Friday, January 23, 2015

Like a bucket of water to the face ... our final semester IS here

How is it possible that we are back already?

Weren’t we just handing in our last finals, hastily packing our luggage, and speeding home to the warmth of home cooked meals, our own beds, and our beloved pets? As a senior I can tell you from personal experience….TIME FLIES. But before you know it, the smell of spring will be in the air, and another semester will be in the books.

For those of you who are seniors like myself– HOW IS THIS OUR LAST SEMESTER???

Can you not vividly remember our first semester here as freshman thinking you had to eat three meals a day at the commons and sport a lanyard around your neck with your sharp new ID so you didn’t get locked out of your dorm? Yea, me too.

But my fellow seniors, the realization is that soon, we will no longer be able to bank on our midday naps to get us through the day. We will actually have to start paying for our Starbucks coffee with cash, not flex dollars. And free gym memberships….forget about it. It is 2015, our graduation year. We have been saying since we were kids, “I will be a college grad in 2015! I will be sophisticated, mature, and totally have my life together!” (What were we thinking?)

But it’s not too late! With a positive mindset and the proper preparation, we can become the greatest post-grads we always imagined we would be.

So, what’s the first step?

To start, look around you. I guarantee your smart phone is either attached to your body or sitting within 1-3 feet of you. As 20 something’s who grew up with Xanga, Myspace, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (the list goes on) we are pretty much social media experts. So why not take advantage of our knowledge and expertise? For those of you with big interviews lined up within the next month or so, one of the crucial things you need to do during your preparation process is clean up your social media accounts.

Social media can be a fantastic way to boost your brand, but only if you use it properly. Google yourself. See what you find. You want employers to find the goodies (your blog, a LinkedIn account, a digital portfolio, a professional twitter page). Make sure you like what you see when you type your name into an internet search. If your 2014 Block Party images are popping up from your roommates Facebook account, you may want to reconsider keeping your profile open to the public.

You are your brand

Even though you may know a lot of other upper-level students who are in the same process as you and are going to be graduating with the same degree, remember – the students sitting to the right and left of you at the May 2015 graduation ceremony are not you. So how exactly can you sell your brand and stand out from your competitors?

A great place to begin - establish a 20-30 second elevator pitch. Pre-grads who are soon to be post-grads, ahemmm, this is for you! An amazing opportunity may be standing next to you in line at your local coffee shop.

Get your communication face ready and be prepared to tell a stranger your story in a nut shell. Form a clear introduction with your name, your major, your career goals and achievements. Include any relevant work or internship experience you have, or research you have done that relates to the position.

I know, this may sound a bit robotic. But with practice you can work on establishing a bit of your personality into your pitch. Another tip - have a professional business card (with your email, LinkedIn account, Digital Portfolio link, etc.) ready in your wallet to hand potential employers at a conference or a work meeting. Pleaseeee…..put your phone down, and don’t be afraid to talk to people!

“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo.

Just remember, have fun establishing a personal brand. You are unique, you are educated, and you will soon have a fancy degree framed in your parent’s living room. Make something of yourself. Be courageous, be prepared, and most importantly be confident. Before you know it, you will be that cool post-grad you always dreamed you would be!

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

China Today: A scientific look

My first meal of 2015 was a Chinese breakfast buffet. We had our choice of a number of different dishes. I particularly enjoyed the fried rice with bits of egg in it, and also enjoyed some buns that resembled marshmallows. I also began to notice that I was getting drastically better with chop-sticks, and that I had found a way to hold them that suited me.

When we were done eating, we loaded back on to the bus. The plan was to drive and find more platforms from which to see the terraces. While we were driving through one of the villages, we got caught in a traffic jam. It was explained to us that today was a holiday for the Hani people, and the cause for the traffic jam was a wedding that had just taken place.

We finally got past the jam and continued towards more of the terraces. The two platforms we saw were above different terraces than we had seen on New Year's Eve. They weren't as amazing as the ones we had seen the night before, largely due to the lighting, but it was amazing to see how extensive they were.

Soon though, everyone began to get tired of taking photos of the terraces. As awe-inspiring as they were, you could only take so many pictures of them before you started to create duplicates. We decided then to head back into town.

As we started to walk around some of the markets, we noticed a commotion. A crowd had formed and music was playing. We all tried to get a peek, but I just wound up confused. One man was handing out jars of colored liquid, and the other was standing at a table with a bunch of dead snakes and a dead horse shoe crab. I asked Nixon as to what was going on, and he said that they were putting on some sort of show to promote a product. Continuing to walk the streets, we saw everything and anything. Some of what we saw was fresh tobacco, electronics, shoes, clothes, barbershops, even freshly butchered meat. We looked around for a while, but nothing really caught my eye.

When we went back to the hotel, we had to prepare to leave again, this time for Menzi. The road going down from Yuanyang was just as perilous as coming up, but at the very least I was better able to see the view due to how the bus was oriented.

Once we were out of the mountains, we stopped by a fruit market by the side of the road. Some had their suspicions that this was just an excuse to stop for gas, but I had a good time regardless. My diet back in the states isn't what it should be, but the market had some interesting fruit I'd never tried before. First was the Chinese grapefruit, which was much better than the pink grapefruit I was used to having back home. It wasn't sour or bitter, just sweet, and it never tried to shoot juice in my eye. Next was this really strange fruit called the tamarin. It had a shell like a peanut, but when you opened it up, looked and tasted similar to a raisin. You had to be careful though, because the center of the fruit had pits. Finally, we had the Jeque fruit. It was a citrus-looking orange-ish yellow fruit that tasted somewhat like banana. Of what I had tried, I enjoyed the jeque fruit most.

Soon we were back on the road. We had to go up into some more mountains, but they weren't nearly as high as the ones we went into previously. The soil started to turn a dark red, which I guessed was a result of a high iron content. It didn't take long for the mountains to end though, and soon we were driving through an extremely flat and dry area.

At one point I saw a Chinese fracking pad, although we passed it too quickly for me to get a decent shot of it. From what I've read, the Chinese have had a hard time obtaining natural gas, and are helping Russia circumvent their UN sanctions by allowing them to build two large pipelines into China. Soon we were in Menzi. Apparently we were staying at the Huanghe University dorms. They prepared a large feast for us in honor of the New Year. We ate until we were stuffed, then most of us went to bed.

A few of us were still anxious to explore however. Dr. Luo led us through a student pavilion on the outskirts of campus. The air was filled with smoke and the aroma of cooking food, and many students were drinking beer and playing pool.

After we got so far, we went back out the way we came, and then walked just off campus to a small mall-like area. We saw a few bars, what might have been a Chinese McDonalds, and a few outlet and convenience stores. We then walked back to our rooms, where I quickly fell asleep. I woke up early the next morning to look out the window and see a bright pink sky. I quickly rushed out to take photos of this beautiful sunrise.

For breakfast, we got to boil our own noodles and choose what meats and spices were in our broth. I chose pork, and it was by far the best breakfast I had eaten yet in China. After we ate, we set out for the Bisezhai railway. The Bisezhai railway is renowned in China for being the first railway built by the Chinese, even though it was owned by the French. It connected down to the same railway we had previously seen in He Kou. I couldn't help but feel as if I had walked into a western movie, between the desert-like landscape of Bisezhai along with the railway station.

There was a quarry near the railroad, and I was happy to find a few nice rock samples to bring home. I found a perfect chunk of Calcite with some beautiful cleavage. Dr. Luo and Katie brought over some vesicular basalt to check out.

Basalt is the result of dried lava or magma, and vesicular means that it had many holes in it where gas bubbles had been while it was forming. I didn't know it before, but Yunnan has many volcanoes, and possibly some rifting where magma has been able to reach the surface.

Dr. Viditz-Ward also asked me to look at a large rock that a local had placed as decoration outside of their house. It was finely rounded with the exception of a roughly hewn area beneath a small arching piece. I'm pretty sure the stone consisted of Limestone, but I'm not one hundred percent sure. I also observed a number of small quartz veins running through it. The rough area I suspect is the result of it originally resting by a magma chamber, possibly even next to my small sample of vesicular basalt.

Next, we went to a restaurant and had the famous Crossing Bridge Noodles. It was interesting how the meal was made. They would bring everyone a bunch of raw ingredients, including pork, mushrooms, eggs, a whole chicken leg, along with many other meats and vegetables. Then a large bowl of steaming hot broth was given to each guest, and they would throw in all of the ingredients they were given, starting with the meats and ending with vegetables. They would all cook inside of the broth, and after a few minutes it was ready to be eaten. It was delicious as much as it was peculiar.

After lunch we went to the Honghe Minority Museum. They had the entire history of the county, starting with fossils found locally. They also had artifacts that were hundreds of years old. Hugh, Jess, and I walked around slowly observing each object on display while the group moved on. Then Jess realized that we weren't alone. A group of Chinese girls had been watching and following us from a distance. After a bit, they worked up their courage and asked Hugh if they could get a picture with him. They then left, but came back later to get a picture of the three of us with them. Soon after they left the second time, another member if our group came in and got us. Apparently the group had gone through the museum pretty quickly and had been waiting outside for us.

We then drove a little down the road and walked around a small lake in the center of town. All around the lake were these beautiful pagodas and bridges. There were also rides and a pool for the kids. It was a perfect day to see this lake, as there wasn't a cloud in the sky and a comfortable breeze coming from across the lake. It was a day to remember.

We then returned to the campus and had some time to do whatever before dinner. I took a quick walk around campus to see what I could. Two girls saw me walking around and called me over. Apparently they were English majors, and wanted to know if I could help them study for their exams. I helped explain how to use some words, and then helped them with their pronunciation. Eventually it was time for me to head to dinner, so I wished them luck on their finals and left, but not without leaving them with my email. Assuming they email me and everything works, I now have Chinese pen-pals!

After dinner, I took a short walk around campus and went straight to bed. And so ended yet another day in the beautiful Yunnan province.

We started Wednesday by eating again at 1897. We then packed and prepared for our trip to Yuanyang. We knew that we were heading to the terraced fields, but nobody quite understood what that entailed. We left He Kou back through the Ai Luo Mountains. This time I was facing the mountain rather than the gorge, which was somewhat of a shame because the first time I thought the photos wouldn't be worth taking through the windows.

Since then it was pointed out that they may not be great, but could still be high enough quality to be worthwhile. While I may have missed some of the more scenic shots, I did get something I didn't expect to. We eventually turned off from the road we had previously taken onto another small highway beneath it. Most of the rock face consisted of limestone, however there was occasionally some sandstone and shale, which is to be expected.

Many places by the road displayed evidence of dynamite blasts, which could be seen as equally spaced holes drilled vertically into the rock where dynamite was placed. However, these blasts had made portions of the mountain unstable.

Where there had once been a solid rock face, there was now a crumbling mass of sediment and stone. Until another single face can be eroded away, that crumbling mass will continue to fall apart, and could possibly grow further up the mountain, creating a hazard for the highway below. The Chinese had tried to stop this crumbling by placing concrete grids over the blasted areas, in an attempt to reduce further erosion. In some place it worked, especially when local plants were able to take root in the grids, keeping more sediment from shaking loose with their root systems.

Other areas were less successful. Large rocks would still fall from the rock face, being a hazard and further damaging the grid before vegetation could help to secure it from erosion. One way that the Chinese helped secure these grids was by pouring a cement mix over particularly troublesome areas. Pipes drilled into the mountain would stick out of these areas, most likely to drain groundwater that might otherwise put pressure on the concrete. What I am unsure about is how they poured the concrete without further aggravating the stability of the slope. From what I could see, there were no ledges above that were level enough to support a truck, yet the cemented parches seemed too wide for a person to do on their own.

After about an hour, the valley began to open up more and the slopes became less steep. We passed a fruit market which led me to believe that we were getting close. After all, we were heading to the terraced fields, it would make sense to see people selling their produce. We continued past the market and quickly began to ascend further into the mountains. The winding roads here were really narrow, with only a small concrete barrier keeping you from plummeting hundreds of feet straight down. This didn't seem to change anything in regards to how people would drive, as even small motorcycles would still regularly cut in front of our bus. Luckily our driver was a pro, and this drastic change in elevation hardly seemed to phase him. This was impressive, as I was feeling anxious from the height just by looking out the window. I was particularly cautious when I saw a crack in the road large enough for you to see the space beneath it.

Soon it started to become foggy, and we quickly realized that these were the clouds. We were told that we were almost to the Hani minority village, and that we would have to do some hiking. Considering the steep slopes and high elevation, this made me nervous. However, when we got there I realized that the path down to the village was paved with bricks that provided good footing, so I had nothing to fear. The Hani village was located just below some of their terraces. These terraces were beautiful, but didn't compare to the sights we would see later.

The buildings of the Hani were all bright orange, and had thatched roofs that intentionally made them look like mushrooms. Children wandered the streets, playing games with ropes and sticks. It was fun to watch some of the boys sledding down a dirt hill with a piece of plastic.

Vendors sold items to tourists out of what seemed to be their homes. Most of these items were seemingly handmade or extremely old, which made it the best place to buy souvenirs that we had yet seen. I bartered with a vendor for a cast iron dragon statue. It cost me 360 yuan, or about 60 dollars. While I have yet to find it's artisan's signature, tool marks suggested that no machine had been involved in it's creation. I considered it a bargain, if not a steal.

It was good to see that the locals were savvy to tourists. In order to take pictures of the people, you would have to give them a few yuan. While this was hardly anything for an American tourist, it's possible that this money could help stabilize their living conditions should something happen to their crops. It was interesting to see how the Hani treated their animals. Small caravans of mules were led through the streets, while groups of water buffalo had to be occasionally prodded with a broom. Ducks happily quacked in the streets near a source of water while children laughed and played nearby. All of the animals seemed healthy and content with their lifestyle, and it was clear the Hani went to great lengths to provide appropriately for them.

Soon we began to hike back up to our bus. We drove further up into the mountains until we got to a tourist site. As soon as I got off the bus, an old Hani women grabbed me and handed me an envelope full of postcards with pictures of the terraces.

At first I wasn't sure if they were free or not, but the fact that she wouldn't leave after handing me them told me otherwise. She wouldn't leave me alone, so I just decided to buy them. Then she decided to push another one on me, and me being the soft hearted fool with no taste for conflict, decided to just buy those too. Together they cost 20 yuan, or in dollars about $3.30. I was ready to mark it off as a karma buy, but the woman made it a little hard when immediately after the transaction she ran over to her friends excitedly shouting something that must have translated to something like "I got that sucker to buy TWO of them!"

I'm pretty sure I became a target after that, because other woman selling the same things began to swarm me after that. Many of them brought sad looking children to me, and buy their gesturing I was able to put together that the kid was either hungry, sick, or just dirt poor, and that they needed me to buy their stuff. I had figured out their game by now, and did my best to tell them I was not interested. Most left after some badgering, but one really persistent woman I needed help from Mr. Li, our Kunming University representative, in order to get rid of her.

The site itself was a large platform on the top of the mountains overlooking the terraces. The terraces were built in a valley high up in the mountains around 700 years ago by the local minorities after they had to flee from areas to the north.

They chose Yuanyang because no warlords would be interested in conquering such a remote location, and if they tried they would have to give up far more valuable lands in order to do so. The way the people filled the terraces was brilliant. With how high up they were in the mountains, the people lived amongst the clouds. The terraces were filled by the clouds, condensing their moisture on to the soil. The terraces were then built so that higher areas would overflow into lower areas, and these were made as far up the mountain as the people could manage access to.

The platform we were on granted a full view of the mountain valley, and we were waiting for the sun to set over it. In the meantime, some of us decided to walk down to the lower platforms to try getting shots of different angles.

Going down the platforms was nerve wracking for someone with a fear of heights, but the photos gained were worth it. At the bottom, I was called over by a Chinese man who noticed that I wasn't a local. He told me that he was learning English, and I told him that I was learning Chinese, so we decided to try and have a conversation and help each other out. He told me that three months ago he took a trip to California, and he really enjoyed Lake Tahoe. He also said that Americans were really nice and polite, and while I was glad that he had gotten that impression, It was somewhat sad to know that my homeland was rarely so kind to people who are not perfectly fluent in English. I told him that I was a Geology major, and that the terraces were both beautiful and interesting. Soon though, I realized I was the only one in my group that was still on the lower platforms, so I told him I had to go. He wished me a good time while I was in China, and then we parted ways. My only regret is that I forgot to ask if I could take his picture.

I made my way back up to the top platform just in time to catch the sunset. I took as many photos as I could before it finished. We then made our way back to the hotel that we were staying in for the night. With all the excitement, I had nearly forgotten that it was New Years Eve. Dinner. For a long time I had wondered if the Chinese celebrated the international New Year. The answer is yes, as we saw a few Chinese stumbling around clearly drunk. One of the kitchen staff, who by my guess had a nice buzz going for himself, accidentally dropped a large living fish on the ground on his way to the kitchen. More people were leaning on each other and laughing as we left the restaurant to rest for the night. At midnight, I wished my family what would be to then an early "Happy New Year!", as I listened to the crackle of fireworks just outside.

We set out early the next day for Kunming. To me, there was only one feature that made this ride interesting. At one brief point we passed an area that had formations resembling those of the Stone Forest, or Shilin. While I know that the actual Stone Forest consists of formations that are both taller, more widespread, and dense, it was nice to have a sneak preview of what may be the defining moment of this trip for me.

When we arrived at the University, we said farewell to our guide Nixon and the bus driver. They had helped us see and understand everything outside of Kunming, and we wanted to make sure that they knew we appreciated the effort they made doing so. Dr. Viditz-Ward gave Nixon an old travel guide that was in English, and our group all put in some yuan to compensate the bus driver for a minor accident that had occurred in a traffic jam three days before. We also gave them Bloomsburg University T-shirts and said goodbye.

After we put our stuff in our rooms, we went to a Kunming University orientation where they told us
about the history of the school. The school in Kunming was founded at the beginning of the Japanese invasion, when three universities in the northeast fled and then united in Yunnan. This is in fact a common story in Yunnan, which before the fleeing of refugees during the war had been pretty small in terms of population.

After the war, the three universities returned to their respective cities, but the teacher's college stayed behind, and eventually became Kunming Normal University. In an old classroom, we were shown where the Chinese Nobel prize winner once sat. Also among the schools proudest accomplishments is the fact that they greatly contributed to China's nuclear weapon program.

After orientation, we had a chance to wander around the area surrounding the campus. We found a small shopping area clearly aimed at satisfying tourists, as there were restaurants with names like The Great Australian Bite, The French Cafe, and even a McDonalds. Some others and I eventually made our way into the French Cafe, and to our surprise one of the waitresses was fluent in English.

I had a chicken curry panini and a Yanjing beer, which I had seen advertised in many places. Both were very good, although once again the beer tasted very similar to Coors Lite. It seems the Chinese really enjoy their light beers, as the only dark ones I've seen are imported. The most popular foreign beer from what I understand is Budweiser, as it's the only one that's not only carried, but actively advertised. After I ate, I went back to my hotel room to prepare for class the next day.

— Brandon Robinson, environmental, geographical, and geological sciences 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 photographic journey

On my first day in Hekou China, I noticed that there were a lot of stray animals roaming around. While I know that in many European countries animals tend to roam free, I did not realize it would be the same in China. So to me, this was a surprise.

At home, seeing a stray is very uncommon because as soon as they are spotted, they are taken to the pound. We seem to have a very different concept of animals in America than the people of China do. We spay and neuter our animals as well as get them routine vet care. While some of the animals I saw seemed relatively healthy externally, there were a few that it was obvious they were not in the best of shape, and I doubt any are taken for vet care. Another interesting thing that I noted was that every female dog I came across had visible signs of nursing either currently or recently, so the reason for the overpopulation of strays I was noticing throughout the day was apparent.

Seeing all sorts of animals on the street really intrigued me and peaked my interest into shooting on this overcast day. I was still suffering from a bit of jet lag and was very worn out, but animal shots are my favorite to capture and I really enjoyed seeing all of the creatures Hekou had to offer me.

While there were many dogs, I also came across cats, roosters, hens, and I noticed a herd of ten water buffalo on the other side of the river. The roosters were captivating to me. I am not a bird person whatsoever, but the coloring of the roosters was too incredible to not capture.

While some of the dogs seemed to be particularly friendly, the cats did not. They stayed to themselves and had their ears straight out to the sides, a clear sign of unhappiness in a feline. From a photography standpoint, I really enjoyed seeing how comfortable all of the animals were in their surroundings. The cats, for example, hung around some visually interesting architecture.

After seeing so many stray and homeless animals, it was a shock to me to come across two dogs, each having different owners, that were actually leashed and wearing some sort of outfit. After seeing the disconnect many seem to have here to their animals here in Hekou, I was surprised to see some very “American” behavior when it came to dressing up dogs. I feel like this lack of animal obsession was one of the first ways I truly realized how different this culture is from my own, where each pet is pampered and treated as family. I got a sense that most dogs, if “owned” are around to provide protection, and in doing so they are very loyal, but there are very little house pets as we would be used to seeing back in the United States.

Another thing that I noticed about these animals is that they were either very friendly or very timid. Of course, there was not petting allowed due to the lack of veterinary care and the risks that come along with that, but there were a few dogs that came right up to me and there were others that stayed back and kept their distance. I would believe that this has to do with the lack of socialization between the people and dogs here. These distinctions in the animals’ personalities did allow me to capture different types of photographs though, and for that I was very enthusiastic and grateful for.

One of the most fun parts of my day in Hekou was seeing so many people who were very interested in me getting pictures of them. Although there is a language barrier, I have never met a group of people so willing and excited to have me take a picture of them. I am really enjoying that aspect of being in China because I really enjoy portraiture of all kinds. This woman was walking along the pathway of the railway picking plants to bring home. I could not believe how this woman, who had never met us before, would be so accepting of having her photo taken while also inviting all 14 of us back to her home.

Another thing I noticed about these people is that even though they are all working, they were so willing to stop what they were doing for a moment and let us photograph them. I found their pleasant attitude to be very admirable.

Everywhere we went we were hearing hello’s and receiving smiles. If I take anything away from this trip, I want it to be that these people, some the poorest of poor, can live with great attitudes and that is something to really try to emulate back in the states where everyone is too busy to stop and enjoy the things that they do have. After only one day, I can already tell that this is a very welcoming and very hardworking group of people. This man was doing what seemed like very hard labor; moving those large rocks could not have been an easy task. But, even though he was doing this work, he was more than willing to stop and smile for a brief moment to allow us to get some shots of him.

I cannot get over how beautiful the scenery in Hekou was. The colors were so vivid and full of life, just like the people. The landscape was full of visual interest. Just in these photograph alone there are buildings, rock, dirt, greenery, and water. I have never seen so many beautiful things in just one space.

On our way to breakfast, there were many people in the streets preparing food. This woman stood out to me. She was working very hard, but took the time to let our tour guide know what food she was handling. I found her to be such a beautiful person, even though it seems as though she was one of the less fortunate in terms of money in this city. Those people, I feel, were the most kind hearted and welcoming that we dealt with. The difference in the people between here and in America is astounding and it is so refreshing to see. Although we have such a language barrier, I feel very comfortable around these people. I loved the smiles and the waves. I was surprised by how many take the time to know some English. More of these people than I expected were able to say hello. I was very impressed by this because I know that in our country, most people do not take the time to do this for any foreigners.

After a long bus ride up the huge mountain filled with curving roads, we made it to our first destination. With a little bit of hiking, we made it to Quing Ku. This little folk village was filled with people who, to me, were very different from the ones we saw in Hekou in both appearance and personality. These were people who were of a much darker skin tone because of their very hard daily labor outdoors farming in the reservoirs. These people also were very smart and apparently learned at a young age that tourists want to get photographs and that for that to happen, the tourists must pay. I appreciate their understanding, but it also made it difficult. A lot of them seemed greedy and would not only take two or three yuan.

One woman was given twenty yuan and still wanted more. I understand and respect that they need to survive, but for us on a photography tour of China it was a little disheartening because that is not exactly how I want to spend my money while I am here. Although the people were like this though, I was able to get a few good shots in the folk village.

One other thing I noticed right away was how all of the women were doing the work. The men were always sitting around either talking, smoking, or playing cards. It seemed very unfair to me, but I do understand that it is the tradition of this new world I am in. Another thing I noticed which I did not think was fair was that the parents, seeing that there were American tourists in the village, dressed their children up in traditional clothing knowing we would want to take pictures and then asking us for money after. I was able to come across a little girl who seemed very interested in me. She loved getting her picture taken and loved it more when I would show her. I noticed that after I stopped taking photos she started to hang on me a little. Her mother, seemed okay with the photographs and did not as for compensation, which is why I was taking shots. It was only when an older woman came over that they started asking, They were relentless. It was an interesting experience though and I was happy to see a different side to the people. They were still as friendly as those in Kunming and Hekou, but these people knew that we could provide some of their livelihood and they were not afraid to ask for it.

After touring the folk village and doing a little shopping, we went to Tiger Mouth to watch the sunset. While there, I realized that I was staring at one of the most beautiful places I will ever see in my life. I felt so lucky to be on this trip as I took in the absolutely breathtaking scenery. I wished that the sunset could have been a little bolder, but there was some dense cloud coverage so the light reflections off the water were not as strong as they could have been. However, I did notice a change in the coloring of some of the reservoirs.

While the view from all the way up top was incredible, I found my favorite part of the day was making the trek down the 300 stairs to see it from that lower angle. While both positions were panoramic, I really enjoyed the lowest level off to the left hand side. Even though what we were looking at was the same concept as what we saw earlier on in the day, it was magnified ten fold.

There were so many more of the reservoirs that were so much closer together, and looking at them from so high up versus being right on top of them made all the difference in my opinion. I thought they were beautiful straight on, but could not have imagined I would have seen such a beautiful sight just by being high up on a mountain overlooking them. I really enjoyed the ones with red in them. The reds and the greens looked so beautiful together. The colors were really just spectacular. I could not have imagined a better way to end the day. I wish we could have gone back to see the sunrise, because maybe then the cloud cover would not have been so dense and the reds could have truly come out on the water. Although we did not get that opportunity, I was happy with what we saw the evening before.

The Bisezhai railway station, built by the French Government in 1910, became a major way to export goods such as copper, phosphate, tin, zinc, lead, silver, and gold. I found it to be a very interesting environment and also very different from the railway station we encountered in Hekou. Instead of all of the greenery surrounding the Old Railway Station in Hekou, the Bisezhai railway station in Mengzi was much more of a barren and abandoned environment.

I enjoyed how the train tracks were one meter wide. I really like the wider rails versus the thinner ones. The railway also allowed for easy transport for the people from country to country and city to city, so I found this fascinating as I really like when innovation occurs.

One thing I was very happy to see today, which was pointed out to me by Mr. Nixon, our tour guide, was that the old rail master was sitting beside the rails. I found out he was the rail master of this station for sixteen years (1970-1986) and even though he is now retired, he still comes to sit.

This just really put a lot into perspective for me in terms of how this culture works and how dedicated they remain to their jobs. Even though this man has not been rail master for 29 years, there he sat looking content as ever. I could not believe that at first. But seeing how hard these people work on a daily basis, I could see why he was so attached to this place. It was a beautiful sunny day and I am sure he just felt bliss sitting there watching everyone visit the place he was rail master over for so many years.

Coming to China, I expected to see a lot of pagodas. Everything I have ever seen on China either featured dragons or pagodas, so I was surprised that that was not the case. But today, we finally saw some. They were so beautiful and more than I ever could have expected. Pictures do not do them justice. I could not believe the intricate detailing that is on them and the colors are so vivid and beautiful. I also really appreciate the shaping of them based on an architectural standpoint. I love interesting and unique looking buildings and pagodas definitely fit that. Seeing some of the lower class buildings from the bus and then seeing these amazing architectural feats shocked me because it was like day and night. I felt like I had gone from one world to another in a short forty minute bus ride. I think my favorite thing about them is the pointed edges and the detailing that can be seen if you were to stand underneath and look up towards the roof. The colors also really stand out to me because I am drawn to bright colors. I loved that these pagodas were built around the South lake because I just believe it enhanced their beauty as the sunlight bounced off of the water and reflected highlights and created shadows.

Today while in Bisezhai on the bus going to the railway station I noticed something that made me second guess what I was seeing. I noticed almost every dog I saw out the window was wearing a collar. I did not think too much of it as we continued on our way, but then once we got the the French gardens and I noticed a pet shop it clicked. This area of China seemed to have a bit of a different view on their animals, especially dogs.

Upon going into the pet shop, myself, Vicky, and Natalie came upon puppies as well as older dogs for sale. The shop also had harnesses, leashes, and dog houses. This to me was so different than the experiences I had in Hekou and Yuanyang when it came to animals. In those cities, dogs roamed free and nobody really bothered with them. But on the bus I noticed the dogs had collars and I even saw a young boy rubbing the stomach of a dog and playing around with it.

This type of interaction felt right at home for me as this is how we treat our pets. The biggest thing that shocked me though was that they had a pet store. I really thought that people just found dogs on the street and maybe fed them to lure them to their homes or out to the fields with them. I had no idea that they could be bought. While these dogs were not in the absolute best of conditions, they still seemed better off than those just freely roaming the streets. This pet store find was a gem for me though as I learned a new thing about China. I came here not even knowing if animals would be roaming and now I am able to see that some roam freely and some come from shops; it all just depends on what city you are in it seems. Of course being in there made me want to take them all home with me, but it was the surprise of the day for me and I am happy I noticed the pet store so that I could be educated on the fact that this country does indeed sell dogs in stores. If I did not find this place, I would still be thinking that people just found a dog they wanted from the street and brought it home.

One thing I noticed upon my arrival in China that I thought was odd was the amount of clothing I was seeing hanging outside to dry. To me, this seemed odd for several reasons. First, I am not used to seeing people hang their clothing outside to dry, second, it seemed rather counter productive to hang clothes out to dry when the air is filled with dirt and smog, and third, I wondered why, if the Chinese make our clothing dryers back at home, they do not have the dryers here?

I assumed it is a money thing, but was not positive. I know that now that we are back in Kunming we were told of a laundry facility underneath our hotel that does laundry and dries and irons them for you if you desire. Of course, it is for a fee, but that is when I first heard or saw any talk of a dryer.

Although I find it to be odd, I actually really like to look at the clothing here. It is interesting to see the variety that people hang. In Hekou, I really only noticed typical clothing, but on our second day back in Kunming where the sun was shining and the weather was warm, I noticed the workers uniform seen above, normal clothing, and undergarments for the first time. While I still find it to be odd that they make dryers and do not really use them, it seems to resonate with other things I have noticed that they make but do not use. Although China is a superpower and the leading manufacturer of basically everything that we use in American society, they seem to me, to be somewhat behind in terms of what they have. I would think it is because they cannot afford to own these things themselves, but the concept just seems very foreign to me.

Regardless of the reasonings behind why they do not have the modern luxuries that they make, I love looking at the clothing hanging and I think each line of clothing has its own story. Village clothing is very different from the clothing we see in the city, and it has been different places and been on people doing different tasks. So I really like seeing it, it is just that it seems so weird to me to hang them.

— Angela McCavera, art and art history 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.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Not letting winter break, break you

Finals are done, and I’m heading home for winter break.

It’s a bitter sweet moment, I can’t wait to go back to my mom’s cooking, but I’m not looking forward to my parents asking me what I’m doing, where I’m going, what time I will be home every single day. I also can’t wait to have some alone time because in college, you are always surrounded by people.

My first winter break was such a wonderful experience and change from high school. Over winter break in college, all you have to worry about is getting your final grades back from classes and ordering books for next semester classes. Another fun and exciting thing is that you picked your classes on your own, you aren’t placed into those classes by your advisor, so you have something to look forward to. This is also a great opportunity to make some money with a part-time job.

Now that you are more familiar with the campus and the things you can do near or around campus and have made friends to do stuff with, you need some cash. I worked at a restaurant part-time, but I found myself really bored at home. A lot of my friends from high school had jobs they needed to work at too or stayed at school to take winter classes or have even moved away. This winter I found a second part-time job to keep my busy.

As winter break came to a close, I was getting extremely anxious to go back to school to see all of my friends and be away from my parents again. I was even missing the food at the commons!! But for others, that wasn’t the case.

I asked my roommate before I started writing this blog about her experience her freshmen year to get someone else’s perspective, so I wasn’t completely bias.


I found out that at that time in her college career here, she was thinking about transferring or dropping out of school to go work. She came in as a freshmen not really knowing what she wanted to do, so she was undeclared.

She also didn’t have the best roommate experience, and your roommate is supposed to be your new best friend. It doesn’t always work out that way, I know it didn’t for me either.

When you don’t make that good connection with your roommate your freshmen year, it deters you from making other friends here as well, it gives you the impression that a lot of people around you aren’t nice either, so you don’t even bother trying. Sometimes you do try to make friends with the people in your hallway, but the drama with your roommate haunts you with the people that live around you.

For example, when my roommate and I started to argue and not get a long, she would turn people that lived in the hall against me. She was more outgoing and confrontational then I was, so I had a hard time sticking up for myself. Situations like that, from my experience, make you want to stay in your room and keep to yourself focused on the next time you get to go home.

I found out at the end of my first semester that my roommate was dropping out of school and going home to work because she found that school was too expensive for her. That was a huge weight off of my shoulders, because I felt like I could have a new start with a different roommate the next semester. My roommate on the other hand, did not have that luxury.

She decided to give Bloomsburg one more semester before she gave up for good. She said, “It was the best decision she ever made.”

Early into her second semester, she joined Program Board and made a ton of friends. She had a place to go whenever her and her roommate were arguing or she just wanted to get away. She also told me that after your first semester in college, you realize how much free time you actually have.

I asked, her, if you had any advice for students who were thinking of transferring, what would you say to them and she said, “Join a club, get involved, and don’t give up. Your years at college will be one of the best experiences of your life, so take advantage of them in any way that you can.”

College has definitely been a roller coaster for me, but I wouldn’t change my experiences for the world. I wouldn’t be where I am today and I am extremely happy and proud of the person that I have become and am still becoming. Even if your situation isn’t ideal, keep trying and keep your head up.

“I believe everything happens for a reason…and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Marilyn Monroe

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Friday, November 21, 2014

Seeing my future come into focus

College is nothing like high school, I actually remember being there forever and wanting to leave. If I could, I would stay in college for at least a couple more years (and never get older of course).

High school is as static as it gets, not a whole lot changes. College is very dynamic, you never know what the next day has in store for you. You hear people tell you that time flies, but that doesn’t seem more true than anywhere but college.

This month is going to be full of adventure and opportunities for me. Today, the Career Development Center organized a career fair with a room full of different companies from UPS, Fastenal, and Crayola where you could walk around and network and hand out resumes to. Since I worked at Fastenal as a sales-trainee over the summer, I talked to the district manager about getting some hours over winter break. Not only was he excited for me to come back and work at the Milton location, but he also wanted me to work at the Bloomsburg Fastenal next semester.

This just shows you that you should always work your hardest and even if you need to leave a company for any reason, you should never burn any bridges with anyone. You never know when you might need a job in the future or a few hours to make some extra cash. Students from my Advanced Professional Sales class went to talk to UPS to thank them for funding some of our trip to Orlando, FL to the International Collegiate Sales Competition (ICSC). We talked about careers in sales and how much they love their jobs because they get paid to talk to people and create relationships. They also gave us some advice about interviewing and resume tips.

The ICSC was the most amazing experience I have encountered during my years here at Bloomsburg. The ICSC consisted of two competitions, one was the Tom James role play and the other was a Sales Management Case competition. I competed in the Sales Management Case competition, because soon I will be going to New Jersey for another sales competition.

We arrived in Florida on Thursday and immediately went to the opening ceremony and registration. At 7:30 p.m. that night, my partner and I were given our case where we had 18 hours to creating a presentation. We immediately went back to the hotel and plugged the flash drive that they gave us and stared terrified and immediately stressed at the 12 pages of information.

We were given a scenario of a real company that was fictitiously struggling and we had to come up with an idea to help them get back on their feet and present it to two people from companies that were sponsoring the event and the third person that was from the actual company the case was about. We researched and brainstormed and paced up and down all night and day to finish this presentation. 

We had to hand in our PowerPoint by 1 p.m. Friday. It was getting down to the wire, we were scrambling to get this presentation finished but we did. We had to present our ideas to the judges without any practice. We went in there and nailed it! Luckily, we got to see our judges later that day and talk to them about how they think we did. I got the most encouraging feedback I have ever received in my life. The feedback I got from the judges actually made me 110 percent sure that I was going in the right path for my future. The experience was something that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

A total of six of us (including our professor) went to Orlando for this competition, Jordan Barnett and Amanda Leshko competed in the role play competition and Austin Schwarts was an alternate if anything had happened to any one of us. Even if you were an alternate coming to this competition, the companies that were at the career fair there wanted you. Students aren’t invited to these competitions “just because,” you are invited because you have a passion for sales and you are good at.

Dr. Favia picked a great group to go to the competition this year. Anthony Furjanic and I did not place in the top four out of the 21 schools that competed in the case competition but we definitely made an impression on people from industry. Jordan made it to the second round and also made a good impression on some of the judges. Amanda did an amazing job and made it to round three where she was in the top sixteen out of 84 students. We definitely put a good word out about Bloomsburg University because different companies introduced themselves to Dr. Favia and wanted to make connections with her and our University. Overall the trip was an amazing experience and we couldn’t have done it without Dr. Monica Favia, thank you!

Another opportunity I couldn’t have been able to have without Dr. Favia, is an interview with ADP. She encouraged us to talk to a recruiter from APD about a month and a half ago to get some information about the company to see if we would be interested in working there. After meeting with the recruiter, we emailed her our resumes and gained a brief phone interview and an in-office interview.

At ICSC, when we walked around the job fair, we pretty much had mini interviews with each company that we talked to. Some of them asked me questions that I was prepared for and others asked me some that I wasn’t so that helped me prepare for next week. Another way that helped teach me how to interview, were the Professional U sessions that the University organizes. They are extremely informative and you learn something new every time.

Along with my interview next week, I will be going to another sales competition in New Jersey where I will be participating in the role play competition. At this competition we will have to sell ADP in various scenarios in various rounds. This competition will also have a career fair where I can market myself to potential businesses around the US.

My second to last semester has most definitely flown by with the blink of an eye. The most I can do is to get out as much as possible from my experiences as I can and learn as much as I can before I get thrown out into the real world. My advice to you, is to take advantages of the opportunities that surround you every single day. Don’t put something off or push great opportunities to the side, you never know when you might get them again and when they do, they will be gone in a blink of an eye.

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

3 organizations I wish I would have joined

Bloomsburg has so many opportunities for absolutely anyone on campus with any interest. If there isn’t something for you, it is extremely easy to create your own club! I was lucky enough to discover Program Board and it has most definitely opened an infinite amount of doors for my future, but there a few other organizations on campus that I wish I would have joined.

When I was in high school and looking at colleges, I was planning on being a nurse. I never in my wildest dreams would have predicted that in three years from my senior year, be a senior majoring in the business field, let alone being a marketing major but that is exactly where I am now and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But when I was in high school, there was a club called Phi Beta Lambda, which stands for Future Business Leaders.

If I would have known that I would be where I am today when I was in high school, I would have joined that club in a heartbeat. As a freshmen, I had no idea what I was getting into, how much time I would have on my hands, or any idea what Bloomsburg had to offer. I was very narrow minded and that is one of my biggest regrets.

After my three years here, I wish I would have joined this club for a couple of reasons; it’s a resume booster, it is a national business organization recognized throughout the country, and holds fundraisers, guest speaker events and meet the alumni events. This club would have been great for expanding my network and would have expanded my knowledge about the campus and what Bloomsburg has to offer for after I graduate. If I had the opportunity to meet alumni, I’m sure I would be hearing a lot of the advice I am now giving you.

Another organization that I wish I would have joined is the American Marketing Association (AMA). AMA is a professional association for individuals and organizations teaching and developing marketing knowledge worldwide. This club could have given me a great opportunity to really expand and grow my knowledge of the ever changing marketing world. This club could have given me a leg up on some applicants that I will be competing with for jobs. They say it’s all about who you know in the business world and the more connections you make and the wider your network, the more doors will be open for you in the future.

They also get the opportunity to go to the International Collegiate American Marketing Association Conference where you can take your marketing skills to the next level by learning from and interacting with current marketing professionals from all over the country. At the conference there would be presentations that are given about current market trends, how to get a career in marketing, and the constant change of marketing. This would have been an amazing resume booster and a great opportunity for anyone in marketing.

The past two organizations I talked about were very similar in how they could benefit me and were geared more toward something that would have increased my knowledge in the field of business, but my third organization is a bit different. I would have loved to join the dance ensemble. Now you’re probably thinking, “What in the world does that have to do with your major and can you even dance?”

Good question! No, I have never tried dancing in my entire life, but I love the Step Up movies and wish I could own those skills that they have and dance like no one but yet everyone is watching! *snaps fingers and strikes a sassy pose* Another reason is because a couple of my friends were part of the dance ensemble and I would have loved to have something other than classes that we can all have fun at. Don’t get me wrong, dance is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time and effort, but it sounds like a lot of fun too!

Okay, okay if you want to hear about the resume side of things and how it can benefit you, then here it is. When you join the dance ensemble, you are joining a team, you need to learn discipline, time management skills, teamwork, reliability, and confidence. I recently had a practice phone interview with a company that I might be working for after I graduate and she explained to me how I should answer the question, “Why do I want to be a sales person?”

She told me to think about the sports that I was in and talk about those abilities that I possessed and whip them out for the kill! She also told me that bringing up any inspiring stories that you may have from doing some sort of sport or activity. Since I have never had a single dance lesson in my life, I’m sure there are plenty of obstacles I could have brought up during an interview that I could have overcame.

All in all, joining any sort of club or organization on campus can expand you knowledge, network, and skills and abilities that can be helpful for the future. Don’t’ be afraid to try new things or meet new people. Remember, college is one of the biggest opportunities you will ever have to try out hundreds of new and exciting things. Like I said before, I had no idea I would be in the position that I am today, the future is always changing, don’t hold back, take a deep breath, and go for it!

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to survive your last year of grad school

My graduate school experience has had its share of meals on-the-go, motivational self-talks and 16 hour days. Holding two assistantships and advising multiple undergraduate committees and groups, maintaining a full-time class schedule all while preserving some shred of a personal life can be overwhelming at times.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel extremely thankful for the opportunities given to me and I am more driven by my demanding schedule than I have ever felt before.

However, I am not a complete robot and even I still have those moments when anxiety gets the best of me and my inner child just wants to crawl into a pillow fort, where my responsibilities cease to exist, and color pictures of unicorns for a few hours.

I’m not an expert, but I feel as if giving into these fleeting breakdowns once in a while is not only inevitable, but necessary to retaining our humanity as grad students.

Here is my to-do list if you’re interested in keeping your sanity throughout grad school:
  • Keep your schedule in your phone. If you’re anything like me, your phone is constantly within an arm’s reach. After experimenting with several different planners and scheduling methods, the most practical form has been my iPhone calendar. Add your daily/weekly schedule first (classes, office hours, etc.) then as soon as you find out something is happening, put it in your phone, set an alert, and free up some space in your brain!
  • Stop procrastinating. If you’re someone who is always waiting until the last minute to get things done, now is the time to break that habit. If you don’t already, you’ll soon learn what it’s like for something to come up an hour before a deadline and have to explain why the assignment was late. Your professors and supervisors will accept the “something came up” excuse once or twice, but anyone in Higher Education most likely has a similar schedule and, therefore, squandering sympathy for your lack of ability to plan for unforeseen circumstances.
  • Schedule free time. Self-care is different for everyone, but extremely important. If you’re waiting for free time to magically appear, good luck. Figure out how much time you can reasonably set aside for yourself without falling behind in your other responsibilities. If family, friends or gym time is important to you, schedule it. If it’s already in your calendar, when someone asks when you can add a meeting, you’ll be less likely to take away the only hour you have to yourself.
  • Sleep. Eat. Study. You are a human first and a student second. Everything else will come with time. Adding everything at once will only be detrimental to your health, grades and duties.
  • When things get overwhelming, re-evaluate. Grad school is a perfect time to learn how to balance time and experiment with how much you can take on and still give 100%. When that percentage starts to drop, your balancing act might need reassessment. If you find yourself completely booked with no time to sleep study or eat, it’s time to rework your current plan. Maybe it means taking a few hours away from one position and adding them somewhere else. Maybe a conversation with an advisor or supervisor can add some clarity and take away some pressure. It might also mean dropping one responsibility completely, and that’s ok sometimes. You can always add more responsibilities again after you get a better grip on things.
  • Don’t panic. Grad school is the perfect place to make mistakes. You’re probably surrounded by helping professionals who want nothing more than to see you succeed! If everything hasn’t fallen into place quite yet, don’t worry too much. It will.

— Alyssa Meyers is obtaining a graduate degree in Counseling and College Student Affairs (CSA) at Bloomsburg University, where she holds a graduate assistantship in the Student Activities Office. There, she assists in overseeing Bloomsburg's Program Board, Concert Committee and other groups and committees related to campus-wide event and activity planning.

Alyssa also holds a part-time position at Penn State University's Hazleton campus, where she is the Assistant Coordinator in the Office of Residence Life. In this position, she oversees a 10-person student Resident Assistant staff, works with the full-time residence life staff and participates in on-call or "Duty" responsibilities.

Prior to starting her career in student affairs, worked as a caseworked at Columbia County Children and Youth Services. She gained experience in crisis management, community health, and strength-based intervention strategies. Last summer, Alyssa moved to the Los Angeles area and worked with the Student Life and Engagement staff at Marymount California University. The focal point of her summer was designing an LGBT Safe Zone training manual and additional programming for the upcoming academic year.