salsa and Croatian dance session. I could tell everyone was trying to keep a secret about the session from us by the constant whispers and speaking in Croatian at times. Although I was eager to know the surprise, I am so glad I did not find out beforehand because when we entered the room, there were children dressed in costumes and some playing instruments waiting for us! It was incredibly cute! I couldn’t help but to record some of them and clap along as they did an original Croatian dance for us. Finally we got up to join them and everyone danced as a group. Afterwards we had our salsa lesson which was AMAZING! I didn’t think I would catch on so quickly but I did and it was really fun. Everyone was pouring in sweat afterwards, but the experience was well worth it. Overall I have gained so much from the small amount of time I have been here and I am very thankful for all the staff and students that are helping to make this experience happen for us. Hvala to everyone supporting and being so catering to us. You are certainly apart of the McNair family. I am eager to see what else is to come. I present my research tomorrow! *crosses fingers for good luck*

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Official Day of Conference

Posted in Christy Clarke |

.     Today we went to the first day of presentations at FOI. I woke up at 5am thinking I was late because it was so bright outside! Aside from meeting some more nice students, every presentation I saw was really interesting. One of the DePaul students did research on technology in the classroom and I found that especially interesting because it is related to my research on technology (television) with infants. I also thought the education system down here was fascinating because their preschool is from age 6 months-6-7 years old! They’re very different from the US education system.

Afterwards we had lunch, an official Croatian dish! (Which I couldn’t help but to take pictures of) and it was different but very delicious! We had a bike tour planned for us and we visited the river and the sports center. Both were very exciting. I actually saw houses alongside the river and thought…hmm wouldn’t be bad living here. Everyone else went to view the Euro Cup after dinner, which I chose not to attend. I am still getting use to the time change and I find myself being sleepy in the mid-morning Croatian time when it is really 2-3am in Orlando. Tomorrow I am ecstatic about because we are visiting a kindergarten and everyone who knows me know my passion lies with children. Maybe tomorrow I will post a video. Stay tuned to see.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Finally in Croatia

Posted in Christy Clarke |

.     After a 12-14 hour journey, we finally arrived in Varaždin! Going from flight to flight was a little rough, but when we finally got here I was excited. I did have a hard time adjusting to the time difference but I know I will get used to it. After arriving at the airport, we were welcomed by the staff at FOI and the students. I was flattered at how catering they were to us and willing to help us with anything. That was important to me because I have never been to a foreign country. I had my first Croatian lunch which was soup, cabbage salad, chicken and rice and a chocolate crepe. YUM! We also had what I would consider the best ice cream ever! We visited a church close by the University and it was absolutely gorgeous inside.

I was able to wave to my mom by the university camera and she actually saw me! I am definitely going through a bit of culture shock as I’m getting use to the way of life down here. I am so use to living such a fast pace lifestyle in Florida and always being on the go. Down here in Varaždin, everyone is very relaxed and seems to enjoy every moment of life. Whether it is sitting down having coffee with friends or enjoying a dinner without being in a rush. I actually appreciated having the opportunity to just relax and pace myself while enjoying a meal with some great people. We also visited an art gallery and a gorgeous castle! I can’t wait to go back to it and go inside. I am really enjoying Varaždin so far and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My last night in Orlando

Posted in Christy Clarke |

.     Wow, I can’t believe I am going to be on a plane to Europe tomorrow. I been running around all week getting the things I need and somehow I still have anxiety about leaving something behind. I am finally all packed! I know this will be a life-changing experience. I’ve been telling everyone about my trip and it seems other people are more excited for it. I’ve heard the phrase “I’m going to live bi-curiously through you about 10 times”! Well I will give everyone a good idea of what it’s like down there! Next time you see my blog, I’ll be writing it from Croatia!

Monday, June 11, 2012

6 days away!

Posted in Christy Clarke |

.      I can’t believe in 6 days, I will be on a plane to Croatia. Over the weekend, my family had a gathering for me and it was a wakeup call that I am really leaving soon. I just finished up my presentation and am doing some final packing. Words can’t express how grateful I am for this opportunity. I plan on spending this week practicing my Croatian =) I am very excited about visiting the elementary school while down there. My passion lies with children so to be able to volunteer at a school in another country, WOW, is all I can say. More blogs to come. Bok! For now…

Monday, June 4, 2012

My First Croatian Word!

Posted in Christy Clarke |

Bok! ( My first word learned in Croatian) So I looked at the calendar the other day and realized that we are TWO WEEKS away from being in Croatia. Right now this feeling is surreal to me! I am very excited and a little nervous at the same time because I am not sure what to expect. This is my first time outside of the US and presenting my research so although it is a bit nerve wrecking, I know this will be a once in a lifetime experience. I been reviewing sites and scenery of Zagreb and Varaždin and it is beautiful. I love the enthusiasm from everyone in Croatia awaiting our arrival and I look forward to meeting everyone!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

McNair Scholar Spotlight: Christy Clarke

Christy was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. She is currently an early childhood development major with a minor in child life. From a young age, she had a strong passion for working with children. Her ultimate goal is to provide counseling to families and children. She is intrigued by research thatinvolves mother & infant interactions as well as early intervention methods, and plans to tackle such issues, among others, with the help of her faculty mentors Dr. Anne Culp and Dr. Tara Saathoff-Wells. She is interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in early childhood development, geared toward the health development of children and adolescents.