Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Nancy Che, Verrazano Class of 2018, has diverse interests--biology, art, and. . .Japanese! She had the opportunity to brush up on her Japanes skills on study abroad to Kyoto Japan, in the summer of 2016. 

The summer of 2016 is one I will never forget—one full of adventure, learning, fun, excitement, and meeting new people in the country I have always wanted to visit! It was one full of firsts: first time riding a plane, first time traveling alone, first time living in a dorm, first time studying Japanese again in 3 years… Riding an airplane for the first time was at first nerve wrecking, but then I found myself in awe and amazement at how far human technologies have advanced to permit such a heavy object to fly through the air!

Nancy Che, Class of 2018
Primarily studying and living in Kyoto, I had the opportunity to be surrounded by such traditional Japanese architecture and culture. I got to see the temple of gold (Kinkakuji Temple), tori gates of bright red (like those at Miyajima Island and Fushimi Inari Shrine), mountains full of lush greens (such as Arashiyama), walk through towering bamboo forests (Take no Mori), and see wild deer at Nara. Every day was an adventure to see as much of Japan as my classmates and I could after class, especially since places can close as early as 5pm for the day.

This trip helped me develop stronger perseverance, stamina, and a sense of independence. When it came to food, to me, any restaurant’s food in Japan was amazingly delicious and cheaper than NY! I often had ramen, udon, donburi’s (rice bowl dishes), and green tea desserts. There was always something to do and places to see that there are still so many places I want to visit still.

I have always loved the Japanese culture and language and this study abroad experience allowed me to be immersed in it all. I had classmates from around the world and one thing I found precious was being able to befriend and converse with my Korean classmates using Japanese as our mutual shared language. In addition to studying the language, I got to experience and learn more about the culture. I had the opportunity to learn about and meet geiko-san and maiko-san, also more commonly known as geishas in Eastern Japan and other countries, which an average Japanese person may never get to meet. I got to learn about and make my own sensu (hand fan) and ceramic bowl through the traditional method used centuries ago, and wear a yukata to the Gion Festival, one of the largest festivals in Japan!

Nancy in a kimono at the Gion Festival
Now that I’ve caught the travel bug, my advice to you would be to try studying abroad if they have the chance! To me, it was a college experience I was searching for and something that made me feel more rounded as individual. I am definitely grateful to have shared such an amazing life experience with all the wonderful people I met in Japan! If you’re excited about seeing another country, go open-minded, try new things, and embrace the experience!
A shrine at Uji

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Alum Perspective: Pay Attention to Flyers!

Erica Golin, an alumna from the class of 2015, earned her degree in Psychology with a Sociology/Anthropology minor. But her life changed when she saw a flyer. . .

Erica by the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers
On March 31, 2014, the course of my life was changed by watching a documentary in the Green Dolphin Lounge. Sounds dramatic, but this was my experience as an undergraduate student. A flyer caught my attention, an invitation to watch the documentary Paradise or Oblivion, hosted by Professor Harry Cason. The concept presented in the 48-minute video, available on YouTube, is Resource-Based Economy, which means living sustainably and eliminating the root causes of problems. Since watching Paradise or Oblivion for the first time two years ago, I have learned about the values and processes that contribute to a truly sustainable society, and this has influenced my lens of the entire world.

I am grateful for Professor Cason for inviting me to guest lecture about Resource-Based Economy in December for his World Political History classes. Without a passion pushing me, I might not have decided to go on to get my MPA from Columbia University in Environmental Science and Policy (I’m starting in June). I have also met Ja
cque Fresco, the 100-year-old futurist who coined the term “Resource-Based Economy,” twice.

As an alum of the College of Staten Island preparing to go to grad school, I have this advice for you:  If something catches your interest, listen to that voice of excitement and curiosity within you and just go for it

Monday, April 25, 2016

Arlinda Draga enjoys a feast of art and cuisine in Florence

Arlinda Draga, Verrazano Class of 2016, is studying Biology with a Biochemistry minor, but took advantage of a study abroad opportunity to travel abroad to Florence, Italy, in the winter of 2016, to feast on the arts and the cuisine.

Taking an art class in Florence
            I had an amazing experience on my study abroad trip to Florence, Italy this past winter. Florence was defiantly a huge culture shock for me.  I had the opportunity to live with three other students from New York on the top floor of an apartment next to Duomo di Firenze.  Duomo di Firenze is the main church of Florence and is considered to be one of the largest churches in the world.  Everyday my roommates and I would walk past the Duomo and get our cappuccinos before going to class.  I had the privilege of taking an introductory drawing class that was taught by an Italian artist who lived in Florence.  My professor taught us many different ways to draw and made us appreciate all the famous art work of Florence.  During class we would walk to museums and do sketches of famous paintings and sculptures.  We also had the privilege of drawing live nude models to help us practice for our final drawings.  For one of our final projects we were told to go to the top of Piazza Michelangelo and sketch a drawing of the view at the top of the hill.  We were also told to go to three famous areas of Italy and complete a drawing of our view.  My roommates and I went to the leaning tower of Pisa, the Coliseum in Rome and the top of the duomo in Florence and did three separate sketches of these breathtaking views.  This art class not only taught me how to draw, but it gave me the experience to travel Italy and see the real lifestyle of an Italian.


Throughout my trip, I tried some of the most amazing Tuscany dishes which included truffle pasta, T-bone steak, caprese salad, gelato and much more.  Florence is definitely an experience like no other.  Every other store down most of the blocks either sold wine, leather jackets or pizza.  During the night there were secret bakeries at different corners that would sell the freshest pastries.  The people of Florence would tell us to find the bakeries by following the smells in the streets of the pastries being prepared.  I believe that I adapted to the Italian culture very well on this trip.  Im extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Florence at such a young age.  This humbling experience not only made me more open minded to different cultures but it made me want to travel all over the world.  


Friday, April 22, 2016

Ni Hao Shanghai!

Veronica LaManna, Verrazano Class of 2016, is majoring in International Business with a business finance and a French minor. She has taken advantage of Verrazano Study Abroad scholarships on more than one occasion!  She shares her latest adventure here.

Future Veronica photobombed by friends in China.
If I were to build a time machine and go back in time to tell freshman Veronica that she would study abroad two times in two different countries before she graduated, freshman Veronica would think future her was crazy.  Over the Winter 2016 Semester I was blessed to have a second opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai, China.  Even though it was a last minute decision, I can say that this experience changed my life once again.  Before studying abroad in China, I spent a semester in Nice, France.  Well, France and China couldn’t be more different from each other.  As I got on the plane and started my journey to the Far East, I began to question my decision and myself.  Was this the right place to study abroad? Will I be able to survive without knowing the language or without Facebook for one month? (The use of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is banned in China.)  I was expecting to be in complete culture shock as soon as I landed in China.  Well my expectations were correct.  

I had never experienced that much culture shock since my trip to Morocco, except it was a very different type of culture shock.  As we took our stop in Japan, we began to enter what seemed like the future.  Finally after twenty-four hours of traveling we finally arrived in Shanghai, or I should call it the future.  The bright lights and the metro were just two things that felt like the future for us.  The first time taking the metro was an experience in itself.  First you are overwhelmed by the amount of people rushing to catch the train, then you are overwhelmed by the amount of futuristic vending machines selling anything from Sony Headphones to freshly squeezed orange juice, finally you are overwhelmed by the skill needed to actually get on the train without being closed in the doors.  Besides my fear of the metro, the other culture shocks I experienced in Shanghai were well worth it.  
Everyday the other students and I would try our best to try every type of street food Shanghai had to offer and even try to speak Chinese, or what sounded like Chinese to us, with the locals.  We all felt like we were gaining about two hundred pounds but thankfully all the walking we did exploring evened it out for us.   I would say the only negative side to studying abroad in Shanghai was the amount of time we had there.  We wanted to do so many things but since we only had three weeks and had to attend Chinese classes every day it made it difficult to complete every adventure.  Nonetheless studying abroad in Shanghai has given me not only unforgettable memories but also valuable friendships.  After we left China, some other students and I even got to take a four-day stop in Japan.   I’m so grateful to have received the study abroad scholarship and the student government travel grant in order to make this experience possible.  Xie Xie!

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Personal, Professional, and Spiritual Journey to Costa Rica

Farzeen Kanwal (Class of 2016) is completing her Bachelor's Degree of Nursing. She decided to take advantage of the College of Staten Island's study abroad program in her final year of school, and was transformed by the experience.           

From the first day of joining of the Verrazano Honors Program, I remember hearing about how important it is to study abroad. I admit I did not have a strong interest at first since it did not seem financially realistic for my family and I, but still I made sure to keep the option open. As I entered my final year of college, I thought to myself: “it is now or never, Farzeen” and I could definitely say that I am glad I took advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

            I participated in a three week faculty led program in San Jose, Costa Rica with seventeen other CSI students and every day was a new adventure. On weekday mornings, we would wake up at
CSI has a faculty-led nursing program
in Costa Rica.
about 5 a.m. for clinical and visit various hospitals and clinics. We would interact with patients, see surgeries, and were given lectures by Costa Rican healthcare professionals. Afterwards, we would have Spanish class and explore the local neighborhood before our day had come to an end. On the weekends, we went on several trips in other cities such as ziplining, chocolate tours, hot springs, beach resorts, and national parks.

Here are some memorable experiences that I would like to share:   
Taking blood pressure for the first time as an RN.
This picture was from our very first clinical rotation in Costa Rica. We visited a senior citizen daycare called Hogar Magdala, where we were told about the history of the place as well as given information on who resides there. In the picture below, it was my first time taking blood pressure since completing the nursing associate degree program. I admit I was quite nervous at first because I was not sure how to approach them, especially considering the language barrier. The frustration disappeared when one of the patients smiled and held out her arm for a blood pressure reading. When I told her the result, she was quite happy that it was within the normal range. In future practice, I will remember not to be nervous when approaching a patient, instead I will remind myself that I am helping them reach their goals to lead a healthier lifestyle and there’s absolutely no reason to be scared about that.

Costa Rica gave me the opportunity to think about cultural
differences in the approach to health and wellness.

This picture was taken when we visited the shaman in the mountains. I was looking forward to this the most on the trip since I have always wanted to learn more about their spiritual practices. He gave us a lecture about the indigenous population and how it was attacked by the people of Spain. He also shed light on a matter I never seemed to think about - spiritual healing is as important as medicine. This type of natural healing is very important to them. In America, we do not necessarily ignore spiritual health, we just do not give it as much consideration as we do for medicine. We tend to go after physical medicine before asking the patient about their own views on ways of healing. He gave us the advice to be open- minded about spiritual healing, and not solely rely on what we are taught.

During our last night of the farewell dinner, I decided to reflect upon what I have learned in Costa Rica. From the nursing knowledge I obtained which I could apply to future practice to the places I have seen, I am very thankful for this experience. Before coming to Costa Rica, I was honestly not sure what to expect. All I really knew about the country was that it was located in Central America. The most interesting aspect about my trip was understanding Costa Rica’s approach to healthcare. They do not have an army to fund; therefore 8% of the tax payer’s money goes to their healthcare system and education. I liked that they have primary care delivery options and how involved they are in getting to know information about the health of the community. We do not really do that here in America, but I think it is a great idea to implement. Aside from that, I thought about the lessons I have learned with the people I was able to call family in such a short period of time. We all helped each other grow in numerous ways and made so many fun memories along our journey.

My advice to those thinking about traveling (whether it is to study abroad or not) would be to just do it. Immersing yourself into a new culture will help you grow as a person in ways you would not have imagined.