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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending July 18, 2014

July 25, 2014


Christina and Asia in New Zealand

Christina and Asia in New Zealand

Asia Mosee

We went back to the flea market this week with our friend who is Maori. As we walked around we saw Maori jewelry, clothing, and accessories.   He explained to us what everything’s meaning was. He is very knowledgeable in his cultures history and traditions. We later learned that his mother knows how to created baskets using a plant. Before she begins weaving the bag she must first pray over the plant as a tradition. Once she is complete she must throw all of the parts of the plant that were not used back into the soil so that it can decompose. We often share things about our culture as well. We try to explain to him that not all African Americans act the same way that they are portrayed on television. He learns from us and we learn from him. We have gotten really close to him throughout the weeks and will miss him when we leave.

Brianna in Spain

Brianna in Spain

Brianna Burlock

I am preparing to go to Morocco this weekend. Some other girls and I finally finished our plans today so we are looking forward to a very exciting weekend. We are planning on buying harems, Moroccan rugs and hijabs! We want to completely indulge in the culture. However, it is the fasting season of Ramadan right now and so it greatly affects the heavy Islamic culture in Morocco. Luckily our excursion provides food and activities throughout the day so I’m hoping we won’t experience a huge difference than any other time. The part that I’m excited about is that the nights are busier since after sundown, those participating in the fast can eat and do activities that they might not have been able to do during the daytime. It will interesting to see the hustle and bustle and watch prayer time.

Stranjae’ Ivory

Earlier this week I went to an “Intercambio.” Prior to going I did not know what an intercambio was but I knew “intercambiar” meant exchange. The Intercambio that I would be going to is a dedicated time where Spanish speakers can better their English and English speakers can better their Spanish. The other girls in Cordoba and I celebrated Maya’s last night in Spain and went to the Intercambio at a local sports bar. The founder of the event saw a need for it and designed it for parties to speak English for half an hour and Spanish for the next half hour. As I expected, I learned about the similarities and differences in education, culture, and history between Spain/Europe and the United States. It was interesting to hear from the Spanish group that many students begin preparing for their career goals at the age of 15 by taking a series of aptitude tests that determine a future in their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice careers. There options for a student to discover their desired career is different from the United States because often times high school students in America are advised to be well-rounded having exposure to a variety of courses, volunteer opportunities, and leadership roles in order to further their education. It also amazed me how there is literally a cap for students allowed to study a certain field in particular regions of Spain.

Moriah Wallace

At the beginning of the week, my supervisor had interesting news to tell me. He stated that all the work I had put in over the course of five weeks had to come to a conclusion by the end of the week. He stated that Friday of that week was the last day he would be seeing me and also the day I had to present my final presentation to him and a few other people in the statistics department. After hearing this news, I was immediately frightened because the work I had been working on required a lot of time that I thought I did not have. Not only did my study have to form a conclusion by the end of the week, I also had to compose a presentation in a format that I had only used one time before, LaTex. I panicked for a while, then I sat back and told myself that it could all get done at the end of the week if he expects it from me. Immediately I began to work.

Alexis in Cape Town

Alexis in Cape Town

Alexis Sykes

In the year 2014 on the weekend of July 12th, I participated in a homestay in the Gugulethu Township with 2 other students in the IES abroad program. The Gugulethu Township is one of several townships that were created under the apartheid regime in South Africa but the conditions afterward have still not improved. There is a social economic disparity in these areas that have continued the cycle of poverty that will take years to reverse. I willingly participated in the home stay because I knew it would be humbled to see how majority of the country including people who look much like myself were forced to live 20 years ago. The mama’s in the Tambo Village of Gugulethu were warm, welcoming, and open to letting us stay with them for the weekend.


Erin Johnson

Two more weeks until I am back in the States! The count down begins! Lately I have been occupied with completing my research and finalizing travel plans. Tomorrow, We are going to Tangier, Morocco! I am extremely excited to visit. We will be traveling during the time of Ramadan which is exciting. I have heard many stories about traveling to Islamic communities during Ramadan, good and bad. I did some reserach and found that Ramadan hardly affects tourists in Morocco. Because tourism is the largest form of income, the main changes will be that offices and banks slightly change their hours and some shops close earlier for the staff to get home and eat their evening meal at sunset. Generally, popular shops and sights are going to be open. One concern of mine was that we wont be able to drink, or at least drink wáter, during the day, but, I read that food and drinks will be available throughout daylight hours in hotels and tourist restaurants. As a matter of respect, you should not walk in the streets eating or drinking. I am looking forward to gettig the best cultural expereince as I possibly can out of this trip. I am continuing to educate myself on this holiday because it is something that I am very interested in and would love to learn more about. I want to immerse myself into the culture and be as respectful as posible.

Blair Johnson 

Blair in Germany

Blair in Germany

It’s finally starting to hit me that my summer in Berlin is coming to a close. I can honestly say that I have learned a lot about myself during my time here. I have gained self confidence and a sense of self while being abroad. I have realized many differences between the United States of America and different areas within the European Union and although I have seen beauty in the ways of Europe I have gained a greater sense of pride regarding America. Although we deal with issues such as ridiculous pricing of education and daunting health care we also represent a melting pot of many ethnicities and cultures. For this, I am very grateful to have grown up in the United States. I can proudly say that I am friends with people of a variety of backgrounds and who have descendants from almost all areas of the World. With all of the hypocrisy and problems going on in the World today, as the famous song says, “I am very proud to be American where at least I know I’m free.” People may counter this belief of “freedom” in the United States however I have realized that each country has their own type of governmental problems and for me personally, I love the United States and their free thinking individuals.

Meigan Bryant

This was our final week with our internships and formal classes in Cape Town. My final internship was with the Health Promoters, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating local communities about health and wellness. The health promoter’s goal is to simplify information and make it relatable to local residents who have difficulty understanding the information otherwise. While there, we edited PowerPoint presentations to make sure the information was up to date and accurate. In addition, we made posters and worksheets for children so that they could also understand the information in a more simplistic manner. The next day, we presented the information to the people of the Kayamandi Township in rural Cape Town. I was surprised by the responses from the residents when we talked about fetal alcohol syndrome. Some believed that drinking beer while pregnant would make their child more beautiful and others simply had no idea that drinking alcohol while pregnant was detrimental to their unborn child’s health. It felt good to help others get a better understanding of how small measures can prevent major health issues.

Lindsay Stanford

This week has actually been a pretty good week in the lab. I have been working on some cloning again and isolating DNA. I am proud to say that I have successfully isolated the DNA from my new constructs. The reason that I am so proud is because earlier this summer I was trying to get the same thing to work but it failed me each time. My mentor found out that there was a problem with the original plasmids that we used so we just transformed some new ones. Next week I will be giving an oral presentation for my program over here. I am both excited and nervous for the presentation. They have given us guidelines but now I have to figure out how to condense my presentation to 3 slides. Wish me luck!

Lindsay’s Advice on Traveling Abroad:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try new things – You might really enjoy it
  2. In emergency situations don’t panic – Panicking will only make it worse
  3. If you are homesick then try to find some things to do that will remind you of home – I personally skype my family, go to the gym, and try to cook some foods I eat at home when I have a chance to
  4. When you first arrive abroad try to really get to know your surroundings
  5. Ask around to find the most affordable place to shop and eat
  6. Try to limit yourself to packing one suitcase and a carry on – It is the cheapest and easiest option
  7. Pack only 2-3 weeks of clothes – You will be shocked how far that will last you
  8. Get to know people living with you, working with you, and the people in your program – You never know what having a simple conversation with someone could lead to
  9. Try to find an inexpensive but safe way to travel around while you are abroad – You have to make the best of the experience
  10. Take a lot of pictures – A picture is worth a thousand words
  11. Always be aware of your surroundings and let a friend know where you will be going – Also please travel with a friend
  12. Be mindful of the differences between the U.S. and your specific study abroad destination – Remember, you are now the foreigner

Don’t ever get frustrated with everything that is new just try to accept things for what they are – Life is easier that way

Niwa Coleman

Niwa in France

Niwa in France

I can’t believe that this is my second to last week here in Grenoble. It feels like I’ve been here for a while but time has also flew by. When I first got to France, I didn’t know what to expect. I came into the experience with an open mind and to be honest, was very nervous. I didn’t know how I would navigate through a city where I didn’t speak the language and I wasn’t sure what would be expected from me in my lab. Although it has been a very challenging adventure, it has only made me grow into a stronger person then when I first started. Having the chance to do GSTEM last year was an amazing experience and I am trying my best to not compare this experience with the one I already had. Nothing will ever compare to the Internship/research experience I had in South African and I am excited that I was able to encourage so many of my Spelman sisters to make the trip this summer. I’ve been in touch with a couple of my fellow GSTEM scholars in South Africa and other destinations and they seem that they are having a great time.

Kayla Davie

While this is not my first research experience, this is my first time writing a formal mathematics research paper so I was very proud that there was not more wrong with my paper. Formatting my paper on LaTex is difficult at times because I do not always remember the necessary commands and have to go back and forth between Google, LaTex, and Typsetting the PDF to actually see what commands will produce what output in my paper. However, all this practice is making me more confident in my LaTex skills and I am very confident that I will be prepared to write a formal mathematics research paper by the time I am in graduate school.

Kayla Echols

Kayla E in Scotland

Kayla E in Scotland


I also have had the chance to meet students from other Glasgowian universities. Many of them are not from the area. They happen to be world travelers as well. I have found that many of the Afro-Scottish people here are disappointed when they find out that I am not from Africa. They understand that I live in the United States but feel that since I am black then I should know what part of Africa I come from. I have had this conversation with countless people. They are first surprised to find out that I live in America. They then ask, “but where are you from?” I then explain to them that as far back as six generations, I am from Alabama. I do think that it is important for me to one day trace my roots back to Africa. However, I find it more important to embrace my family and the history that I know. I have a lot to gain from analyzing my actual lived experiences. If I knew where my blood line was from pre slavery, I feel as if it would be very disrespectful of me to claim that I understand their culture and history. It would be disrespectful for me to claim a heritage that I know nothing about. Although I come from an oppressive history, it is my history and I must embrace all that that means in order to become the person I can be.

Christina Pollonais

This past week was rather relaxing. I continued to write my paper for my research and read a lot. This paper is very intensive. It involves a lot of critical thinking and in order to ensure the paper is written properly I have to look at my research from a number of levels. I have to describe each species I researched, I have to do a lot of reading on the history of the geography of New Zealand and I also have to look at the various control factors which account for the potential spread of these invasive species in New Zealand. I am little nervous to see the end result because I truly just want to ensure that everything is comprehensive. My goal is to ensure my readers enjoy my work and genuinely learn something applicable from my research. This is indeed taking a lot of time and effort, but I am also grateful for my research because I am truly learning a lot about New Zealand and its history and the ways in which the migration of people to this country has affected the native species and the geography of the island.

Brezana in Cape Town

Brezana in Cape Town

Brezana Cross

So this week was week four and this week I was placed at a homestay in Guguletheu. My homestay mama name was Irene and she had nine daughters and ten grandchildren ranging from ages 2-16. The homestay was amazing and the perfect way to be immersed in the culture of Cape Town. When we got there it was somewhat scary, but I was welcomed with nothing but hugs and smiles. We first played with the children and ate, laughed and talked with the family. I learned that my “mama’s” father recently passed away in February and we discussed my own mother’s death. Sunday morning we attended church service and it was exactly the same format from what I experience at home besides the translator. After church we attended a barbeque joint-like club known as Mzoli and I could compare it to a club type setting.

Keira Williams

This week as well as this past weekend has consisted of a homestay in the Gugulethu township, volunteering at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, and meeting with our advisor Dr. Nick Shepherd to discuss the finer details regarding our research. The homestay, which lasted from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, was a fun and unique experience that I will always remember. To begin, upon arrival at the house I would be staying in, there were several children that were fascinated with us Americans and wanted to play. We played with the children until about 8 that evening. I was surprised by how the children roamed the streets without their parents so freely. However I believe that this shows how everyone in the neighborhood is considered family and a protector of the other people in the neighborhood. After playing we were given dinner and then watched a movie until it was time for bed. Our mother insisted that we eat all of our food and made sure that we were full. I have found that in this culture it is considered rude and even offensive to not eat all of the food that has been prepared for you. The next morning all the students reconvened and we went to the neighborhood church. Although I found service to be similar in many ways to my church services back home, I became distracted by the constant translation between English and Xhosa that was done throughout the entire service. Although I can see why translation was necessary it made it hard for me to get into the service. After church we were taken to a restaurant called Mzoli’s. The atmosphere of the restaurant completely shocked me.

Keira and Christeva in Cape Town

Keira and Christeva in Cape Town

Christeva Smith

This week in Cape Town was amazing! The first day we volunteered at a fragile care home. It was a little dreary and sad but I felt good that was able to help. We helped feed and entertain the people. We sang songs and laughed. It was all good fun. The next day however started the highlight of my hospital rotation experience. We worked at the Retreat Hospital here in Cape Town. It is a public day hospital that only administers primary care but due to the fact that the majority of the South African population relies on the public healthcare facilities for help it was packed. Upon entrance into the library all that I could see was a sea of people waiting for their names to be called. There were at least three hundred fifty people waiting. As students of the University of Cape Town we had the opportunity to observe and engage in procedures that we would never get to experience back home.

Jade Warfield

The homesickness for me is kicking in a little, but it not necessarily home sickness I just more so miss my friends and family, and the communication and Wi-Fi isn’t so great all the time, so the communication has been kind of minimal, but it’s okay because I know in the end I will regret nothing from this trip. I am still in complete disbelief on how fortunate I am to be here, everyday I wake up and just thank God, because sometimes it just seems to good to be true. Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday and the whole city is doing 67 minutes of service in honor of him, I’m not quite sure yet what the 67 stands for, but I will definitely find out. Well as always until next time!

Faith Reid

As I finish off my 7th week here in Spain, I am excited, relieved, nervous, and still in shock that I am actually in Spain. At the same time that I am ready to come home, I know that there is still a lot of work for me to do before I leave. This week, on Friday, I will give a presentation to my mentor and other members of my lab about the work that I have been doing. Although we have been able to collect a lot of data from the mass spectrometer, I still have to create graphs for and analyze the raw data. This can take a while, but I am glad I have had plenty of practice with excel data analysis from my Global Environmental Change class last semester. In addition, V has shown me a few shortcuts for some of the tasks. Overall I think my research has gone pretty well because we have been able to run our experiment about 15 times. However, I know that I still only understand a small portion of the science behind my research. Sometimes I forget that everyone around me has so much knowledge about the specific type of science we are conducting. I think that is the biggest difference between undergraduate and graduate students. In undergrad, you learn a little bit about many different subjects so that you know the basics, but as a graduate student you become an expert in a very specific topic. I knew this before, but I really see it in action now as everyone around me is a graduate student. This is why it is especially important to like what you are studying in graduate school. Not only are you paying for another degree, but you will be spending a lot of time focusing on that one specific subject.


Alexandria in England

Alexandria Sutton

This week has been my most exciting yet! Last Friday, I took the train to Paris to meet up with some of my friends who are also in G-STEM. We stayed at a hotel for three nights. We did the usual tourist things, including going to see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc. I was surprised at how much American music we heard being played all over Paris. When we saw the Eiffel tower, there were people outside performing, and a D.J. The people were French, but almost every song they played was a popular American song. Also, we happened to be in Paris briefly on Bastille Day, so on the days prior to the holiday, we could see the preparations, which was quite exciting. Being able to experience Paris for the first time with friends from Spelman was particularly exciting, as we could not only explore the city together, but also reflect on each of our own G-STEM experiences. I was surprised to hear how different their lab experiences have been from my own, since they are also doing research in Europe. However, these conversations and comparisons helped me to realize that culture plays a large role in the scientific process, and although the London lab that I am in is similar to labs that I have worked in at home, this is not applicable to every research institution in Europe.

Faith Kirkland

Paris was an extremely beautiful city. The trip was one of my favorites especially because Alexandria came from London to meet us there. It was amazing to see the familiar face of a close friend in such an unfamiliar place. The fact that we were all together in Paris doesn’t seem real even now. I think many of our trips will be experiences that we will look back on like “Wow! We actually did that?”. One of the biggest surprises about Paris to me was that there were so many black people there. Not only were there Africans in Paris, but tons of people who looked like us (African-French?). I saw more black people in Paris than I have seen in most American cities. It was a breath of fresh air after being in Cordoba and being the only ones all the time.

In France we were able to take a walking tour, go to the Eiffel Tower, eat amazing pastries, bread and food, etc. There were wonderful gardens and beautiful houses everywhere. Some parts reminded us of Spain in some ways. Sunday was our most interesting day. We went to the Hillsong church in Paris, which was cool because we had just visited the one in Barcelona the week before. This church still had the contemporary style and Hillsong music, but there were so many black and African members.

Bianca Campbell

Throughout this week in Cape Town, South Africa, we examined how efficient the publicity of health care is promoted around the South African area. It is a huge concern in this area because most families are stubborn to change their old ways of living, but yet there is a high rate of people dying from diseases such as diarrhea. We also used this week to work on our research assignment by setting up how our interview sessions will be going in different townships and informal settlements.


Maya in Spain

Maya in Spain

Maya Bryant

The next day we took a free walking tour around the city. The tour was three hours long, but it was very informative. Yes these great buildings that are always talked about and shown on the television are nice to look at, but they hold a lesser value when you don’t know the history behind those buildings and what makes them so significant. Our tour guide was amazing; she kept the tour entertaining with funny jokes and the way that she acted out stories as if she was there when it all happened. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but she actually made learning about history fun for me. As expected, there was no mention or acknowledgement of French colonization in Africa and other places being the reason why the country was extremely rich and powerful. Nonetheless, it was intriguing to hear the real story behind the Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, and more.

I expected the architecture of Paris to be similar to how it is in Spain, but that surprisingly wasn’t the case. Paris has its own kind of architecture: all the buildings are very elaborate with close attention to details. They also have wider streets similar to the United States. Both places still carry that empowering stature, which I may assume is frequent for Europe. Also, like Spain they have a useful public transportation system. As I stated earlier the French do not skimp out on the food. With so much butter, sugar, and fat in their food how do they stay so skinny? They walk. You could easily get a full day’s workout just by going wherever you need to go via metro. I swear we walked underneath the entire city just by switching trains.

Justice Johnson

This week in Cordoba, Spain has been extremely successful in every aspect. My week was devoted to my research, as I got to the lab at 7:00 am every morning to 6:00 pm in the evenings. Though at times the long days can be draining and tedious, I am beyond thankful for this research experience. I have learned numerous techniques that I previously were not familiar with, and I have become more skilled and better equipped to further and continue my research when this experience comes to an end.

As I feel like my time is coming to an end, I am really focused on finishing and completing my experiments, and gathering and putting all my information together for my final research paper. I have been focused on two experimental procedures this week, which have included: western blot and Adipocyte staining with oil red O. I did a western blot this week for the protein actin on different days of differentiation. The ponceau staining showed adequate and precise results of the protein, and also it was shown when rebelling the protein in the dark room using reactives. I was very happy and excited, as these results will be extremely beneficial for my research paper.


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