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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending August 2, 2014

August 8, 2014
G-STEM Scholars in South Africa with mentors Dr. Mark Maloney and Dr. Yonas Tekle

G-STEM Scholars in South Africa with mentors Dr. Mark Maloney and Dr. Yonas Tekle

Stranjae’ Ivory

Stranjae' in Spain

Stranjae’ in Spain

Monday, was a very eventful and beautiful day for the group of us conducting research. We have met several deans and influential people from the University since being in Cordoba, but today we met the president of the University. I was delighted to sit at a huge conference table with the Dean and President of the University as well as faculty and coordinators involved in the Summer Research Program. As a rising senior, I was voted to speak on the group’s experience since researching in Cordoba. I shared our general thoughts on adjusting to the culture/language, cultural exposure in Cordoba, travelling while during the program, personal and scholastic development over the months, and suggestions for next year. One of the faculty members proposed the idea of incorporating a Spanish course while researching at the University to keep the students abreast on their Spanish speaking, listening, and reading skills. In a one on one interview I had with the new director of the program this week, I shared with her that it is a different experience to learn Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country than trying to exercise Spanish speaking skills outside the classroom in the United States.

Alexis in South Africa

Alexis in South Africa

Alexis Sykes

For community development week all 33 students and myself in the program were expected to come up with a new innovation for the Egoli informal settlement. This was a great opportunity to leave or mark before leaving and this was also the settle where most of us were completing our research. Our peers complained often about this project because the settlement was so underdeveloped with shacks, no electricity, dying animals, poor hygiene, and extreme flooding when it rains. Eventually our instructor, who we all believe is an angel convinced us all that it’s not about completely transforming the settlement and spending tons of money but just doing something that shows the people we are trying to help and to educate them which will last longer than a “gift”. We all split into 4 groups; hygiene, health and wellness, play safe campaign, and safe sex that corresponded to the categories used to spread public education and get people involved. We sent up a huge health fair giving each group a chance to implement what they came up with and on the last day Ms. J. bought tons of fresh fruit, vegetables, and hand sanitizer to hand out to the community. It was like a Spelman wellness fair so we took lots of pictures!

Brianna Burlock

I have enjoyed the learning process in the lab. They gave me the perfect amount of room to make errors and learn from them while still being a continual resource whenever I needed them. I appreciate my mentor and his willingness to allow me to disagree and question things and also teach me by using information from previous research or his background knowledge on immunology. He always sent me papers to quench my questionable mind and showed me how to be a researcher. My mentor is great at researching because he asks questions and thinks through everything while depending on all the resources available to him. He is always quick on getting his questions answered. He was so excited to see my data that, at times, I felt like I couldn’t keep up with analyzing fast enough for him. He is a very patient person so I know that he didn’t intend to make me feel rushed; he was genuinely excited.

Brezana Cross

Brezana, Keira, and Jade in South Africa

Brezana, Keira, and Jade in South Africa

They say that you never know the oceans until you have left the shore and I must say this has been my second time abroad, but it feels like my first. I’ve grown so much in my six weeks here and I’m really sad to leave this place, the people, the breathtaking moments and everything! I’ve challenged myself to not give up and that it’s okay to stop and look back! I’ve learned to make new friends, to try new foods, to even be grateful for the simple things like lights and snow biz. I’m ready for all the world will throw at me and in all honesty this experience has given me the break from the past twenty years of my crazy life. Thanks to Mama Africa.

Jade Warfield

My experience at Kruger national park was absolutely amazing! It was so awesome to be able to see the animals in their natural habitat. I have gained a new appreciation of nature and have also found a new hobby! I can now say that I have been on a real African safari and stayed in a real African hut (Which wasn’t actually quite that bad) J. The next day we toured some of the world-renowned places in the eastern cape of South Africa. First we visited Lisbon falls, which was a very beautiful natural waterfall. Then we went to the third largest canyon in the world Blyde canyon. Then we went to a place called gods window, which over looks all of Kruger national park (This was spectacular). Then we wrapped up our trip in Nelspruit with a tripped to Harries pancakes, which was a place similar to where they make crepes however the thickness of the crepe is that of a pancake, and you can get a savory filling. I got a chicken and spinach pancake and it was amazing!

Meigan Bryant

This was our final week in South Africa. I could not believe that in the last seven weeks I had traveled all the way around the world alone, lived in another country for seven weeks, and finished a major research project along the way. During these past seven weeks I have learned so much about myself, about this country and about its people.

Christina and Asia in New Zealand

Christina and Asia in New Zealand

Christina Pollonais

It was so surreal the day I left New Zealand. I couldn’t believe two months had flown by already. I am not going to lie though, I was super excited to come home. I missed my parents a lot and I just missed the comfort of my own space at home. I will never forget the memories I made in New Zealand though. It was truly a life changing experience. I learned a lot about myself.

Additionally, I will not forget the scenery in New Zealand. That was mesmerizing all by itself. The places and things I saw I will truly cherish for a lifetime. The research I did was very informative and I really enhanced my knowledge and efficiency in ARCGIS programming. I hope to take on more projects involving this software and utilize my knowledge.

Christeva and Alexis in South Africa

Christeva and Alexis in South Africa

Christeva Smith

This week finally had the opportunity to go into the Egoli community and interact with the people. In my few prior encounters with Egoli I found two major issues that stood out to me which were the high rate of people living with HIV/AIDS and the high rate of teenage pregnancy. Not only are these problems that plagued the community of Egoli currently but these have also been problems that they have been dealing with for the twenty years that Egoli has stood as an informal settlement. This led me to wonder why? Why is it that these people who have so little continue to procreate so early and often without means of providing for their children? In my preparation I took into account a few factors that could contribute to these issues being generationally constant such as knowledge of sexual health, education, family dynamics and environmental influences.

Mekhakhem Kheperu

Looking back, I will really miss all my Indian friends and the international students I met while at IITM. I’ve been contemplative, homesick, and sad to leave this entire week… such a mix of emotions. It sounds so corny, but it’s true! This week consisted of Ebone and I taking a trip to a family friend’s village, three hours away from the city. It was nice actually, a small community of huts with the wells and fire pits on the back and sides of the houses. We spent the night there in a cozy little house and the next morning, went to temple. There, we saw as the village sacrificed lots of animals in a ceremony, including goats, pugs, and chickens. My favorite part, personally, was before we left the city for the village. We went to the friend’s house, which was a one-room shack. It was clean kept and had brick walls. A little into us getting there the power went out. Somehow we ended up sitting on the floor with all the curious kids of the village gathered around us as we played with Play – Doh. Eventually, they started running around so I taught them how to play ring – around – the – rosie. A macabre song, at best, but all the kids absolutely loved it. In the candlelight laughing and dancing, they looked so cute!

Faith R. in Spain

Faith R. in Spain

Faith Reid

It does not seem like I have been to 3 continents in the last 9 weeks. I have officially ended my travels as I am now at home in St. Louis, MO with my family. But, I still cannot really fathom that I have been to both Europe and Africa. My experience was real, but it doesn’t seem like I travelled so far away. Only looking at the huge world map in my sister’s room makes me slightly understand that I was significantly far from home.

Coming home I had a mixture of emotions ranging from relief to disappointment. I am definitely tired and ready for some relaxing days of sleeping in and lounging around to complete my summer. In addition, I am very excited to join my family in our home in a familiar city with places I am very comfortable being. However, I felt some disappointment as I left the lab on the last day. I knew that I would probably never be in this same place ever again, and that is hard to comprehend. It is hard to experience something and know that it is a once in a lifetime experience. I know that I could revisit the University of Cordoba, but that would be very far in the future. Also, I know that revisiting would not be the same as my experience this summer.

Keira Williams

Keira in South Africa

Keira in South Africa

This last week in Cape Town was spent in Egoli doing our community service projects and our interviews for our research with Spelman. I found this to be one of the most productive weeks since I’ve been here when it comes to interacting with the community and making progress with my research. To begin, on Monday, upon our arrival, we were immediately taken to one of the Egoli churches where we sat for a while before Ms. Jenny, our professor, and Dr. S, our mentor, came to guide us with our work. While the rest of the IES students convened to discuss some of the service projects that happened throughout the week, we were led by the community leaders through the houses and were able to ask for participation for our surveys etc. Although it was not as easy as I thought it would be to find people to fit into the sample that I needed, which is anyone that attends church, the people that I was able to find gave me a ton of insightful information. To find a decent amount of participants for my study, I also had to go into the neighboring township, Lotus River, to ask people to participate in my surveys. Thankfully, I was able to find more people there to help me with completing my research. The participants gave me hope and confidence about my research as I was previously concerned about the outcome of the interviews. They were very open and excited to share with me, not holding back any information. Many also wanted me to follow up and report back to them with the results of my study and how they had an impact on my study. Also, after I was done interviewing each participant they made an effort to find more people for me to interview which I greatly appreciated. Overall, I would say that I was blessed to find such cooperative participants, and am now very excited to see how the interview responses correlate and allow me to draw connections.

Faith K. in Spain

Faith K. in Spain

Faith Kirkland

I have seen myself grow and learn research skills and travel skills. I have learned to deal with frustration and confusion. Science never works out the way it is planned and many times you can try something to no avail. I learned that the little victories and discoveries are so rewarding and worth working for. With travel, I learned that you can never plan too much or too early. At the same time, I learned that everything never goes as planned and flexibility is necessary for an enjoyable experience.

One of the biggest things I learned was that everyone’s experience with anything is unique and different. Things may be harder or easier, more or less fun, and comfortable or not for different people. I learned to let my experience be mine and, as my mom says, let my gifts make room for me. I knew going into the program that I had an image of Spelman to keep up.

Asia Mosee

The day before I left the faculty and the university threw us a going away party. People brought cake as well as a parting gift and everyone told us farewell. We were told farewell in Maori language as apart of the culture. That same night we went out to eat with our friend Jordan. It was nice to spend time with him before we left. In Thursday we met Jordan’s mother who taught us how to weave a plant called the flax. We weaved the flax into the shape of a flower. Most women weave them to making bags. She told us that it was tradition to always make three of something. The first you give away, the second you do whichever you like, and the third you keep.

Ebone in India

Ebone in India

Ebone Monk

I finally realize how amazing and special this summer has been. I got to travel almost every other weekend to a totally different part of India and experience absolutely different cultures, food, and people all while making lifelong memories with amazing people. This summer has allowed me to see the world with a completely different lens and has given me a craving for adventure like never before and I’m ready to see the rest of the world and can’t wait for the next traveling adventure! I am writing this blog reflection in a rush, because this week has been jammed packed with lab work, going-away dinners, and great memories. Each week it is becoming more and more difficult to express everything that happens each week, because so many things take place. I am schedule to leave for the States in less than three hours!

Niwa Coleman

Niwa in France

Niwa in France

The next day I left out very early at 8 am to catch my 9 am bus to Lyon. I arrived right on time and didn’t have to pay the extra 7 euros for my additional luggage. The bus arrived at the airport by 10 am so I had plenty of time to relax before my flight and have my last croissant in France. The Munich airport was larger than I thought so I was glad I was able to find a push cart when I did. The wait time between Munich and my time for my DC flight went by pretty fast. On my way back to America I ended up sitting near a lot of students who were all on trips funded by the Department of Education as well. It was great because everyone sitting around me was from the ages of 18-25 years old so we could all relate to each other’s experiences. However, I believe they may have had a bigger culture shock then I did coming from Russia.

Bianca and Alexis in South Africa

Bianca and Alexis in South Africa

Bianca Campbell

During our last week of my IES Abroad summer program, we mainly focused on the community development portion of the course that we were taking. My Spelman sisters and I took the initiative to do the meat of our research at Egoli, and informal township located in Cape Town, South Africa. An informal settlement is where most blacks in Africa would move to an area of clear land because they did not have the funds for township homes and they are not receiving government support.

Erin Johnson

I will say it is really difficult to fully explain what I experienced in a few short pages, and it is hard to truly express what I saw and felt while I was in Madrid. My endless stories will never give justice to the real experiences and challenges I encountered. I enjoyed every minute of my time spent in Spain, whether I was backpacking and scraping for cash, studying or working I learned from it all and have memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. I never imagined that at the age of twenty, I would have already gone swimming in the Mediterrean Sea, experienced a bull fight, and traveled to the Motherland. The sun was always warm and the beaches are beautiful and I am so fortunate to have spent two months there. I learned so much while I was traveling. A piece of me will always be in Madrid and I plan on returning to see the many friends that I have made there. Walking out of the lab on my last day after I said my goodbyes was surprisingly emotional for me. Coming here I did not expect to build lifetime bonds like I did.

Justice and Faith K. in Cordoba, Spain

Justice and Faith K. in Cordoba, Spain

Justice Johnson

Wow! I cannot believe I am packing up my things and getting ready for my departure back to the United States. I remember so vividly when I had just arrived to Cordoba, Spain. This really is surreal that I am leaving. I am overwhelmed with excitement to come back to the United States and be in my comfort zone, but also I am sad to be leaving an area that I have finally become accustomed to. Additionally, I am sad to be leaving people that I have become close to and may not ever see again; it is an extremely bittersweet feeling.

As I gathered my belonging, I began to reflect and take in all of my experience/what has happen. I deeply reflected on this experience of a lifetime that I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in. I reflected on the numerous skills and techniques I acquired in the laboratory. I thought about the various different cultures I have learned and become familiar with by traveling. My research abroad experience has taught me amble things about myself. I have learned how to be independent. I have learned how to adapt and not be afraid of what one is not accustomed to. I have learned such a wide variety things about myself from being separated from the world I know for 9 weeks. I am beyond grateful, thankful, and blessed to have experienced 9 weeks in Cordoba, Spain as I traveled to many different areas. Every week brought upon a new experience and challenges. Working in the lab all summer was tedious, but well worth all the hard work and long hours. I feel better equipped and prepared to continue my research. I feel accomplished and motivated to conquer my goals and aspirations.

Stranjae' in Spain

Stranjae’ in Spain

Justice in Spain

Justice in Spain

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