Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4th: Last Day


The last day of the Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE) Conference was today, which also wraps up our trip. I believe the FACE Conference was a great success and it ended with a great keynote speech from Mr. Jack Carney about “Aspiration Beyond Expectation”. I really enjoyed Mr. Carney’s presentation because he identified problems in the educational system and offered possible solutions. After the conference, we went back to the hotel to get some rest. Then, we went to The Lowry Outlet Mall and bought delicious chocolate from the Cadbury Outlet. Later that night, we went back to our hotel rooms and watched some of the World Cup games while packing to go back home. I cannot believe our research abroad trip has come to a conclusion. I have had an amazing experience and I learned so much throughout the trip. I hope I can do this again someday!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 3rd: FACE


The presentations today included “the BBC Technology Apprenticeship,” “Responding to the challenge – evolving the curriculum to ensure equity of outcome,” and “Socio-economic barrier to post-graduate education.” I really enjoyed the last session because it was presented by fellow McNair scholars from DePaul University and they did a phenomenal job discussion their research questions. Once the presentations ended, everyone was invited to the conference dinner located in the M.S Lowry Museum. The dining room’s walls were made of glass and we overlooked Manchester city. I noticed the Manchester United stadium right away and thought it was really awesome. It was an amazing view and the dinner was delicious. After everyone finished eating, there was a raffle. Then, we welcomed the guest of honor, which was the project director of Reclaim Project. The project director gave a speech about the not-for-profit organization which helped young adolescents find their path to success. All the proceeds from the raffle were given to Reclaim Project. The night ended with a wonderful testimonial from one of the people who had been impacted by the organization. Sometimes conferences are all about helping yourself grow so it was great to see a charitable action taken.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July 2nd: #FACEis21


Today we hopped on a taxi to go to the University of Salford for the Forum of Access and Continuing Education (FACE) conference. When we arrived to the campus we were greeted and given a tote bag, a lanyard, and breakfast. After enjoying some breakfast and meeting new people, we headed over to the first session, which was titled “Getting Published.” This was my favorite session of the day because I learned a lot about the publication process. The presenter, Dr. McKendry, gave a lot of valuable tips and advice to those who are interested in writing for peer-reviewed journals. I am excited to take this knowledge back home with me so that I can start publishing research soon. Next, we met the Vice Chancellor of the University of Salford, Professor Martin Hall. He was a great speaker who gave a lot of insight about the rich history of Manchester and its educational system. Later, we went to a few extra sessions and ate lunch. Soon after, it was time for me and the other students to do our presentation, which was titled “Student empowerment and the McNair Scholars Program.” We were all prepared, but a little bit nervous too. Nevertheless, we gave a successful presentation. I talked about my research abroad experience, while other students talked about their experience in the McNair Scholars program. We all received great feedback after the presentation and I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to present at a wonderful conference. I look forward to the next two days of FACE!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 1st: Manchester


I woke up feeling much better and ready to take the train to Manchester. We walked over to the train station and got some lunch. Soon after, we met up with the advisors and students from DePaul University. It was great to meet more students and make connections. The ride was about two and a half hours long, but it seemed short. Once we got to Manchester, we took a cab to our hotel and settled into our rooms. Later that night, I met with the advisor and students from DePaul to practice our speeches for the presentation we are giving at the conference tomorrow. We were all prepared, but we just needed to time ourselves so we do not go over our allotted time. It was nice to bond with the students too. Once we rehearsed our presentation, we all got some rest for the big day tomorrow.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29th & 30th: Greetings from London!


On Sunday we left the hotel, grabbed some breakfast, and started to explore London. First, we visited the St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was extraordinarily gorgeous. Then, we went to the Tate Modern Museum. The museum included a variety of art, such as paintings, photography, poetry, and sculptures with realistic and surrealistic themes. Afterward, we walked around the city and visited the London Eye and Big Ben. Before we could continue our journey, I started feeling very sick. Therefore, we decided to return to the hotel for some rest. Later that night, I felt worse. It turns out I got food poisoning. I had to go to the Urgent Treatment Center (UTC). After waiting seven long hours, I left the UTC feeling better. I am extremely thankful for Brittany and Michael who took great care of me throughout the day! On Monday, I stayed in the hotel to rest for a little bit longer so that I could fully recuperate for the conference.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 28th: Hvala!


This morning we travelled from Varazdin to Zagreb to catch our plane to London. After a short flight, we arrived safely to England. Although I am excited to continue my journey, I am really sad to leave Croatia. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to research abroad in Croatia and have created great memories with an amazing group of people. I cannot wait to come back, but I am even more excited to host the Croat students when they come to Florida, which I hope will be very soon. I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone and continuing the partnership with FOI. Hvala!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26th & 27th: Agritourism


Today we visited Diana, a student from Faculty of Organization and Informatics (FOI), for a special day of Agritourism. Agritourism is when visitors go to see the agricultural aspect of a specific region. I absolutely loved this because I think I learned so much about the culture of Croatia. When we arrived, Diana’s family greeted us into their home with open arms. First, they introduced us to a couple of their farm animals, including chickens, donkeys, ducks, geese, pigs, and dogs. Later, we picked fruits and vegetables. First, I enjoyed picking cherries. I stayed under the cherry trees for a while because they are one of my favorite fruits and they were so delicious. It reminded me of cherry-picking in New York with my boyfriend, Todd. Later, I dug up some potatoes and collected carrots, peas, and kale. I had no idea we were going to cook a meal with all of these vegetables, but we did. Diana’s family taught us how to prepare a fresh, home-cooked, typical Croat meal. We all helped in the process of cooking by chopping up vegetables and peeling potatoes. We made a tasty chicken and vegetable soup. One of the best soups I have ever had! We were also treated to some home-made goat cheese, goat milk, strawberry jam, and omelets. I cannot thank Diana and her family enough for this incredible experience! Later that day, we went back to our rooms to rest and I read some of the Croat articles we had been featured in. It is an honor to be so pleasantly welcomed by everyone in Croatia. I have included some of the articles below.


E Varazdin


Aktualno HR


Varazdinske vijesti


MNK Cresnjevo


Unizg Rectors Building


Student’s blogs-Croatian


Student Blogs- English

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24th & 25th: Zadar


On Monday morning the UCF and FOI students said goodbye to the DePaul students because their trip was left Dubrovnik to travel to Zadar, another beautiful city located about five hours away. As soon as we arrived to Zadar we found the Sea Organ, which is a musical instrument that is played by the sea waves and air. While listening to the peaceful harmony that the Sea Organ played, we saw the sunset. Many people have testified that the sunset in Zadar is the most beautiful sunset in the world. I must agree. After viewing the splendid sunset, we explored the city a little bit longer and headed back to Varazdin for a good night’s rest.

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23rd, 2014: The Sun and the Beach


This morning, at around 9:30 am, our group hopped on the bus to visit the Old City in Dubrovnik. When we arrived, I was completely overwhelmed by the splendor of the sight. Immediately, we decided to explore the Old City. Therefore, our group bought tickets to walk the Walls of the Old City, which were made out of stone to protect it. The fortification was truly impressive because it was built near the 14th century and is still intact today. While walking the Walls, I saw much of the Old City from above. The view of the Old City and the Adriatic Sea was spectacular. We noticed many people kayaking, taking boat tours, and jumping onto submarines.  It looked like paradise. All in all, I enjoyed spending the day with the student from DePaul University and the students from the Faculty of Organization and Informatics. Later that day, we went back to the hotel and rested for a little while before we went to the beach. The beach at Dubrovnik is different from any other beach I have seen. The water was clear and rocks covered the shore. I swam for a while and enjoyed the scenery. I felt like I was at home. Soon after, we left the beach and searched for a restaurant to eat dinner and watch the Croatia versus Mexico game. We ate calamari, pizza, and pasta. Of course, we had to order dessert, so we got a banana split. The food was delicious. Then, we went back to the hotel and before I went to sleep, I spoke to my family and friends from back home. It was great to see them over Skype because I really miss them, but I hope I will be able to come to Croatia with them some day.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22nd, 2014: Dubrovnik


We checked out of our hostel, located in Split, and travelled to our next destination, Dubrovnik. Although I usually fall asleep on road trips, I could not fall asleep today. The journey was beautiful. Everywhere I turned, I saw the beauty that is the Adriatic Sea. We made several stops, including one where Michael and I shared a delicious tray of cherries. After the long road trip, we finally arrived to Dubrovnik. We all checked into our hotel and went to the beach. I was so excited to finally see the place everyone was telling me about. Indeed, it was beautiful. That evening, we headed to the Old City of Dubrovnik to have dinner. We went to a restaurant that had a beautiful view of the Old City and the Adriatic Sea. On top of that, the food was really good. Everyone around me shared their food. I tried mussles, pizza, seafood risotto, and so much more. I had a great time bonding with all the students and learning more about them.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21, 2014: Split

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Roman Palace of Emperor Diocletian

Roman Palace of Emperor Diocletian

Our group enjoyed breakfast at the hostel, Goli Bosi, and then we all visited the remains of the Roman Palace of Emperor Diocletian. It was fascinating to see that the only thing left was the cellar, yet it was incredibly big. Inside the cellar there was a modern art gallery, called Cirkus, which included many sculptures. After visiting the palace, we walked around the city and picked up some lunch. Later that evening we went out for dinner and came back to the hotel room to bond as a group.

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20, 2014: Plitvice Lakes

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Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19, 2014: Gooooaaaallll!!!!

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Today we went on a wonderful cultural excursion to the county of Bertinic. We met the mayor, visited an elementary school, learned about their soccer club, played soccer, went to the hunting association, danced and ate a delicious meal. I truly appreciate all of the hard work that the community went through to make this an amazing experience for us. I think it was one of my favorite days so far because I truly learned a lot about Croatian culture. My favorite part was partaking in the soccer game because it was a lot of fun, and I even scored a goal! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 18, 2014 : Pobjeda Hrvatske

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download (2)

Our group was very fortunate to go to the Regional County Government and meet representatives, Deputy Prefect Alen Kisic and Silvija Ladic-Fischer. Both Alen and Silvija provided us with insight about how the local government works in Vararzdin. What I liked the most was that one of their main strategic goals was to improve the educational system. They are very proud of the Faculty of Organization and Informatics (FOI) and they hope that it will continue to grow and be successful, which I believe it will. Ms. Ladic-Fischer gave us a tour of the Regional County Government building, including the dungeon, which I hope is no longer used! Afterward, I met with Dr. Loverncic to discuss volunteerism. I shared my experience working with Volunteer UCF and she told me how community service works in Croatia. I did not think volunteering would be so different, but it truly is. In Croatia, they have laws about short-term and long-term volunteer projects. Whereas, at UCF, students can volunteer whenever they like. Also, UCF has a budget to prepare volunteer and educational events about civic engagement for students. UCF is able to do this because they are funded by student activity fees. The University of Zagreb cannot do the same because students receive an education for free. Therefore, their budget for community service projects is small to none. This makes educating students about the importance of volunteering and motivating them to serve others very difficult. Since I learned so much about the differences in community services, I hope that I will continue to work with Dr. Loverncic to help volunteerism grow within the University of Zagreb. Once the meeting ended, I headed to the 5th Student’s Symposium, where I listened to many presentations and I presented my own. I was extremely impressed by everyone’s talent and passion. After a long day of presentations, we travelled to Neva’s home for dinner. Neva, our Croat friend and student at FOI, invited us to her house. I can’t describe how much fun we had! All of us gathered around a table and ate a delicious home-cooked meal. We played music throughout the night. Professors and students played the guitar and drums and sang. We shared our cultures through music by signing American, Argentinian, Colombian, and Croatian songs. We also watched the Croatia v. Cameroon game, in which Croatia won 4 to 0. We were all very excited and truly enjoyed ourselves. I give a huge thanks to Neva and her beautiful family for welcoming us into their nice home!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17, 2014: I love Croatia

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Today, we started the day off by visiting a kindergarten class. A group of about twenty-five children sang us nursery rhymes and danced for us. We also met the pre-school teachers and the principal. They gave us a presentation about the school and their programs. I loved learning about the educational and preschool system in Varazdin and seeing how passionate they are about the importance of helping young children succeed. After the presentation, they gave us a tour of the entire school and then we played with the children in the playground. Soon after visiting the school, we went to the Faculty of Organization and Informatics (FOI) and continued our research projects. We picked up where we left off on the SPSS database. We all worked to clean the data so that everyone would be able to use it. We stopped to get some lunch, but got right back to work. Once we finished working, we went to the Sci-Bar, a student café in FOI, to watch three amazing presentations. First, Neva and Dunja gave a presentation about their adventures in Ethiopia. They taught me a lot about Ethiopia. For example, I had no idea that Ethiopia used the Julian calendar. Also, injera is their typical dish, it is a pancake that has several spices. After listening to their presentation, I was motivated to go to Ethiopia, or Africa in general, because I have never been. Then, we watched Dr. Berardi, from DePaul University. Dr. Berardi shared his experience about traveling to Jamaica and Argentina with his students for research opportunities. During the Jamaican trip, he mentioned that all the students had worked really hard in the previous months before the trip, but they had to change a lot of things when they go there. This definitely taught me that research is about patience and dedication. We also had a wonderful presentation of the Croat cultural dance performed by children. We thanked each and every single child by giving them a thank you card and candy. After the presentations, Brittany and I headed back to the dorms to work on our presentations and get some well-deserved rest.

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 16, 2014: Istrazivacki dan!

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All the UCF, DePaul, Faculty of Organization and Informatics (FOI) students came together to learn about the research journey we will go on for the next two weeks. We got a visit from FOI students and vice deans. Dr. Berardi, from DePaul University, spoke about the importance of research, the difference between being a student and a scholar, and the process of research. Dr. Berardi helped most students develop their research questions. Also, we began using SPSS, a statistical computing software, and inputting data. I was extremely excited about learning how to use SPSS because I believe it will be extremely helpful for my future research. I look forward to the next few days, when I will hopefully learn more about SPSS and feel confident when using it. After getting down to business, we decided to take a break to volunteer. We went to the local food pantry and helped sort food on the shelves. I had the opportunity to talk to several FOI students about volunteerism and they were really interested in developing a program to encourage volunteer projects. After the community service project, the whole crew enjoyed dinner at Restaurant Park. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014: Zabava, zabava, i još više zabave

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I can’t believe it has only been four days, it feels like it has been weeks. I have had a great time so far and today was one of the best days yet. We all had breakfast and travelled to the Krapine Neanderthal Museum and Castle Trakoscan. The Krapine Neanderthal Museum was extraordinary, it took us from the beginning of the big bang theory to current day. Next, we went to the Castle Trakoscan. The castle was beautiful inside and out. Also, the view was breathtaking. After taking a tour of the castle, we walked around the lake and hopped on paddle boats. It was a lot of fun. I joked that I would move into the castle one day. Who knows!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

June 14, 2014 Dolazak u Varaždin​

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IMG_8377Today, we checked out of Hotel Dubrovnik and traveled to Varaždin, located approximately one hour north of Zagreb. Before leaving Zagreb, we had some time to explore a little bit more. Some of us visited the Museum of Broken Relationships and others visited the Museum of Zagreb. Luckily, I visited both and they were fantastic. The Museum of Broken Relationships was unique. It had a collection of items that represented sad love stories. This museum’s purpose is to help people overcome worries and depression by giving up items that keep people emotionally attached to their failed relationships. All of the items were donated from people around the world and had a story connected to it. Some stories were really sad, but others were ridiculously funny. Then, we visited the Museum of Zagreb, which housed over 2,500 items that had been found in Croatia and from around the world. The museum did a marvelous job of taking tourists on a journey of Croatia’s rich history. Afterward we stopped for coffee and then we all gathered to go on the next adventure; travel to Varaždin. Although the trip was an hour long, the ride seemed much shorter because I was talking to Kristina Detelj the entire time. Kristina taught me a few Croatian words and phrases and she taught me a little bit more about the country and the culture. Once we arrived to the Varaždin, we checked into the Studentski Dom, which are the dorms that students from the Faculty of Organization and Informatics live. We received a warm welcoming and dropped everything off in our rooms to go get dinner at the student cafeteria. After a nice dinner, we went for coffee at Palatin. Later, we wrapped up the night by settling into our rooms and getting some much needed rest.

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13, 2014 – Avantura u Zagrebu

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Zagreb MarketThe morning of day two started with a wonderful breakfast at Hotel Dubrovnik. After breakfast, everyone met up to sightsee the city of Zagreb. Our Croat friends took us to see the fresh market, the funicular, and many other places. My favorite was the fresh market because they had everything I could imagine, including fruits, vegetables, seafood, jewelry, clothing, and flowers. We got to taste several fresh fruits, such as figs and raspberries and they were delicious. Later, we saw the funicular, which is like a cable car that goes up and down a steep hill connecting two streets. I had never seen anything like it and it was fascinating since it had been built in 1890 and later restored so that it can continue to work. We also visited the Zagreb Cathedral with beautiful neo-gothic architecture. After walking around the city, we decided to grab a bite to eat. We ordered three different kinds of pizza for the group. I tried a little bit of everything. Everything was tasty, but I liked the arugula and prosciutto pizza the best.

The afternoon ended with our visit to Dr. Blaženka Divjak, a professor and the Vice Director of Students and Study Programs at the University of Zagreb. Everyone joined in on a very interesting discussion about differences and similarities of the United States and Croatian higher education systems. I learned that the University of Zagreb offers students a free education, so long as they get good grades. This is completely different from universities in the United States, where students have to pay a lot of money for a higher education. Also, Dr. Divjak offered great ideas regarding support for disabled students and students with financial burdens. This is very similar to the United States because universities are always looking to develop and improve supportive programs for students. Overall, I enjoyed meeting Dr. Divjak and the open discussion she had with all of the students from UCF and DePaul University. After the meeting, we had the opportunity to relax for a little bit and then we went to dinner. We had a buffet-style dinner, which included vegetables, french fries, and varied meats, such as bacon, sausage, and chicken. The dinner was amazing and we were all stuffed so we decided to call it a day and get some rest for tomorrow.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June 12, 2013 – Dobrodošli Kući

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Greetings from the beautiful city of Zagreb! After sixteen hours of traveling, we finally arrived to Croatia. Although it was a long flight, we immediately got a burst of energy after receiving a warm welcoming from our Croat friends. Soon after, we arrived at Hotel Dubrovnik; a magnificent hotel right in the middle of Zagreb’s town square. We checked into our rooms and decided to eat lunch. Our friends took us to a great restaurant, where we shared delicious meals. I tried a little bit of everything, including lasagna Bolognese, seafood salad, and homemade gnocchi. Of course, we had to save room for the much anticipated gelato. We went to Vincek and ate tiramisu, strawberry, and chocolate gelato. Afterward, we went back to the hotel and rested and waited for the arrival of the students from DePaul University. Once the students from DePaul University arrived and got settled in their hotel rooms, we all went out for dinner. Then, we joined the rest of the city in watching Croatia play Brazil in the World Cup opening game. One thing I learned quickly is that football is taken very seriously in Croatia. We tried to find a good spot to watch the game, but a checkered sea of red and white covered the town square. Hundreds of people were gathered watching the game, which was being projected onto a large screen in the town square. However, we managed to view the game at a nice restaurant across from our hotel. Although Croatia did not win, I was happy to share a moment of joy with my fellow Croat friends, Alen, Neva, and Ozren; when Croatia scored the first goal of the 2014 World Cup. Overall, the enthusiasm and spirit was great. I cannot wait to see everything else that is in store for us.

Friday, May 23, 2014

McNair Scholar Spotlight: Alice Neira

alice_neiraAlice Neira was born in Lima, Peru and moved to the United States at the age of six. She is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, while earning a minor in Education, and a certification in Leadership Studies. Alice’s goal is to combine her knowledge of education policy and passion for community service to positively impact students in public school systems in the United States, especially in lower socio-economic classes, and provide equal access to education. She plans to attend graduate school and acquire her Ph.D. in Education Policy.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Very excited about our trip!

Can’t wait!