Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4th: Europe, I’m really gonna miss ya!


First Independence Day abroad and last day abroad, wrapped into one. We had another excellent day at the 2014 FACE conference. The key note speaker Mr. Jack Carney was unbelievable, he posed some of the problems of the education system and then actually followed up with solutions. I will absolutely bring some of his sound advice back to the states and to UCF. After the conference closed this afternoon we went to the Cadbury outlet! My sister is gonna flip when she sees the loot I brought home. We came back to the hotel and are currently in the process of packing to go home and watching the Brazil vs Columbia game. This trip has been absolutely outstanding. I didn’t know what to expect before I came to Europe but I know now that it would have exceeded even my wildest dreams. I am happy to go back to my family and home but at the same time sad to go. I am going to miss my Croat family every day until I see them again. I have pictures, treasures and memories to leave with, but the friendship I made are my favorite things to take home.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 3rd: Inspiring people and presentations @FACE2014!


Today we had breakfast at the Ibis hotel and took a cab to the University of Salford, Manchester FACE 2014 conference. We had the opportunity to hear from some fabulous keynote speakers from around the world. We hear from the UK, Sweden, the U.S., South Africa, and other major parts of Europe. We also had the great pleasure to hear a presentation from the DePaul McNair Program! So happy to see the work other McNair programs are doing across the country. Took amazing notes and made some excellent connections with faculty and researchers across disciplines and across borders. Tomorrow is the last day of the conference and I can’t wait to see what it brings. Tonight we had the pleasure to visit the MediaCityUK for networking event and a dinner at the Elis Lowery Museum.  The meal was lamb which I never get! So amazing! Can’t wait for what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July 2nd: #faceis21


Missing Plitvice Lakes today!!! This morning I woke up excited and nervous to attend and present at the FACE 2014 conference. The speakers were inspiring the workshops were excellent and the networking opportunities were surreal. We presented our experiences about McNair and various topics in the afternoon and had the rest of the day to go to break out panel sessions. During the middle of the day we had a tea break! I was so looking forward to that, I packed away a cookie in my bag for later! After the final keynote speaker we had a wonderful dinner, dessert and cheese tray! Life is good in the UK! Tomorrow we have a full conference day, Gala dinner and additional networking opportunity. Can’t wait. This year FACE turns 21! So happy to be part of educational access history!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 1st: My first train!


We left the hotel in London at about noon to leisurely walk to the Euston train station to meet up with the London DePaul crew to board my first ever train experience. But before we left London Michael let me stop at the British Library to sniff a book and take a selfie in front of the Humanities section, conveniently located on the first floor. After the short but amazing moment at the library we continued our journey to the station. We went to the London version of Whole Foods and got a tasty sandwich for the ride. I then settled in for the two hour excursion. It seemed like such a short ride, I was surprised when it was already time to get off at our stop. We checked into the hotel, dropped off our bags, grabbed dinner and went to Gina’s room for a research meeting. Gina Sanchez is the Arnold Mitchem Fellows (AMF) Assistant Director at DePaul University and an amazing asset to both AMF and the McNair Scholars Program. We watched the brilliant USA vs Belgium game and #believed all the way to the final minute of extra time. Super excited for the FACE conference and our international research presentation.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29th & 30th: I love London!


London is beautiful, inspiring, wonderful and extremely expensive. Today we left the hotel at 10:00 am and spent the entire day exploring. We walked from the way outskirts of town into the center. My favorite part was of course St. Paul’s cathedral. You can’t even describe the way it makes you feel except, small and humble. After the cathedral we walked over to the Tate Museum of Modern Art and got some boiled peanuts. We took a walk around the London Eye and saw a festival going on, called the Festival of Love. The festival brought even more color into an already vibrant city. We walked back to the Tate and decided to take a look around. The featured artist was Matisse but I still found myself at the Dali exhibit, old habits die hard. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed over the bridge to meet Big Ben and all of the gorgeous buildings living next to him. By that point it was very late and we headed back to the hotel. We explored the city again the next day. And now it’s time for our final destination, Manchester!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 28th: Hello London!


Leaving Varaždin was bittersweet. I meet some of the most amazing people in the world and created friendships that will last forever. Not to mention a continuous collaboration with the FOI faculty. Hvala to everyone I meet and helped make our journey through Croatia as memorable as possible! Hvala especially to Neva, Alen, Kika and Ozren for taking the time be with us every step of the way. And a big Hvala to Prof. Violeta for organizing such an amazing experience, it truly changed my life forever! As we boarded our plane for London I started to get excited about our next adventure! London is gorgeous and the environment is incredibly diverse. I was happy to see and hear so many different cultures as I walked down the street. Just walking around the first day we saw the British Museum and the beginning of Piccadilly Market. We went for dinner at amazing little local joint called Burger and Shake. Anyone that knows me knows my favorite food is a juicy cheeseburger! And that is exactly what I got, I started craving a burger the second I smelled it. After dinner we explored the city a bit more and decided to go back to rest after a long day of travel at the Tune Inn. Cannot wait for tomorrow!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26th & 27th: Agri-tourism in Croatia


My favorite words appeared yet again on the schedule, “Cultural Event”! Today’s cultural event was to Diana’s house! I first meet Diana when she gave a presentation at the 5th Annual International Student Research Symposium on Agri-Tourism in Croatia. Her presentation was amazing and I couldn’t wait to see her farm and land. Diana and her family graciously invited us to her home where we were given a tour of the farm and of all of the animals living there. I was lucky enough to meet her donkeys, chickens, goats, pigs, ducks, geese and dogs. The land itself was stunning and the fruit and veggies were even more amazing! We picked zucchini, carrots, cherries, lettuce, parsley, leeks and hoed potatoes! Diana’s parents helped us cut and prepare the vegetables into an insanely delicious stew. It was great to be on the farm. I have chickens and a mini urban garden at my own home so it was great to learn some tips for my chickens and vegetables. Diana also got us handmade Croatian national instruments to take home! The experience was amazing. Hvala Diana! Looking forward to some rest and shopping tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24th &25th : Sea Organ, Sun Dial and Zadar


The travel time from Dubrovnik was a bit long but thankfully we got a bit of shut eye, especially Alice! We stopped for a bite in Bosnia and Herzegovina and I got some amazing chocolate! Finally after many hours we arrived in Zadar! Hemingway and Hitchcock both agree that Zadar has the most beautiful sunsets in the world; I would have to concur.  Zadar reminds me a bit of St. Augustine, Florida which was refreshing and nice to see something homey after being away for so long. Everyone immediately went for some gelato and a coffee. I am really going to miss being able to have leisurely coffee time around the city when we venture back to the states.  We walked over to the very impressive Sea Organ which made the most beautiful sounds. The Sea Organ is an organ carved from rock and concrete built at the water’s edge and when the wash crash music plays from beneath the seas wake. The Sun Dial is in the same vicinity as the Sea Organ. The Sun Dial is built into the ground, it is heated by the sun during the day and lights up the city at night it is magnificent to watch. Most of the FOI students explained that Zadar is their favorite sea side destination. We headed back to Varaždin and got some much needed rest that night and the day after! Such an amazing experience.

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23rd: Walking the Walls

Touring the city walls in Dubrovnik.

Touring the city walls in Dubrovnik.

Walking the Walls of the Old City in Dubrovnik was one of the most sensory experiences of my life. You can see the water, walls, castles and sea. You can feel the blistering hot heat, sea salt and stone walls. The sounds were also amazing. Everywhere you turned you could hear others people’s reactions to the Walls and the city inside them, the view was absolutely outstanding. With how hot it gets it is hard to believe that people in armor and 15 pounds of clothing walked the walls on a daily basis, and don’t even get me started on the stairs. The walk took about an hour and a half, though it was only a mile around. The amount of pictures we were taking significantly slowed down the walking process, but with the content how could you not take a photo or two :p After we descending from the walls we headed to find a bite to eat. We grabbed some grub and decided to people watch for a moment, everyone was so excited to be in such a culturally rich environment. The next part is one of my favorites of the trip, exploring churches. As a Religious Studies major I thrive exploring sacred places. The churches were beautiful, colorful, and completely ornate- everything I had hoped for.  When we arrived back at the hotel Alice and I decided to go for a swim and experience a bit more of the Dalmatian beaches. The rocks take some getting used to but the lack of sand in your towels, clothes and bathing suit is awesome. We are all currently watching the scoreless Croatia v Mexico game, can’t wait to see how this one ends!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22nd: Welcome to Dubrovnik!




We checked in to the Hotel Adriatic after a long day of travel. We headed to the beach immediately to soak up the last rays of sun and then we changed for a night of dining and exploring the city. I can’t wait to walk the walls tomorrow! So thankful to be in such a beautiful city with such an amazing group of people. Thank you @UCFMcNairScholarsProgram!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21st: Never split in Split

IMG_2206Woke up this morning to a beautiful breakfast at the Goli Bosi boutique hostel in the center of Split, Croatia. After my morning dose of caffeine Alice and I headed out to explore the city a bit before our trip to the Diocletian Palace. When we arrived to the palace I was amazed at the history and the sheer size of just the cellar. Our new Croat friends provided us with some literature that made the exploring fun, meaningful and interesting instead of daunting. I was surprised to find out that Game of Thrones had filmed some of their last season down in the cellar of the Diocletian Palace. When we were there we saw a modern art exhibit that resembled the art of the third or fourth century AD, it was quite impressive. When we were through investigating the palace we walked around to the local shop to haggle with vendors to find some shades. Split is known for the intense sunshine and I needed a pair of glasses sooner rather than later; I succeeded in my mission and am the proud owner of yet another pair of aviators. We went to a restaurant on the water to soak up some of the sun and incredible view and then headed for the beach. I was really surprised coming from Florida that the beaches didn’t have white sand but instead compacted darker sand, it was extremely beautiful and the water was surrounded by terracotta colored houses sprinkled all over the coast. We went to dinner at a great place that served amazing seafood and chicken dishes, there was way too much food but I was in heaven. We ended the night sitting on the patio outside of the hostel experiencing the sea side night air.

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20th: The beauty that is Plitvice Lakes!

Posted in Brittany Murphy |

IMG_0046We woke up VERY early this morning to get on the minibus and drive to the most beautiful place I have ever been, Plitvice Lakes! It took about three hours by bus to arrive but it was well worth the wait. You didn’t have to wait long to see the waterfalls from the entrance of the park, and you could hear the water crashing down from just about anywhere in a couple mile radius. The water was the bluest I have ever seen and the fish were so close to the surface you could touch them. But of course we didn’t because that would ruin the beauty of the water from the contamination of our human hands. We walked for about six or seven miles around the park and saw what seemed to be hundreds of waterfalls ranging from big to small. We rode the ferry boat so we could see the crashing crystal water up close and the ferry dropped us off just in time for an ice cream break! The ice cream was well deserved after our long day of hiking. We got back to the minibus and headed for Split which took about three and a half hours, we were able to see amazing scenery and we watched the landscape change as we quickly approached the coast. Today may have been my favorite day so far, I love nature and today I was engulfed by it, the air was clean the water was clear and the visuals were better than I ever could have dreamed.

Tako lijepa!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19th: Experiencing Beretinec!

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Day 8: Experiencing Beretinec!

This morning we had our last workshop using SPSS, we made a bit more sense of our variables and data, I now feel more confident about my next steps for my research project. I can’t wait to continue working so I can see my project take form and impact my home institution as well as FOI. After one of our last lunches at Restaurant Park we headed to the Beretinec Municipality and met the Mayor Igor Kos who gave us an amazing presentation on Beretinec. Once our visit was through at the Municipality we had the privilege of seeing the volunteer Fire Department where we learned about the importance of the volunteering community and the history of fires in the Croatian area. We also had the privilege to go to the Črešnjevo Elementary School where we received the highest honor of having our national anthem played before the Croatian anthem; the students gave a heartwarming and endearing presentation and shared with us Croatian lavender and homemade treats! Our McNair Director told us we had a surprise waiting for us at our next stop but when we arrived I realized it was better than I could have imagined. We arrived at the MNK Črešnjevo futbol club and watched a great presentation on the importance of futbol in the community. I truly saw community building and teamwork. After our introduction we headed out on the field for a quick soccer match. Alice managed to score a goal!!! We were not on the level of the MNK players but I think we held our own, considering. For dinner we had an amazing feast at the hunting club in Črešnjevo. We watched and participated in traditional dance and eat till our hearts content. It was truly remarkable experience, the scenery was gorgeous s ad the people of Črešnjevo were some of the most generous I have ever met.

Woah sam, umoran!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 18th: The 5th Annual International Student Research Symposium is here!

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Day 7:  The 5th Annual International Student Research Symposium is here!

Today is the day of our research presentations. There have been some trials and tribulations with our data set but our presentations turned out amazing. It was so great to see the collaboration of all three universities and the quality of work the students created. Before the research piece we went to a fabulous visit of the Varaždin County Government. We had an amazing and welcoming tour from Silvia Ladic-Fischer; we got to meet the Deputy Prefect, Alen Kisic. It was an absolute honor to meet everyone in the building and see the buildings themselves, including the dungeon and wine cellar combo! Later we went for another research briefing and lunch break and then it was on to the 5th annual International Student Research Symposium! As I have previously mentioned the presentations were amazing and I learned so much in such a short amount of time. When we were through with our conference we headed to our lovely friend Neva’s house for an amazing assortment of traditional Croatian dishes, we decided to watch the Croatia Vs Cameroon game which was one of the best decisions we made all trip! The game was intense and as everyone knows WE WON!!! 4-0!!! The game got over very late and we have another big day in the morning!

Vidimo se!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17th: The joy of children!

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Day 6: The joy of children!

This morning we woke up and headed to the kindergarten in Varaždin. We were welcomed with a few familiar songs from the little ones! It was amazing we then went outside and played tag, I wanted to stay much longer than we did. We then went back to FOI to work on our research presentations and data set. After lunch we did a bit more research and started to really get a feel for SPSS and social science research. We then had another lovely dinner at Restaurant Park and decided to absorb some local culture by sitting in the square and enjoying a coffee. After our coffee break we were in for a real treat it was sciBAr! SciBAr is an event where you have casual presentations on educational and cultural topics in a comfortable environment! Our very good friend Neva gave an amazing presentation about her experiences in Ethiopia and shed light on experiences abroad and approaches to privilege and rights to education. When the sciBAr concluded we decided to head home and work on our research presentations and get a good night sleep for our big day in the morning!

Laku noc!

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 16, 2014 – Navigating the Faculty of Organization and Informatics!

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IMG_8713Today we started to embark on the nitty gritty aspects of the research process. We had a meeting this morning followed by a visit from the FOI Management Board including Dean Prof.dr. Vjeran Strhonja, Ph.D. as well as some of the Vice Deans. We got our red FOI backpacks that I have seen come back to the McNair office for a couple years! So excited to finally get mine! Hvala! I was able to enter data for the first time ever and get a couple of basic steps for SPSS which was great. I am so ready to learn more about this process and use the program when I get back to UCF. I am getting so close to my Croat family, starting to feel really at home here in Varaždin. Soon I will be able to meet some of the faculty that work with students with disabilities on the campus which will be an awesome experience! After our research we went for a coffee which I am now more addicted to than before I left America. Tomorrow we get to go to the Kindergarten and learn from the little ones, I can’t wait!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014 – #GameofThronesStyle

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IMG_9715As students participating in a research Study Abroad we have a very full schedule. However, there is one part of the schedule that I look forward to every time; and that is our “Cultural Events”! Before our “Cultural Event” we had our very first research meeting which was led by Dr. Luciano Bernardi. The meeting went very well and it helped the students all get on the same page about what was expected out of us for the duration of our stay in Varaždin. After another wonderful lunch we got in the car to head to Krapina, a small city where some of the first ever bones of a Neanderthal were discovered in 1899. We visited the Krapnia Neanderthal Museum which was beautifully designed and then toured the surrounding area. But I could have never imagined what would come next. When we arrived at our next location I was in disbelief, I got out of the car and right in front of me is the Trakosran castle,  totally Game of Thrones style, which by the way is filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The castle is massive and it sits beside a placid lake (sans alligators) for all the Floridians reading this. When we were done exploring the castle we took paddle boats out on the lake and went for an intense ride where we took a ton of photos. We arrived back to Varaždin just in time for another delightful meal, Dobar tek! Later we went to the Barfly to watch the Argentina vs Bosnia game, it was fantastic except that the game started at midnight and didn’t end until very late and we have research meetings early every morning! But during the World Cup time doesn’t matter, fútbol does!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

June 14, 2014 – It’s my Birthday month!

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IMG_8419After another phenomenal breakfast, the gang went to explore Zagreb one last time before Varaždin. However, I’m sure Zagreb and I we’ll meet again. As a Humanities major you can probably guess that I am a museum junkie. My dreams were fulfilled when I and a couple of the students visited the Museum of Broken Relationships as well as the historical museum of Zagreb. Both of the museums were excellent yet, the Museum of Broken Relationships had a humanistic quality I will never forget. We walked around and observed stories and articles from others broken relationships, it was a bit voyeuristic but intriguing all the same. When we were finished investigating the museums we headed to lunch. For lunch we tasted a bit of everything from an Oriental restaurant. The Pad Thai was the absolute best I have ever had! With our bellies full we traveled to Varaždin. The car ride shed light on just how gorgeous the Croatian country side is, the agriculture and architecture are breathtaking. Once we arrived in Varaždin we checked in to our dormitories, which were amazing and fully stocked with Croatian treats in the fridge! But before we checked in the FOI (Faculty of Organization and Informatics) students sang me Happy Birthday, even though my birthday had passed, it was so incredibly sweet! We then went to the student café for dinner and a coffee bar called Palantin. Our long third day came to a close and we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13, 2014 – I could eat this way forever!

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IMG_9572Breakfast was amazing! Alice and I couldn’t believe how extensive and delicious everything was. We had a combination of fresh fruit, tomato and mozzarella caprice, calamari, grilled vegetables and a spinach ricotta quiche. And thank goodness we fueled our bodies because day two in Croatia was all about exploring the capital, Zagreb. All of the students and faculty meet at the hotel lobby at 9:30 so we could explore the city. Alen took us on our exploration and showed us the beautiful government buildings, the quaint shops, and my favorite part, the farmers market. In the states the farmers market is something that if you’re lucky rolls around once a week but in Zagreb it is a staple, running every day from morning till midafternoon. We walked around and tasted a bit of everything, and ended up getting two bunches of raspberries. Raspberries are in season right now and the colors, textures and tastes were out of this world. After our investigation of the city we went to get ready to meet the Vice Rector of the University of Zagreb, Dr. Blaženka Divjak. Dr. Blaženka Divjak gave us a warm welcome to the main faculty building at the University of Zagreb. She led a fascinating discussion about the differences between European and American higher education. Once our enlightening conversation was over we went back to the hotel to discuss where we were headed for dinner. Alen, Neva and Ozren took us to a traditional Croatian restaurant and we had some of the most delectable dishes I have ever tasted. We started with a Croatian cheese and dried meat appetizer and ended with a combination of salads, sausages and chicken skewers. We ventured back to our hotel after dinner and rested for the long next day of exploring and travel ahead of us Varaždin awaits!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June 12, 2014 – “Whatever you are expecting, it’s better….”

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WCThree flights and many on-board movies later, we arrived in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. As a native Floridian the weather was welcoming, a warm and sunny 80 degrees Fahrenheit. After the initial arrival we checked in to the gorgeous Hotel Dubrovnik and started our first adventure with our Croat family.  Our friend Alen guided us through the town square and took us to an amazingrestaurant where we indulged in some Italian delicacies such as Lasagna Bolognese, Shrimp Risotto and Spinach White Wine Gnocchi. But, of course we had to save room for our gelato! Gelato in Croatia is the equivalent of Starbucks in the states, it is on every single corner, and for good reason it was insanely delish! After our meal and afternoon journey we went back to the hotel to rest for the opening of the 2014 Fifa World Cup; as our luck would have it Brazil and Croatia played the very first game!

The atmosphere surrounding the game was like nothing we had ever seen before, the city was alive. People packed the cafes, restaurants and the main viewing headquarters which resided in the town square. Croatia scored the first point within the first 15 minutes of the game and the excitement rose to an extreme level. In America soccer is a game, for the rest of the world it is a sense of community and celebration. Someone shot off a cannon after the first point was scored filling the street with smoke. Even though we did not win, viewing the game was an experience we will treasure forever. Overall our first day was excellent; the hospitality our Croat family showed us made our transition from America to Europe seamless. Before I left for my trip I asked a scholar from a previous trip how she liked it. She said to me, “Whatever you are expecting, it’s better.”, and she was absolutely right.

Friday, May 23, 2014

McNair Scholar Spotlight: Brittany Murphy

108Brittany Murphy is a Florida native, hailing from a small town in South West Florida. She is a Humanities major as well as Religious Studies with a minor in Mass Communications. Brittany’s research interests are concerning how marginalized bodies are depicted in US. popular culture, specifically focusing on queer bodies and persons with disabilities. Brittany dreams of obtaining her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, with the goal of working in academia and pursuing non-profit work for students with disabilities.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Blog 2014

Blog for 2014 tour will be ready in June!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Getting Ready

Posted in Brittany Murphy |

Getting ready for 2014 tour!