Friday, June 29, 2012

Zagreb! Monday-Friday Adventure!

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

.      On Monday June 25th after visiting the most beautiful castle I have ever seen, we arrived in the beautiful city of Zagreb. It was a fun day of bonding through card games and singing games which caused a lot of laughter and excitment among all.

Tuesday we went sight seeing and took part of the cultural performance at the education conference. It was great to see so much talent on young children to speak in four different languages, play instruments, sing and dance. I felt honored to have a the choir sing to me a beautiful song in Spanish.

On Wednesday we attended the European Access Network (EAN) conference, where the main topic discussed was higher education barrier problems and its solutions. We had many great topics and discussions that have helped me view life from a different perspective. This conference is a great opportunity to network with international faculty and students, by which I was glad to meet some wonderful german students. During the evening we attended the botanical garden and had a networking dinner. At night we went to the summer festival jazz concert and took a stroll around the town. The night life in Zagreb is a lot of fun, there is always so much to do between bonding with friends, music, food and of course the best ice cream in the world!

Thursday consisted of attending some sessions at the conference. During the student session we were engaging on a video making session that included students perspectives on higher education and it’s barriers including overcoming obstacles. Furthermore, we had a great dinner, ice cream and a fun night in the city of Zagreb.

Friday, last day of the EAN conference, which ended with a great discussion question during the panel “Is higher education a right, priviledge or necessity?.” The EAN conference was a great opportunity to be able to network with international students and faculty. Our next destination was to visit the U.S. Embassy, where I met a Puerto Rican marine! It was very interesting to enter the U.S. Embassy, I did not know what to expect, it was a great learning experience. This has been the best adventure of my life, and soon I will be going back home, wishing I could stay longer!

Saturday, Plitvićka Jereza national park adventure! These waterfalls were paradise! This was a wonderful experience to finish off our EAN conference cultural experience. After this amazing experience, it was packing time, then dinner, then the best ice cream in the world! It was a fun night, but also a sad night as we had to say good bye to the german students. I did not want to leave earlier this week, but I am ready to go back to my reality and put this experience and new knowledge in to good use. I am so thankful for this opportunity! I love Croatia and will miss it so much! Until next time! Hvala all for your wonderful help, support and assitance! It is the best experience of my life!

Sunday, last morning in Zagreb, Croatia. Leaving with a broken heart, wishing I could stay longer, but at the same time with a positive attitude and full of love from my Croatian family. This has been such a great experience, to be able to not just network but make friendships for life! Soon I will be back home, with a piece of Croatia in my heart! BOK, HVALA!!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Weekend get away! Friday to Monday was full of adventures!!!

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

Friday’s first destination was the Krka national park, where we got see the beautiful natural waterfalls. Second destination was Sibenik, where we explored the plaza and a cathedral. Our breaks consisted of ice cream, coffee, water and coke. After an adventurous Friday we ended up in Split, the second largest city in Croatia. We checked in at the Goli Bosi Hostel, where we slept in beds inside the walls.

Saturday consisted on breakfast and driving four hours to Dubrovnik. On the way there we stopped in Bosnia for ice cream. In Dubrovnik we became survivors of walking around the castle! When we got back in Split we went around the palace at night, where the environment consisted of music and people having great conversations while having a drink.

Sunday was our last day in Split! We headed to Old Town Trogir, where we went to the St. Lawrence cathedral and did some shopping. Zadar was my favorite destination of the coast, because of its Sea Organs. We also got to see the world’s smallest cathedral. Then we were off to Varaždin to spend the night. It was great to be there one last time.

Monday as we left Varaždin we went to some villages and visited a school, where 19th and 20th century Croatian items were preserved. We also learned some interesting facts: Children had to wait until their parents ate to eat. Women made their own wedding dresses by hand to show their to be husbands what kind of work they could do in case they needed to travel and make sure their wives could handle the chores at home by themselves. Last destination on Monday was Zagreb!!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Final Days in Varaždin

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

.      Today is Thursday June 21st, my last day in Varaždin. First destination was a technical high school, where we met the faculty and students. Also got to learn about their energy saving sensor machine that they created to reduce the cost of energy by 30%.

Then we had a field trip to the county office, where we learned about the Private Public Partnership project, also known as the PPP, which is based on building reconstruction that allows 30 years of ownership or rent by contract. We also got to see a cellar, which used to be an old prison, not used today and learned that Varaždin used to be the capital of Croatia at one point.

Great week in Varaždin now off to the coast!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday June 20th

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

Today is Wednesday June 20th and our first destination was the only elementary school with an observatory in Varaždin. It has about 28 students per class and about 15 subjects. It was interesting to know that books are not free for students. The foreign languages studied are English and German. Students remain with the same classmates for about 8 years. The school does not offer coca cola products. There is not a school nurse, but two certified teachers and the hospital is near by since they have free health insurance. Each teacher has an extracurricular activity that is connected to the subject they teach. They need to have five years of college to teach and need to be certified every five years.

After the elementary school we went to the FOI conference for some presentations about Croatia. We then had lunch and got ready for my first agriculture volunteer experience at a kindergarten school’s pumpkin patch. It was a great experience to be able to make a difference through volunteer work and learn about how they cultivate pumpkins and make pumpkin oil. Pumkin oil is very popular to use as salad dressing and or a dip for bread. The popular foreign languages taught are English and German. I was very excited to see some turtles at the school as well as a cotton machine, which is an extra curricular project where children get to learn the old ways of making clothes.We also got to explore a preschool next door, which was very impressive with their learning categories and pedagogy.

After a busy day, Alen Delic had prepared a “palaćinko night” (pancake night) at his apartment. This was the perfect opportunity to learn how to say the longest sentence in Croatian. Thanks to Maja Lalic I learned to say, “Uzbudena sam što ću jesti palaćinko s nutella”, which translates into “I am very excited to eat pancakes with nutella!” The Croatian language is so fun to learn! It was a great night to bond with everyone and eat the best pancakes ever! Cannot wait for many adventures to come!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day Three in Varaždin

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

.  Today is Tuesday June 19th, my third day in Varaždin. Our first destination was a kindergarten school. This was an amazing experience to learn about the Croatian kindergarten education system in person with the faculty, staff and the students. We were given a tour of the school, a presentation on important facts of the Croatian kindergarten education system, a wonderful bilingual performance by the children and then we were given artsy crafts as presents from the children.

Here are some interesting facts different from the USA educational system:

Students with disabilities are integrated in the regular classroom unless they have multiple disabilities and then they are placed in a special school. Communication is their discipline skill, timeout is not a method used for discipline. Some of the learning approach used is based on what the children would like to learn and pedagogy of the senses. They also respect the teachers anatomy of teaching, by letting them choose the most important area of each subject to teach. Children also learn a foreign language such as English starting in kindergarten.

After the kindergarten experience we went to the Old Town castle in Varaždin, where we were able to explore the insides of the castle. The castle had its original furniture, and the paintings of the family that lived there. There were all kinds of interesting artifacts such as keys, books, a compass, various decorated clocks, swords, riffles, plates, glass art, medals, and most of all great detailed art. We got see cannons and a mock city of how Varaždin was in the 17th century.

Then we went to the FOI conference for some more presentations, where we were given a lot of helpful and education of the places we will visit soon in Croatia, such as Dubronik, also known as the pearl of the Adriatic sea. We also learned about the 8 national parks in Croatia and the wonderful waterfalls, which I cannot wait to see! Lunch was excellent as always! I must admit my favorite menu items are the salad & the tap water!  Nonetheless, I am in love with the Croatian cuisine! Got some shopping done along with some more site seeing.

Dinner was great, and then a surprised followed for salsa night! When we arrived at the underground tavern looking room with dim lights, dance floor and a bar, we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful children dressed in traditional black and white clothes. The kindergarten children, we had visited in the morning had prepared a dance performance for us, which made feel all warm and fuzzy because of all the cuteness and great talent. They invited us to dance with them and it was so much fun! After that amazing surprise, the international salsa instructor walked in and the salsa dancing started. I had so much fun tonight! I have always enjoyed dancing salsa, but the way he taught us the international style was very unique and effective. I learned a few new dance moves and enjoyed the whole night dancing salsa, merengue and bachata. I must say Croatia has some great salsa dancers! I ended the night by going to a Croatian McDonalds with friends and yes the fries taste the same, but they do have different items on the menu. Can’t wait until tomorrow!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day one of the conference

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

Today is Monday June 18th, my second day in Croatia and I must say “Wow quite an adventure!” Had an amazing morning meeting the FOI Dean and management board, who were so welcoming. Then we transitioned to the FOI conference presentations which were all wonderful and very informative! I really enjoyed getting to know more about the city of Varaždin, also known as the city of angels. The main theme of the conference was based on education and it was very interesting that the percentage of students who transition from high school to a bachelors program is about 70% and students who transition from a bachelors degree to a masters degree is about 90%. Education is very important in Croatia. Another interesting fact is that at the university level it is required to have two physical education courses, which are not required in the USA universities. I also learned about two great organizations called AIESEC, is the world’s largest student run organization, and the FOI student council, which helps with funding projects to help students with conferences and to benefit the community. So thankful for the gifts we were provided by FOI students and faculty. My favorite one was a little keychain made out of bread and other materials with my name ornamented on it. So beautiful and great surprise!

Following a great conference we had a great Croatian lunch with the FOI students and faculty. Then we went on a mountain biking adventure around the city, trails, and the river. It was great way to workout and a fun experience. After dinner, the moment we were all waiting for arrived, the EURO CUP! It was a great game to watch the game, see the excitement of the people and bond with the Croatian FOI and the DePaul University. A day full of plenty of adventures. Cannot wait for tomorrows adventure! So thankful for everything!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day one in Varaždin – Sretan Rođendan

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

. Finally today is Sunday June 17th and after a 10 hr flight my cohort & I made it to Croatia. The trip was not bad, going from Orlando, Fl to Atlanta GA to Munich, Germany to Zagreb, Croatia. Once arrived in Zagreb the wonderful fellow Croatian McNair scholars were holding a sign saying “Welcome Home!”, a famous sign made by a previous UCF McNair scholar. They picked us up and we made it to Varazdin, Croatia. In Varazdin we had a delicious lunch followed by a beautiful chocolate turtle cake to celebrate my 23rd birthday! I was so excited that I couldn’t stop blushing! After our cake eating adventure we went to see Milijenko Stančić’s gallery, then had a tour around Varazdin’s oldest castle, then went for some tasty Croatian hazelnut ice cream & dinner. This has been such a great experience for me! I have learned so much so far & love the people of Varazdin! They are so nice and welcoming! This has been one of the best birthdays I have ever had! So thankful!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bags are packed …..

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

One more day!

Here I am writing my blog on a Friday night with great excitement to say in just one more day! I will be in Croatia! I am blown away with all the knowledge I have been able to absorb all this week through research and conversations with my fellow Croatian friends and scholars. My suitcase is ready to go and I am ready for an amazing adventure! Croatia here I come!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5 Days and Counting…..

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

Bok! Today is Monday June 11th 2012, and in exactly 5 days I shall be standing on Croatian ground, surrounded by its beautiful people and architecture. I am estatic to be able to go to Europe for the first time, especially when it will be the first time I will be in a country where I am not fluent in its language and the longest I will be away from my family. My suitcase its nearly done, and I have been learning Croatian. I am preparing myself for an unforgettable experience full of research, networking, fun, volunteering, and learning of the Croatian culture, language, education and history. I am very well aware that I will have a different perspective in life once I return, which will help me prepare for me prepare for my scholarly journey. Furthermore,I will be honored to contribute my knowledge and experiences to encourage other students to study abroad and pay it forward to encourage future generations.

Monday, June 4, 2012

14 Days and Counting…..

Posted in Natalia Sepúlveda |

.     It is now Sunday June 3rd and soon in exactly 14 days I will be in Croatia. I am very excited about getting to Croatia on June 17th my 23rd birthday! It will be a birthday I will never forget. I cannot wait to explore Croatia, visit museums, small towns, cities, water falls, castles, universities and most of all meet the wonderful people. I have the opportunity to present my thesis proposal on “The Importance of Education from a Global Perspective teaching: Don Quixote in the 21st Century” at the international level. I also cannot wait to network with students and faculty and gain a new perspective about education as a whole.

So far everything I have been able to research about Croatia is very interesting and I am in the process of getting more acquainted with the language to be ready for the trip. My gear is soon to be ready for packing. My family and friends are very excited about my trip, they have already gotten acquainted with skype to be able to communicate with me. I am feeling very happy and thankful to have the opportunity to travel to Europe and learn about the Croatian culture as well as to be able to bring back a different perspective in life to share and help me continue my academic journey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

McNair Scholar Spotlight: Natalia Sepúlveda

NataliaNatalia Sepúlveda was born in San Germán, Puerto Rico. In 2001, she moved to Florida with her parents and brother. Natalia is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Spanish. Her research interest resides in the value of education from a global perspective and teaching Don Quixote.  Sepúlveda is constantly involved in her UCF community and promotes campus organizations.  Her ultimate goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in Spanish literature and teach at the university level.