Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Empowering your Inner Husky

To me, attending the 8th annual Husky Student Leadership Summit was one of the most valuable ways I have spent a Saturday during my career at Bloomsburg University. Notice I said the 8th annual summit? Yes, this summit has been going on for the past eight years, and as a senior I could slap myself for not becoming a part of this incredible experience sooner.

But I won’t allow myself to complain; one days’ worth of speaking with prominent alumni, hearing networking tips, and attending speaker’s panels was enough to make me feel super inspired to become the professional I seek to be.

Leading up to the summit, I was provided with a list of session options to attend throughout the day. I decided to go with sessions covering topics on networking, professional development, and leadership, which I believed would help me in my quest to improve my overall professional skills. Each session offered students with a chance to hear real world career advice from BU alumni through their personal stories and experiences.

Each session, I made sure to scribble down some quotes I felt were great tips from the alumni staff. In the second session of the day, ’87 Husky alumni Alana Gallo talked about her positive and negative experiences reviewing student resumes throughout her career. “Everyone looks the same on paper…so what makes you stand out?” This quote could not be more spot on to my life right now. Over the last month or two I have been in the process of sending out my info to several companies and organizations and have only heard back from a few places. I’ve been thinking - is there something wrong with my resume? Am I too standard among my competition?

So I’m sitting there in Gallo’s session, contemplating what my next step should be to become a more unique electronic applicant. And that’s when it hit me – I was doing it right there and then! By attending the Husky Leadership Summit, I was able to gain ample experience and opportunity that my competition may be lacking. Networking with alumni is such a crucial factor in the job search process and is something I need to continue to take advantage of as I journey through life as a pre and post-grad.

Gallo also talked about employers who would rather have more resumes in the NO pile than the YES pile. Upon hearing this, I looked around to find the student audience with awestruck faces. But she’s absolutely right - if employers have any immediate doubt in your potential, you have some major work to do on your resume, your cover letter, and your overall digital presence.

I can’t imagine how many resumes and cover letters employers have to look at each year. Imagine if that was your job and everyone’s resumes were extremely similar. Pretty boring, I would think?

And I’m sure it is difficult to narrow down the applicants when no one is really standing out. Employers don’t have the time to sit there and slowly dissect what you’ve sent them. So it is important to leave a memorable impression that will immediately catch their attention, whether that be through your outstanding GPA, your involvement in clubs and organizations, your digital portfolio, leadership positions, or relevant internship experience. Make sure to highlight what makes you YOU! With a fantastic digital impression, employers will be curious and excited to meet the real deal in an interview.

Midway through the day, the alumni already had me feeling so enthused to make a name for myself. Because of the useful tips I received while attending the summit, it has become my mission to have no red flags and no questions asked. My goal is to work towards being placed, without a doubt, in an employer’s YES pile based on their overall first impression of me.

Other advice I took to heart came from Kristin Austin, ’02 Husky alumni who spoke with us about her experiences networking and developing her personal brand over the years. Austin, who is currently coordinator for new students at BU, brought to the session her excitement and enthusiasm for student triumph by telling her humorous yet successful networking stories. Austin’s advice - you have to be courageous and open to stepping out of your comfort zone if you want to make potential networking connections.

Networking is not fast and it is certainly not easy. But it is an action that is entirely up to you. It is your choice whether or not to start a conversation with a potential contact. It is your choice to ask for help from a family member with prior experience in a company of interest. Austin preached that without physically taking action, no one will be there to help you. And most likely these networks who were once in our shoes would be pleased to help.

By keeping an open mind and a positive attitude, networking can become a prime factor in any student’s progression towards landing a job post-graduation. Although my attendance at the summit was mostly for my personal benefit, it also allowed me to participate in the Student Involvement Resource Fair luncheon with Communication club NCASC aka the National Communication Association Student Chapter.

There, I met with our student president Kate Armstrong, and together we spread the word to the hungry crowd of leaders about the benefits of joining the club. I was also able to snap some photos for the BloomsburgU Instagram account, capturing lively and interactive moments throughout the summit.

Overall, my participation in the summit provided me with a chance to really reflect on what I have been building for myself at BU. A memorable moment from one of the alumni speakers was when she compared the student audience to products and that each of us were products in the process of development.

By the time graduation arrives, I hope to have created the best possible self-product imaginable based on the classes, professors, employers, and experiences I have utilized while at BU. By attending professional events such as the Husky Student Leadership Summit, I have been able to continue working towards preparing for the world outside of Bloomsburg.

A huge shout out is in order for all of the Husky alumni who took the time to support the students at this event, along with the hardworking staff of BU leaders who made this unique experience possible.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams.

— Rachael Scicchitano, senior communication studies major #HuskyLife #ProfessionalU

Friday, March 13, 2015

China Today: An immersing and exciting experience

Today was another beautiful day in the city of Kunming. After class and lunch we hopped on the bus and headed for Guandu Old Town. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from here, like most things, but was pleasantly surprised when we arrived.

Getting off the bus we walked towards what looked like another outside market with beautiful rea lanterns leading us to more rows of shops, restaurants, and historical buildings that all told a story. We first stopped at this beautifully designed building that was surrounded by little Chinese ponds with lilly pads, lanterns, and Chinese checker boards. We explored the shops which were the best I have seen yet, I couldn’t resist buying something.

These shops seemed the most organized and had more of a selection then the ones I’ve visited so far. I could’ve spent my whole day there if I had the chance. After the Old Town we headed for the YNNU cheggong campus which is a more modern version of where we're studying at now.

This campus was so huge it seemed like it could be a city by itself. After touring the extravagant campus and hearing how much tuition is compared to what we are already paying at Bloomsburg, my heart broke a little bit. The students at YNNU cheggong campus really got it good.

Today was the day we’ve all been waiting for … the Stone Forrest! I have been excited about seeing this infamous site since I found out I was officially going to China. The Stone Forrest is located right outside Kunming and is basically a Forrest full of both tall and short limestone, all once below sea level. Our tour guide, dressed in yet another stunning traditional outfit, made everything that more entertaining.

Every now and then I’d feel someone’s hand on my shoulder and it would be her making comments like, “Hello!, here take picture!,” or referring to our group as , “many English people let's go.” She was so energized leading us through the tunnels, valleys and mountains of stone while everyone is trying their best to be cautious on the slippery stone stairs. Soon enough she lead us into another shopping center, which actually turned out be tea testing.

If I have learned anything by now it’s this Country loves their tea, which I have no problem with. I’m so used to coffee but since I’ve been here my taste buds have learned to love tea; which tastes so natural and feels healthier. Seeing the Stone Forrest and the people, like our tour guide, who inherit it for their day to day lives make me wish it wasn’t such a tourist attraction. Although it should be shared with the world and it’s great to know some history when walking through, I felt more rushed. In my opinion if we could just receive a map and explore it for ourselves, it’d be a greater adventure (not to sound picky.) If everyone has to make a living somehow, and that’s how the villages surrounding the Stone Forrest do so, I accept that.

Ever played real life frogger?

The game where you try to cross the street but have to make sure you don’t get hit by cars that do not plan on stopping for you ? That’s kind of like Kunming. It's funny because the amount of mopeds driven here you would think they would have their own lane but that is not the case. Cars, Buses, and Mopeds all drive in the same lanes and are not very courteous of one another.

In America, I feel like in the cities the traffic is more controlled by either signs or stop lights but here it seems a little bit more unorganized with much more people. They do not really believe in “Yield to pedestrians,” you just got to go when it’s the right timing in hopes of not getting hit since it looks like they are not going to stop.

Cars and busses go at a regular speed of about 50, which doesn’t seem so fast. When they are driving, they don’t plan on stopping; and if they reach that point where they almost hit you they just swerve around you.

Also they love to use the horn. When we started off in the villages all I could hear when I went to sleep was dogs barking, now I here constant horns (not just like “honk honk” it’s more like hoooonnnnkkkk hooooonnnnnnkkkkk.) Everyone is very selfish when driving, just yesterday my two friends and I, witnessed a minor accident where a middle-aged women on a mo-ped was hit by another mo-ped. The moped drove away as the women stood in the middle of the intersection with here broken parts until a kind citizen helped her. Cars and busses just drove past here not offering any help.

Today we learned a little bit more about Yunnan and all it’s different minorities. First we visited the Yunnan Minority Museum which was filled with ancient artifacts, scrolls, books, clothing and all that good stuff from years and years of the Yunnan Minorities. We have been to museums before but this one was the most interesting since they were courteous enough to include English. The people of Yunnan are way more into their culture and ancient ancestors then anything I have ever seen in America. They value their minorities enough to create a two floor multi-room exhibit filled with relics and works of art.

Although we do have museums such as the Smithsonian, MOMA, Museum of Natural History and so on, the Minority Museum is strictly showcasing the Yunnan Province. After lunch we headed for the Yunnan Minority village, which I thought would be just another row of shops but then we received tickets. After we got our tickets we entered the gates to what seemed to be an amusement park of all the different minorities located in Yunnan. Each minority had their own exhibit so we were able to see tons of different ethnic backgrounds and what they value most.

The most exciting part of all this would have to be the Elephant performance which was a total surprise. These elephants were so talented I was amazed watching them. You could tell they were very well-trained which was kind of upsetting when they would mess up and get yanked by a chain; I guess since they are large wild animals that is the only way to tame them. The best part was the show was very interactive with the audience and we were able to feed them and be a part of the show. Towards the end after all their majestic tricks, we could pay 20 yuan to have our picture taken with them. They set it up so two elephants were holding trunks so whoever wanted a picture could sit and hold onto them for a quick snap shot. I was very amazed by this whole experience.

I have been immersed in so many new and exciting things so far during my time spent in China. Last night we left the city of Kunming where we’ve been living and learning this past week and a half and headed North towards Lijiang and Dali. Instead of road tripping via bus we took an overnight train. I have seen plenty of trains in my day but never one with bunk-beds! It was almost like a Hogwarts experience minus the wizards.

Each cart had a set of miniature dorms with bunk beds making sleeping an interesting experience. After about 7 hours we arrived in Lijiang early morning and were greeted by our new tour guides. We wasted no time eating breakfast and checking in so we could start touring the old town of Lijiang. Being here only a day it already feels nice to get out of the city and into a place where fresh air is no problem. Lijiang is populated by the Naxi people who have all been very kind and welcoming so far. They take very good care of the village and aside from the Chinese symbols, you’d think you were in Colorado or something with the snow-topped covered mountains and log-cabined boutiques.

One of the main reasons for visiting Lijiang was to tour the Jade Dragon Mountain located here. Although it was the coldest part of this trip it also was my favorite place we visited. I’m usually used to going to large mountains for snowboarding purposes but getting the chance to walk and admire how beautiful the scenery was made everything that more surreal. There was not one cloud in sight and the mountain and trees were snow covered making it a great day for photography. Towards the bottom of the mountain were crystal blue meadows that were so clear you could see right to the bottom. Along the meadow laid the reflection of the mountain making for an overall breathtaking experience (literally cause of the altitude.) If Jade Dragon Mountain wasn’t on my bucket list before, it is now and I am thankful I had the chance of experiencing it.

China is very admirable for their unique designs of both architecture and fabrics. It’s interesting to see how they get their inspiration from surrounding elements such as nature and animals especially. I’ve always been interested in clothing and different types of fashion fads and trends.

Coming to China allowed me to explore a variety of different fabrics, textiles, and patterns among the people here. In America we are so used to shopping at our favorite chain stores and having all our clothes already made for us. It is rare to look at a tag on a new shirt you bought and see, “Made in America,” when shopping at big name department stores.

Among the places we have visited I’ve been exposed to so many different types of fabrics and styles, mostly all hand-thread and manufactured. Sheets of fabric are showcased everywhere from store windows to car door windows. Here, keeping to traditional clothing and embroideries isn’t uncommon.

In Yunnan I’ve seen a lot of the same patterns repeated in different cities that include similar embroidery of flowers and naturistic designs. One pattern I haven’t seen a lot of is cotton. In America we love our cotton tees sweatshirts and sweatpants. We go to class and aren’t surprised to see half the students still in their pajamas, which seems unlikely in China.

Speaking on behalf of my age group, I feel a lot of the Chinese young adults and youth like to express themselves culturally through how they dress more than what I am used to seeing. Everyone has their own type of style whether its high fashion or sticking to the traditional embroidery. I have seen more of high fashion in the city of Kunming where more of the villages like to stick to traditional embroidery, especially with age.

— Annie Sapio, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Warming up to Husky Life

The winter season could put a real chill on some outdoor plans. You never know what to expect and if it’s warm enough to do some activities outside. But there is always one thing you can count on, and its Netflix.

Netflix is one of the most addicting websites a college student can go on.

Let's be honest we all have gone through a Netflix binge at least once a semester. Watching eight hours of Netflix in a row is something I know I look forward to.

The hard part is that once you get connected to a TV show you are bound to finish it in a week.
Six seasons. More like four days.

It’s a real sickness we get from watching Netflix.

Winding down and relaxing?

College life can be very stressful but coming to a stop in the on going day to take a breather and catch up on Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Lost, or Gossip Girl, can give the college student exactly what they need to break away from life for a little.

For me, my ultimate favorite show is Gossip Girl. As a Jersey girl who lives right by New York City I was able to really connect and envy the characters within the show.

I always wanted to live on the Upper East Side and this show took me right into that life style. Living in big fancy apartments, and going shopping everyday is only a girls dream.

But this show has so much more than material aspects. Every episode dives deeper and deeper into the character lives and with large amounts of money comes dirty secrets and betrayal. As the audience, we know the secrets and just want to scream at the characters to tell them what’s going on, but in the end we are seeing out of the eyes of the Gossip Girl. And we can’t wait to hear, “XOXO Gossip Girl."

As for the guys or girls who aren’t into the high society life style, another great option is Prison Break. My boyfriend and all of his roommates are obsessed with this show. This show has just enough action, drama and romance in it to make both sexes happy.

I occasionally watch it with him, because it’s a great show for us both to enjoy. Michael and Lincoln are thrown into prison for a crime they were framed for, but by trying to escape they are causing more kayos, and with kayos causes drama and suspense. We just hope that one day they will live a free life.

The winter weather gives us that perfect excuse to lie in bed all day Saturday and watch our favorite shows or movies. Its endless fun and excitement in the warm humble abode of your room.

Its nothing to be ashamed of, we all partake in this satisfying binge. As for me, my next series will be Friends. I have seen almost all of the episodes from reruns, but finally I will be able to watch it in order.

Surviving the Semester Freeze

— Samantha Gross, sophomore telecommunications major #HuskyUnleashed

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Words of wisdom

Hello Huskies! Now that we’re starting to stray away from the first week gotta look nice stage of the semester and are slowly moving towards the rolling out of bed wearing yoga’s and/or sweats to campus every day look, the reality of being back to the grind of things is starting to sink in (for some slower than others).

As a graduating senior I feel it is my duty to grant the youngsters of BU with my best advice to help you survive the greatest, most exciting four years of your life. And although it gives me great pain to claim the role of a soon to be graduating senior, I hope to shape my grief into pure reminiscent bliss by telling some of my stories in hopes that present and future huskies can avoid my mistakes and follow in my happiest footsteps.

After completing seven out of eight semesters at BU I can confidently say I have experienced just as many (or more) awkward and embarrassing moments you are probably experiencing. I was just as uninvolved and unconcerned as most of you, always reassuring myself with, “I still have time to pick a major, I still have time to get a job, I still have time to find an internship.

#RachaelTip - Never allow waiting to become a habit. Looking back, four years was NOT that much time.

*Flashback to 2011*

High school senior me made the impulsive decision to commit to Bloomsburg University. Back then, as if this was that long ago, my future was extremely unclear. I had no idea what I wanted to major in, no idea what I was good at, and no idea if I could survive living away from home.

So I decided to migrate a total of 20 whopping miles from my hometown to Bloomsburg University. Such a huge transition. I sometimes detest my choice and wish that I would have at least attempted to relocate to a university farther away from home. But after all of this reminiscing I came to realize I could go on for hours about what I would change. But that’s not why I’m here. What I want to share is what has changed all of my doubts about BU, a university I chose solely due to its convenient distance from home.

I can now truly say that I am completely content with my decision to come to Bloomsburg University. Not only did BU help me discover my strengths, it has allowed me to meet and connect with inspiring students, professors, and coworkers. Unfortunately, it took me until the very end of my sophomore year to grasp the fact that I had nada to put on my resume. I was not involved in any clubs or organizations, I didn’t have a job, and I had not made any influential connections.

ATTENTION READERS - if this sounds like the present you - listen up!

One of the first steps I decided to take was job searching on campus. While talking with my peers, one of my friends suggested applying to the Student Activities Office in Kehr Union. Fortunately they were seeking students like me who lived locally and would be available to work during the summer, so I was lucky enough to get a job as an office and main desk assistant.

However, my #RachaelTip to you would be to apply to several places on campus, not just one.

This way, you can get your application out there and have options while also not feeling bad about yourself for not getting a call back. Having an on campus job has been a wonderful opportunity and has allowed me to become much more involved within the campus community. For me, working on campus has given me the chance to meet other students while opening up doors I never knew existed. With this job came firsthand access to exciting information on campus events, activities, trips, and discounts the university offers.

For all of you undeclared majors, I was once in your rocky boat. My sophomore year I finally made the decision to join the communication studies major.

#RachaelTip - I highly recommend looking into this major!

The communication studies department has an amazing group of faculty and a variety of concentrations you can choose from than fit your interests.

But anyways….(not trying to be the poster child for Comm Studies, but really, it is the best ☺), after declaring a major I slowly started to make my way into the crowd. I decided to join the NCASC (National Communication Association Student Club).

NCASC is a national organization welcoming students of all majors meeting bi-weekly and providing important information and workshops on topics such as interview etiquette, how to perfect your resume, landing internships, studying abroad, and more. Oh, did I forget to mention the free pizza??? NCASC is run by a group of BU students ranging from sophomores to seniors, so don’t worry, you won’t feel intimidated by a bunch of big seniors running the show.

After being involved in the club for nearly two years, my junior year I decided to run for a leadership position on the exec board which would be in charge of Public Relations and the clubs social media sites. When I first joined NCASC sophomore year, I never thought that I would be one of the students helping to organize events and run the meetings.

#RachaelTip - if you want to strengthen your resume, exec board positions show diversity and your ability to handle leadership roles.

Usually at the end of the spring semester clubs will vote for new exec board members to replace any graduating seniors. Whether you are a leader in a club or general member, joining a campus organization is a significant way to get your foot in the door and boost your resume.

Although I can’t speak for all departments, if you are unsure if your major has a club or organization my advice would be to check with your department secretary. They are there to help you and are very friendly! You may also want to look into finding out whether or not there is an honor society for your major.

Lambda Pi Eta, BU's communication honor society, reached out to me my junior year inviting me to join the other honor students in the major. A month or two after getting inducted, I decided to run for the open Public Relations position and I somehow landed the role. While running up against my fellow students I thought to myself, “What am I doing? I look like a fool. No one will vote for me!” Please, don’t have these thoughts!

#RachaelTip – Remember, you can do anything you put your mind to. As long as you stay true to yourself I assure you, all of your hard work will be recognized.

So freshman and sophomores, maybe even some juniors and seniors….get up and get moving! With the large variety of student life opportunities on campus, there really are no excuses. BU has more than 250 student clubs and organizations ranging from the arts, business, entertainment, athletics, community service, and faith. I have built friendships, gained leadership positions, and created amazing opportunities for myself because of being active in all that the university has to offer.

Nowadays, students with scholarly grades are not as notable as those who are deeply involved with a wide range of roles and engagements. After all, college is more than just going to class. It’s about taking advantage of the rewarding opportunities sitting in front of you. One final #RachaelTip - Enjoy every moment. Make mistakes, try new things, learn, and push yourself to greatness!

— Rachael Scicchitano, senior communication studies major #HuskyLife #ProfessionalU

Thursday, January 29, 2015

China Today: Colorfully intense and diverse

I have found myself incredibly fascinated by the traffic here in China. There are a number of elements that pique my interest. The first of these is the diversity of the traffic. Here in Hekou, most of the diversity is in the various two-wheeled vehicles people use to travel around. There are very nice, pristine, and personalized mopeds, beat-up dirt bikes, bicycles with carts attached to the back, and all sorts of old mopeds. These vehicles seem to allow you to drive wherever you want, as they weave through the streets and even on the sidewalks. There is no discernible organized parking, and people seem to leave their mopeds—or what have you—wherever they please.

The same general rules seem to apply to cars—there is no specified parking locations, and the cars simply drive through the streets, honking at people and smaller vehicles in their way. These cars have an even larger diversity than the two-wheeled vehicles. I’ve seen all sorts of brands, like BMW, Toyota, even some Fords and Jeeps. They are mingled with small and large vans that appear to be unique to China, and there are a few large cargo trucks that have a militaristic air to them mixed in as well.

I’ve noted no speed limit signs, though it is possible I haven’t recognized them, as they are most likely in Chinese. People walk into the streets wherever they please. In Kunming, I saw a woman standing in the middle of traffic waiting to pass through each lane. On our journey from Kunming to Hekou, I noticed a few vehicles that were sitting idle in the middle of the highway. I can only assume they broke down, and I suppose rather than moving the car off to the side, people just get out and walk away. For all of this chaos, I have not noted any road-rage. Nobody seems angry at anybody else for getting in their way, perhaps because there are no rules to follow and therefore no rules to break. The bustle of the streets sounds exactly New York City, save for the sound of police sirens. If anyone in China ever gets a ticket, I can’t imagine what it would be for.

I have an incredible respect for the Hani people, and everyone who lives like them. Their existence is so simple and natural. The little old women working in the fields and carrying things around on their backs were so solid. Watching them, and the men herd the water buffalo and the pack mules through the village, was like standing at a still point in time.

While the village did posses plenty of modern amenities, the people still worked the land to live, using simply tools and methods, as they would have hundreds of years ago. China, so far, has impressed me with its beautiful coexistence of past and present. It’s not something we see in America, as the present is consumed the past.

First of all, Happy New Year! I never imagined I would fulfill one of my new year’s resolutions, to do more exciting things, on New Years. Anyway, I’ve been really interested in the way all of the people we’ve seen in this country dress. There are the Hani people, of course, who wear those beautifully embroidered traditional clothes. Even the more reserved clothes that are one solid color dot the terraced fields and decaying buildings like ornamentation. However, their clothing is not what I have found the most fascinating.

On our drives, we pass through a lot of small towns or clusters of buildings that are very dirty and rundown. In them, I have noticed a lot of women dressed as if they belonged in New York City. They are often in high heels and fashionable jackets, and honestly look more stylish than I do most of the time (regrettably, I do not have any photos of this). I was talking with a few of my comrades, and they suggested that perhaps the single women do it to attract men. This would make sense, as all of the women I have seen dressed this way are young, while many of the older women are wearing simpler, average clothing.

I’ve seen some really cool graffiti here in China. It’s funny to see people carving the Chinese symbols into trees and stuff like we carve our initials. One type of graffiti I’ve seen a lot of is crayon children’s drawings. This is probably my favorite type of graffiti to see because it’s not something seen in America. I’ve noticed that the children are often running around free-range with each other, up and down the streets with no worries. I even saw a child crossing the street by herself yesterday.

In America, children aren’t really allowed to do that anymore; they’re very sheltered and their parents are always watching them. Although, it is mostly in the small villages that I see the children running around unsupervised, which I imagine is due to the likelihood that everyone knows each other in the smaller villages. This child-like graffiti is evidence of the independence these children have on their little streets. (As a side note, it is entirely possible that I am mistaken, and that these are not children’s scribbles, but the scribbles of someone who is not very skilled at drawing. Either way, the point stands: the children in this country appear to have a lot more freedom in playing than American children)

I continue to be blown away by the intensity and diversity of the colors in this country. I’ve already written about the beautiful colors in the clothing of the Hani people, and the same intensity that exists there exists all over the place. Looking down the street, one is met with bits of striking color. One thing I have noticed is the presence of bright red ribbons tied to different places. I have seen a few tied to tree branches, a couple on the front of a car, and they surround the entire memorial site of the founders of the University in Kunming.

This last piece of information leads me to believe that perhaps the red is symbolic of loss or memory. Perhaps the ribbons in the trees symbolize a location where someone died, and the ribbon on the car is in memory of someone. Since red is also the color of the Chinese flag, it could symbolize some kind of nationality. I’m not able to research any of this on the Internet, so I will have to clarifying my suspicions with someone who knows the culture. For now, however, I find it exciting to speculate the meaning of things based on observing them in context.

When I took anthropology my freshman year, I learned about the affinity that the Chinese have for Christian traditions. The article I read back then was about how they like the have all of the ceremony associated with Christian weddings. They even fly over Americans to act as priests, many of them not being priests themselves. I noticed evidence for this on the flight here, as there was and advertisement that came before the movies of a bride and groom dresses in the tradition white wedding gown and black tuxedo.

As I have been in China, I have noticed a lot of Christmas decorations. There are Santa Clauses, Christmas trees, even a sign that said "Feliz Navidad." We were told later that the Chinese celebrate a non-religious Christmas that is essentially a time for people to party and have fun. I find it very interesting how they have incorporated an element of our culture into theirs, but have modified it to make it fit into their beliefs.

— Katie Starliper, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

China Today: A transitional country

After these first few days in China, what I’ve noticed most is that this country seems to be in the transition between a third world to a modernized country. Driving from Kun Ming to He Kou, I saw countless high-rise apartment complexes under construction, but very few looked completed. It as if they were all started at once, and have yet to be completed. It was strange to see rural farming villages, with stone houses that seemed at least a century old, being dominated by these skyscrapers. I know there are 1.3 billion people in this country, but it’s hard to imagine that there will be enough people to fill all of this new housing.

Seeing first-hand the relation between the Vietnamese and Chinese at the border and in the markets is another testament to the growing economy here. The Chinese must have a significant disposable income if they Vietnamese can sell the cheap goods they had and make a living. I can assume that this is the result of there being a lot of construction going on in China so many people are employed.

Being in this mountainous region in which terrace farming is so prevalent has forced me to think a lot about the terraces. I realized that I become more aware of the hills—their slopes and curves—when I see how the people have had to work with them. It’s an example of nature providing this framework of the landscape, and man squaring it off to make it usable.

This occurs essentially wherever people live, but the terraces made me hyper-aware of it. The terrace farming also speaks to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the people here, which brings me to the way that the people here recycle trash for practical purposes. My favorite example of this was seeing a large toy truck being reused as a flowerbed. Vera and I were talking about this on the bus and agreed that the amount of litter here is almost excusable, as they really seem to use everything they can, unlike Americans who tend to throw away everything that isn’t perfect. I will also note that Americans wouldn’t dream of farming anywhere that isn’t mostly flat land, let alone on mountain slopes.

I am constantly taken aback by the vibrant colors everywhere here in Yunnan. Before coming, I assumed in my naivety it wouldn’t be the case and everyone would dress more like a communist. I packed accordingly in hopes of fitting in and not drawing too much attention to myself. I was quickly proven wrong to my pleasure as a photographer. The traditional dresses worn by Ha Ni women are obvious examples, but also contemporary clothing, storefronts, advertising, and packaging burst with color. Seeing the fruits at the farmers markets gave me an idea of their source material. I had fun taking pictures of people whose clothing matched the color of the fruit they happened to be standing next to.

Seeing the French railway station in Menzi reminded me of hearing the story of how it came to be in the museum in He Kou. I have trouble believing that the French could be so na├»ve to think that they could control China with one railroad spanning half of Yunnan. I kept hearing about the many Chinese lives lost in its construction and driving through the area in which it is built made me see how. Yunnan seems like the last place I would want to try to build a railroad. I was amazed to see how much infrastructure was required to put a modern highway there, and couldn’t imagine being a Chinese worker a century ago attempting a similar undertaking. There was a picture in the museum in Menzi of a bridge that connected tunnels coming out of solid cliffs. I can only imagine what a toll the Chinese payed in building it. It was funny to see the clocks at the station, which aside from the railroad’s design seemed to be the only French contribution.

It is also interesting that the Chinese barely use it anymore and it seems that it is kept in use for the sake of Vietnam. In this trip I learned a lot about French influence in this part of the world, which aside from the basic fact that they controlled Vietnam, I knew very little about.

Class discussion was very interesting this morning. I am glad to hear that China is working on establishing social welfare and anti-corruption programs in attempt to close the income gap, I am starting to get a better idea of what is currently going on in this country. I get the impression that the embrace of capitalism and communism working simultaneously was to improve the standard of living for all the people. The income gap is in theory a temporary side effect of this, and I suppose the plan is that everyone will come out more equal but with a higher standard of living than in Mao’s time. It is an ambitious plan but the ideology is in the right place in my opinion. In the United States, many of our politicians have a hard time even admitting that our own income gap a problem and we are seeing movements to unravel many of the social welfare programs initiated by Roosevelt and Johnson that many rely upon.

Today, I took a walk around Kun Ming after seeing the birds in the park. First of all, I noticed many people singing and dancing in groups at the park. They didn’t seem to be street performers but instead just engaging in community activities. Before I was out of earshot of one group of dancers, I was already being bombarded by the sounds of musicians playing traditional instruments. Seeing something like this is fairly uncommon in America unless those involved are trying to make money, and I think it reflects the communal nature of Asian culture.

After leaving that I walked back the way we came and fell across some bookstores. Most were in Chinese but I found a few English books, mostly on Buddhism and Tibet. I also noticed copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm as well as Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I was surprised to see these books as China seems to try to control information and media, and these stories all directly conflict with the ideology of the CPC, by displaying the evils of socialism and totalitarianism. In the same neighborhood I saw coffee shops where there were college-aged girls smoking cigarettes and one was playing the guitar—both things I understand to be rather taboo here. It was interesting to find a counter-cultural side of this city.

— Hugh Hopkins, non-degree visiting student, #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

China Today: An artistic impression

Our first day in China went by quick. After a short welcome we traveled to a city on the border of Vietnam. Hekuo seems to be a city that is mostly based on trade. We walked a long portion of the train tracks connecting Vietnam and the Chinese city of Hekou. The Chinese though seem to grow their food and maximize any land that is available. Making due with small gardens on hillsides or between buildings.

It's hard to tell if they use these plots for subsistence or trade. They don't seem as though they could produce enough of a crop from some of these to sell in trade but it is possible they have a large quantity of these small gardens spread out to produce a sufficient amount. I did observe a man preparing greens that were more than likely self grown but later in the day we visited a farmers market where the same greens could be purchased. If anything the people of this town work very hard to survive whether it be through trade or farming for consumption.

Today we visited an area called Yuanyang to see a minority village of Hani people and the famous terraced fields they grow rice on. As a drawing concentration in art studio I am always intrigued by the art I find in different locations. The art created by the people of the Yuanyang is amazing. The entire area is dependent on the terrace fields and the art represents this. What I found is many representations of the important animals to the people. The most important animal is the water buffalo because of its use in creating the patty fields. The image of the water buffalo finds it way into large and small portions of their statues and depictions.

One particular piece that I found on a large pillar at the top of the fields depicted two water buffalo with a vague human figure between them. This figure has its hands raised as if it is worshipping the water buffalo. With the water buffalo being an essential part of their production I am not surprised it makes so many appearances in their art.

During our time in Yuanyang I found the Hani people's personalities very diverse. One of the things that would happen was if we took a picture of some of the people was that they would ask for money. I understand that it probably becomes a nuisance to have tourists gawking at you and I am happy to spare a few Yuan. Though, there were some more humble people and some that were a little greedy. I don't fault the greedy; they have a harsh life working the patty fields. While standing in their village center I found a lady that just stood to the side with her daughter, in full traditional clothing, and waited patiently. When I saw this I decided to offer a few Yuan so I could take a picture of her daughter.

She graciously accepted and I took the photo. Our guide offered to let me take a picture with her and I did. After the picture I offered the lady few more dollars as a token of gratitude, and she was gracious again. As I did this, another lady came over and reached for my money. I tried to back away but she kept coming and eventually snatched a ten yuan from my hand. That was the point where I put my money away and walked away. Ten Yuan is not very much, only about 1.5 U.S. dollars, so I was not worried about the money. I was just surprised at how greedy the lady was and how polar opposite the first woman was. Outside of this one thing the time in the Hani village was enjoyable.

During our time in Mengzi we had a surprise stop at a fruit market. Our guide decided to purchase a couple things to try, as did Dr. Luo. We tried a Chinese version of grapefruit that I really enjoyed. It was more yellow than our American grapefruit and the interior was a clear yellow-white. Unlike American grapefruit it had a natural sweetness the required no addition of sugar. It made it very delicious. We also tried tamarind, which are a nut like food where you eat the gooey stuff between the shell and the nut. It was super sweet but had a strange after taste I didn't enjoy.

Next was pineapple, I was wary because I don't enjoy pineapple in the states. To my surprise though the pineapple was milder than it is in the states and I enjoyed it. The last on the list was jackfruit. It is a large fruit maybe slightly smaller than a watermelon. Cutting up Jack Fruit seemed like a terribly long process and labor intensive. We waited about twenty minutes until the locals finished. The fruit it self has the strangest texture I have ever tried, muscle like on the outside and soft on the inside. The taste was a strange sweetness as well and was interesting.

We took a walk around a park today that was located in Mengzi. The diversity of conditions in the city astounds me. This park is well maintained and beautiful but if you walk one block from it you find impoverished homes. You see similar things in our cities but our government will condemn a house if it unsuitable for living.

With roofs that looks as though they would leak with the slightest amount of rain and missing windows the buildings are in shambles. They are not quite as bad as what I saw in the rural areas though. Some of the rural ones looked as though they were ruins. Urbanization is great for the economy but I feel as though the older generations suffer in the initial move.

In Mengzi there is former railway station that was established by the French. No longer functioning it stands as a historical location. The station itself is not what intrigued me most, it was more the way the electrical wiring was openly visible. The States we tend to hide our wiring in boxes to keep them from being exposed and dangerous. The wires at the former French railway station were completely exposed and could have been a potential hazard. This wiring is from a different era where safety guidelines were less strict. I am curious if the lines are still hot or were shutdown when the station was shutdown. The tracks themselves looked as though they were still used, so there may be some electricity running.

— Jesse Hockman, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.