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.  

Yum!






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.




Friday, April 8, 2016

Adventures in Shanghai

Kashef Razi (Class of 2018) is a Business Management and Computer Science major with a minor in Chinese. He participated in the College of Staten Island's winter program in Shanghai, China.

I remember the first day I heard about the study abroad program. I was utterly fascinated and thought of it as an unattainable dream. I use to joke around with my friends and sister saying that I would definitely go one day but knew all too well that it was too difficult a task to accomplish, or so I thought. The program made it all too easy to take a trip across the globe; all I had to do was take the first step and so I did. It was one of the greatest achievements that I have ever accomplished and I will always look back at it and recommend it to others.
I distinctly remember the day we stepped out of that airplane and the exciting feelings I had. I knew that it was the start of an adventure and I could feel it underneath my skin. Even though we arrived at night, when most things were closed, I just wanted to explore. I wanted to see the people, the culture, the new scenery, and of course try the amazingly delicious food I have been hearing so much about. Shanghai became my new home those three weeks and I did not want to leave.
Kashef (right) enjoy an outing in Shanghai
            The people, the architecture, and the culture it all fascinated me. The trains were extremely crowded during rush hour, so much so that you would be cheek to cheek with someone for quite a few stops but even so, I loved it. Shanghai was extremely clean and sophisticated. I expected to see an overly populated China town but instead I entered a sophisticated and advanced metropolis. Watching people do tai chi in the morning and dance routines at night was definitely a sight worth seeing.
Mahwish and Kashef Razi can't believe they're in China!
            I’m back from China and it feels like it was only yesterday that we would grab a hot mango green tea between class breaks and travel to all different parts of Shanghai. The last week had us all feeling sad that it was almost time for us to go back and all we could say was that we would make the most of the final days that we had in Shanghai. We made sure not to waste a minute while we were there. The only regret I had was that I didn’t stay longer. Studying abroad in China was a worthwhile experience and taught me so much. It gave me a new perspective and helped guide me towards my future endeavors. I hope, and firmly recommend, that anyone who reads this has gained even a slight interest in studying abroad and all I have to say is that you will not regret it.