Taylor Avery: Study Abroad in The Netherlands

It seemed like an outrageous idea to leave everything behind for half a year. It wasn’t until I was offered a real opportunity that I started to consider how much of an impact studying abroad could have on me. I was told that the Netherlands had a business program, so I decided to follow through with applying to the school and just seeing what happened from there. Then, I received an acceptance letter and the next thing I knew I was informing people I would be gone for five months, I bought a plane ticket, and I said goodbye to familiarity.

 A memory that stands out about the plane ride to Amsterdam was the fear that brought tears to my eyes and made my hands shake. Luckily, I was traveling with another UCA student who was going to be at the same university in The Hague. We started talking to a wonderful Dutch man who was traveling back to the Netherlands after doing business in the United States. He gave us advice and assured us that we would be just fine. I remember falling asleep and praying that he was right and hoping for some comfort in his words.

 Upon arriving to Amsterdam, we frantically tried to figure out the train system to get to our apartments in The Hague, where our university was located. After buying the wrong type of ticket, getting off at the wrong station (with multiple suitcases per person), and then finally arriving to our apartments I was feeling a type of exhaustion that I had never experienced before. On the train, we had been surrounded by Dutch conversations going on around us. People of all walks of life were speaking this language and I felt like the biggest outsider. Growing up in a small town, I was familiar with so many people and could strike up a conversation with just about any person that I came across. For once in my life, I was genuinely self-conscious to even say hi to other people.

 We went to the orientation the following day, and immediately gravitated towards Americans who were in the program from other universities. If you’re wondering how we could tell they were American, just know that they are always the loudest person in any room. My friends in Europe used to make fun of me all the time for talking so loud. I was so happy to gain some familiarity, even if it was from total strangers. We made plans to visit Amsterdam together that weekend, and ended up traveling to Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany with them later in the semester.

These friends ended up being my go-to people when I needed a taste of America. We traveled together, ate together, challenged each other, saw the most beautiful sights of our lifetime and bonded through our heartaches for simplicities like Wal-Mart and junk food like Taco Bell. These friendships were the first challenge to my personal growth as I allowed myself to open up to people who I barely knew. I gave a part of myself to these friendships knowing I was receiving the same from them. I went from being a closed-off person to being able to express my feelings freely and be daring, adventurous, and confident. I can never thank them enough for helping me grow into this person that I am now.

 Going back to the orientation day, I soon discovered that I was in a separate program than all my American buddies. So, I lost my familiar again. It was hard making friends at school at first. Most of the other exchange students were from European countries and they immediately bonded through conversations about their credits and internships. I couldn’t really find a common ground to relate until a week or so later when I was asked by one of my professors about Donald Trump and I made a bit of a joke and my first non-American friend laughed and invited me to go eat together after class. She was Danish and outgoing and reminded me of myself in Conway. She introduced me to the group of friends that I spent most of my time with. Two Danish girls, two German girls, an Aruban girl, and myself.

These girls shared their cultures with me and allowed me to ask all of the stupid questions my heart desired. I was so eager to learn about their lives and they felt the same about me. They were hilarious and exciting and had no filters. I learned to be okay with myself and be happy to be who I was. They gave me a confidence I was so incredibly proud of at the end of my journey. I traveled with them several times and we have already made plans for them to visit me in America.

 I discovered that my comfort is found in people and relationships. No matter what country I was traveling to and no matter how scary that was, the people I experienced it with helped me find comfort and familiarity. What I love about the relationships that I made in my time in Europe is that it made me comfortable with myself. I ended up becoming a professional at public transportation in all forms. Trains, trams, planes, you name it and I could figure it out now. I became comfortable enough that I traveled alone to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Five months flew by, and I would give anything to experience it twice. I would encourage every person who can to take the leap of faith and study abroad, especially if you can do it for a semester. You can potentially experience a personal growth that only giving up the “familiar” can give you.

 

Jasmin Cotoco: 50 Must Do’s When in Greater China, Philippines, and South Korea

This summer, thanks to generous funding from the Honors College, I embarked on my dream study abroad trip. I, with one of my best friends, Lindsey Hazeslip, spent six days in Hong Kong, a day in Macau, thirty-five days in Shanghai, four days in Beijing, twenty-four days in the Philippines, and seven days in South Korea. As much as I would love to, in no way could I ever wholly and justifiably share all of the crazy and phenomenal memories I made with friends and family in just one blog post. Instead, I decided to list all the Must Do’s of the places I visited based on my experiences, just in case you ever chance your way upon these destinations in your next trip.

Hong Kong

  1. Get a bird’s-eye view of Hong Kong at Victoria’s Peak. (Pro-tip: Save the sweat and ride The Peak Tram all the way up.)
  2. Stroll around Central District to admire all the architectural buildings.
  3. Walk around Ngong Ping Village.
  4. Greet the Tian Tan Buddha, the world’s biggest seated, outdoor Buddha.
  5. Visit the Po Lin Monastery. Take a peek at the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
  6. Explore Tsim Tsa Tsui. (Pro-tip: Book your hotel here. If you pick the right one and get lucky, you could have the perfect view of Hong Kong’s city scape from across Victoria Harbour. It is literally “lit” at night.)
  7. Visit Disneyland.
  8. Shop ‘til you drop in Mongkok. Visit street markets like The Ladies Market and Sneaker Street.
  9. Must Eats: Dimsum, Ice Cream-filled Eggette waffle. Also, Hong Kong Milk Tea is to die for!!

Macau

  1. Visit Senado Square to get a feel of the city’s Portuguese influence.
  2. Visit the Ruins of St.Paul.
  3. Ogle at the luxurious casinos, such as the Grand Lisboa, The Venetian, The Parisian, and Studio City.
  4. Must Eats: Egg tarts, Portuguese food, and jerky. (Pro-tip: Take all the free jerky samples.)

Shanghai

  1. Learn Chinese at East China Normal University. ECNU places you in a lively classroom full of other international students. You’ll take reading classes, a listening class, and a speaking class and will learn how to read and write hundreds of words in a short time. You’ll lose sleep and your sanity, but you’ll reap the benefits of this immersion when you gain so much Mandarin fluency.
  2. Stroll through the Bund to get a waterside view of Shanghai’s signature skyline.
  3. Visit Nanjing Road, a shopaholic’s heaven.
  4. Visit Shanghai Disneyland, the newest and largest Disneyland.
  5. Visit the Shanghai Museum and learn about ancient Chinese painting, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, and more.
  6. Visit Jingan Temple in the middle of bustling downtown Shanghai.
  7. Visit Longhua Temple, the biggest and most authentic temple in Shanghai.
  8. Wander around Tianzifang, Shanghai’s artsy, hipstery district.
  9. Sing your heart out at a karaoke bar.
  10. Must Eats: Hotpot, Dumplings, and Chinese KFC

Beijing

  1. Explore the Forbidden City and its 90+ palace compounds. Soak in the ancient Chinese cultural history while walking through the many museum collections.
  2. Hike the Great Wall. (Pro-tip: Avoid going after torrential rainfall. Entry to the wall closes because of possible “geological disasters.”)
  3. Stroll through the Summer Palace with its beautiful lakes, gardens, palaces, and temples.
  4. Must Eat: Peking Roast Duck

Philippines

  1. Experience Philippine shopping culture and go mall hopping. (Pro-tip: Best malls are Megamall, SM Aura, BGC, and Greenhills)
  2. Go food tripping. Food is very cheap, and you can find restaurants of ANY cuisine.
  3. Explore Intramuros to learn about Filipino history.
  4. Go swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Panglao Beach.
  5. ATV through the Chocolate Hills.
  6. Say hi to the tarsiers.
  7. Go ziplining through the rainforests.
  8. Enjoy lunch on a jungle river cruise.
  9. FILIPINO Must Eats: ….I personally approve of EVERYTHING.

Seoul

  1. Wander through Myeongdong, and stock up on all the renowned Korean fashion, makeup, and skincare.
  2. Get lost in COEX mall, Asia’s largest underground shopping mall.
  3. Have a taste of Korea’s youth culture in Hongdae. Sit and enjoy the many talent-filled street musicians and dancers.
  4. Cuddle dogs and enjoy a drink at a dog cafe.
  5. Stroll through Garosugil, a more quiet, high-end shopping district.
  6. Find specialty souvenirs in Insadong.
  7. Wear a hanbok and take pictures at Gyeongbokgung Palace.
  8. Look at traditional houses at Bukchon Hanok Village.
  9. Check out the futuristic architecture of the Dongdaeum Design Plaza and its 21,000 roses in the LED garden.
  10. Must Eats: Bibimbap, Jajangmyeon, Bingsoo, Korean-styled fried chicken, Korean BBQ

Bonus for any K-pop fans reading:

  1. Visit an entertainment company building. You might spot your favorite artist.
  2. Visit SM COEX Atrium.
  3. Jam out at your favorite group/band’s concert.

For anywhere you go:

  1. Remember Walker Percy’s “Loss of the Creature”? Remind yourself to lose the “symbolic complex” that may form before visiting a place. You have sovereignty over your experience, so take this list as a mere suggestion, and venture outside of it to create your own unique memories!

Lexi Bibbs – 500,000 Steps through Italy

 

It has been four days since I returned home from the trip of a lifetime, and my legs have no idea what to do. For the past month I have spent my days walking, hiking, swimming, and at times running through northern Italy. I have spent time in Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Bolzano, and a sprinkling of stunning Tuscan hill towns. While in Italy my little legs took 556,902 steps, walked 226.24 miles, and climbed 1,096 staircases…and I absolutely loved it.

On our first night in Florence everyone in the group climbed up to San Miniato al Monte, a smaller basilica located near the Piazza Michelangelo. After walking ten miles (literally) around Florence while fighting jet lag, the climb up was more than a little difficult. Many breaks were taken, lots of water was consumed, and there were more than a couple of whines. Every step up was worth it, however, when we sat atop the steps in front of the church and watched the sun set over the rolling Tuscan hills and bathe the city of Florence in its glow. I can only describe the experience as magical. It was the first time I thought to myself “if you do not make the climb, you do not get the view.”

This thought passed through my mind in various forms throughout the duration of the trip. “If you do not climb 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo, you do not get to see the view Brunelleschi had from atop what is perhaps his greatest achievement.” “If you do not take a thirty minute walk to find the restaurant that serves the best bistecca all fiorentina (according to Rick Steves of course!), you do not eat the best steak of your life.” “If you do not make the three hour hike from Corniglia to Monterosso, you do not see views so breathtaking they bring tears to your eyes.” Sure, you can see pictures from the top of the Duomo, take a cab to Antico Ristoro di Cambi, or take a 4 euro train ride between towns in Cinque Terre, but you will never get the full view.

My time in Italy taught me that “getting the view” is not simply about taking in scenery, it is about appreciating everything that got you to that place and everyone who has stood there before you. When you climb to the top of the Duomo and your stomach drops just a little as you peer over the metal railing to see the entire city of Florence, you appreciate the courage of Brunelleschi and the faith of his workers who risked their lives to see his vision come to life. Italy has taught me lessons I will carry with me throughout my life. Making the climb is only one of many I hold close to my heart.

My experience studying abroad would not have been possible without the generosity of the Honors College and its donors, support of family and friends, and the involvement of the wonderful professors who participated in the UCA in Florence program. My participation in this program has changed me as a person and has granted me a new world perspective. Because of the hard work, patience, and insight of Dr. Ken Sobel, Dr. Joe McGarrity, and Dr. Ann Bryan, I and the other students who came on this trip have a deeper understanding of the intricacies and the impact of the Italian Renaissance and a greater confidence in our ability not only to travel in but to thrive in a foreign country. If ever I meet another student looking for a reason to study abroad, I could give them a thousand. Grazie Italia, you will forever have a piece of my heart!

 

Joe Barnello: Washington Center Experience

 

When I first applied to The Washington Center, I was simply excited to be in Washington D.C. for the summer. I could not wait to see Arlington and the National Mall, visit the various Smithsonians, and see the Supreme Court in action. I soon learned that my D.C. experience would encompass so much more. This experience, which an ELF grant from the Schedler Honors College made possible, gave me many other opportunities that will benefit me immensely in my academic career. The two main areas I gained experience in were knowledge on law schools and work experience at the National Archives.

The most beneficial opportunities I had for the short run pertained to furthering my knowledge of law school, which occurred in three ways: taking my first legal-minded class (Philosophy of Law), attending Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) law school forum, and making connections with people within the legal field. A part of The Washington Center experience is taking a night class once a week. My class was titled Philosophy of Law: The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Tradition. The class covered the different legal mindsets of Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer by reading both of their books and analyzing their philosophies by reading different Supreme Court cases. Even though this class was three hours at night at the end of a full day of work, it always kept my interest and attention because I was constantly intrigued with this material. I think this class cemented the belief that I want to go to law school.

Once I knew that law school was the next step in my academic path, I needed to know how to evaluate law schools and what type of law would be interesting to me. I utilized The Washington Center’s informational interview assignment and my supervisor’s connections to make connections of my own and learn about the legal field. The first person I talked to was Mrs. Rashee Raj, the General counsel for the Department of Forensic Sciences. She advised me that I would enjoy appellate law because it involves research and constitutional aspects. I then talked to Mr. Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. His advice for me was to not look at overall ranks as much as clinical programs, graduate work locations, and clerkship opportunities. These were just two people of many who gave me great advice while in D.C.

The last opportunity I had in D.C. to help me with my law school decision was the LSAC law forum. Over one hundred eighty law schools attended this event. Loaded with the knowledge I had from my own research, Mrs. Raj, and Mr. Vladeck, I was able to narrow down my decision to the handful of schools I am pursuing today.

The most beneficial opportunity I took advantage for myself in the long run was interning at the National Archives with Mrs. Karen Needles and the Lincoln Digital Archives Project. Mrs. Needles started this project fifteen years ago with the mission, “The first and only project digitizing the federal records of the Lincoln Administration. All executive, legislative, judicial and military records! If you want to truly understand Lincoln as President, you have to see the BIG picture!”

My small job within this large project was digitizing legislative records. To narrow the lens even further, I worked with documents from the Committees on Indian Affairs, Invalid Pensions, the Judiciary, and Military Affairs from the first session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress. The digitizing process has eight steps: locating the documents in the finding aid, ordering the documents, scanning, transcribing, cataloging, coding web pages, “cleaning” images, and uploading everything to the website. My job comprised the first seven steps, and Mrs. Needles would upload all my work at her house since the Internet in the Central Research Room and the National Archives was not fast enough to efficiently upload the data.

While in D.C., my experiences went beyond the simple tourist attractions. None of these experiences (not even the typical tourist places) would have been possible without the generous ELF grant from the Schedler Honors College. The grant allowed me to research my thesis in the Library of Congress, visit the Supreme Court, connect with people in the law field, and even intern at the National Archives for an entire summer.

Adrienne Thompson: Shanghai Language Immersion

In May and June of 2017, I lived in Shanghai, China, and studied Chinese for just over six weeks at East China Normal University (ECNU). My UCA classmates and I were dropped into the program in the last month of their semester, placed in different level classes, and studied accordingly. I had class four hours a day, five days a week. There was a day of listening, two days of reading, and two days of speaking class every week. Not only did I study but I got to experience so much culture in such a short amount of time. I visited temples, ancient gardens, marketplaces, tons of Chinese restaurants, museums, and even took a selfie with a Tibetan monk. The first two days, I was unpacking. I was uncomfortable, confused, and very excited. The last two days of the trip, I was packing. I thought, “Is it really almost over? Has it really been six weeks?” Somehow, my little hotel room had become home to me. That’s what travel is, making a new place your home.

I had a month to learn a semester’s worth of material at East China Normal University and make a comic about my experiences in China. What I actually did was create a small visual guide specific to this particular language immersion program by making a comic of fourteen pages in first-person perspective. It introduced some of the cultural differences between the USA and China and gave visual explanation to what someone who enters the same program might see. In industry terms, I was the penciler, inker, colorist, story boarder, editor, and designer. The comic is titled Round Peg in a Square Hole. The title very much conveys my feelings during the program. I was never the right shape for the country or the people in it. I either pushed at the sides too much or I left too much space open or both. Do I regret the experience? No. Would I do it again? Yes. The way I talk about it may not seem to coincide with those other sentiments, but what I created is my honest interpretation. I felt I needed to depict my truth and hopefully promote change by doing so.

I have Chinese ancestry on my mom’s side. I thought this trip would help me reconcile that part of my identity. I don’t know that it did. While I am even more interested in is Chinese language and culture, I still feel like an outsider. I’m not fluent, nor was I raised in China, but even if I was to spend the rest of my life in China and become a citizen and fluent, my dark skin, height, size, and features would instantly give me away as foreign. That sounds kind of harsh and sad, but I don’t think that matters. I am Chinese. I’m learning Chinese. It doesn’t matter if you can see it or not, it’s there. That’s where my problem was with my Chinese identity. I was dependent on having other people notice it. I was so used to people noticing the other parts of my identity, why not this one too?

The most important thing I realized while studying in China was how to learn a language. I can’t just memorize words, phrases, and sentence structures. I can’t just throw it in my freezer, let it thaw after three years, and expect that it’ll be any good when I meet a Chinese person at the grocery store. Language is not something to be collected and wasted. It and the culture it comes from should be engaged with every day. It’s a diverse way of living that can be difficult to accomplish. It’s all the more rewarding when it happens.

Theatre and Justice by Adrienne Thompson

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One could say this class was pretty ambitious, using art as a tool for justice and community problem-solving. We started the class by going through different theatre and justice models, such as El Teatro Campesino, the Black Arts Movement, the Living Newspapers, and Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, playing various games and activities that build trust, focus, creativity, and critical thinking. Our end goal was always to engage in community issues through art and theatre. We also developed programs or events we could implement in our own communities. For us, the students in the class, we were to transform ourselves from students and participates to teachers and leaders in our workshops.

Theatre and justice isn’t all about flash mobs and performance art at the steps of the capital; it can be much more livable and community oriented endeavor. As part of the Ozark Living Newspaper, our class took that to heart as we developed our workshop material. We chose to do a series of workshops with individuals currently participating in the Faulkner County juvenile probation program. Our overall goal was to build trust between the kids that we were working with and help them feel more comfortable with discussing the issues that they face personally and that they see in the community, while promoting the importance of theatre and other performance arts.

In our workshops, we would start with some warm-ups, then do a focus activity, process, and repeat. The processing was the most important part. It gave us, the students and leaders, as well as the court kids a chance to think critically about our communities, their issues, and our opinions as affected by our experiences. Our work culminated in an Improv Show on April 27th, where donations were collected to benefit the probation program. We raised over $100. Some of our workshop participates were in the audience and even showed their new improv skills during the show.

In Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed model, there are, first, spectators and actors. The actors start a performance around a social issue, then pause and ask the spectators what they would do differently. A spectator would take the place of an actor, effectively doing three things: engaging in the issue directly, transforming into a “spect-actor”, and practicing for real action and change. Our workshop participants became spect-actors, practicing the steps to real change.

When I first learned, we would be working with youth adults going through the juvenile probation program, I was excited and scared. Not for my safety but for their participation. I was worried they would not understand or want to engage, so, at the first workshop, I was very surprised to see them participating and enjoying themselves. Every workshop since, they showed new creativity, ideas, and progressiveness. I was doubting how much they could enjoy and grow from the activities, but once they were through the series, I could plainly see how art and theatre could affect a group of people positively. Through our work, they can now do the same in their own communities.

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Pizza with Patriots Service Learning Project by Jessica Woods

 

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Few know that UCA has a long military history, but take a walk on campus and you will soon see how UCA has chosen to honor their fallen. Oak trees lining the sidewalks serve as living reminders of those World War II veterans and alumni of UCA who came before us and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Additionally, the school has erected war memorials outside McAlister Hall that lists and honors all fallen veterans who were alumni of the university, and a wiki memorial page has been created to provide more information for these veterans. Yet even after all the work that has been put in to remember these servicemen and women, many students walk by these memorials without recognizing their significance.

This semester in Donna’s Core II class, we focused on what we can do as students to raise awareness and support for these memorials and the veterans who are part of our community on campus. We split into three groups: an event group tasked with organizing an event to support UCA veterans, a communications group to spread the word about these memorials, and a research group that focused on sharing the stories of these veterans by creating web pages for them by expanding the memorial wiki page.

The event group’s work culminated in a gathering called “Pizza with Patriots.” Students were able to connect with veterans in their community as they shared how the time they spent in the military has shaped them. Furthermore, Pizza with Patriots provided for the release of information about a scholarship opportunity starting next fall. The communications group worked to establish a $300 essay contest challenging contestants to research and write about the veterans in which these memorials are dedicated. In doing so, they created a legacy to increase awareness about the memorials on UCA’s campus. Lastly, the research group conducted genealogy research to find photos and information to help bring the names of the men and women etched on the war memorials to life. We were able to expand the UCA War Memorial web page to include information about virtually every single fallen veteran honored on the war memorial.

I was a part of something this semester that has created a lasting impact on my community. The work my class did has brought people together and shared stories that deserve to be heard. Be looking for more information about the essay contest next semester, and if you want to learn more about the stories of these fallen heroes please visit the UCA War Memorial web page at https://honors.uca.edu/memorial/index.php/Main_Page

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Hark for Haiti by Elle Johnson

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What can you get for $1? A Snickers bar? Maybe at Wal-Mart, but definitely not at the Kum & Go. What if I told you that with just $1 you could supply deworming medication to a child in Haiti for six months? Or twenty-five days of public health education for a student? Or a tree could be planted and cared for by Haitian student? Or a day of education and instruction for approximately 30 students? All of those ways to spend $1 make a Snickers seem pretty… unsatisfying.

Hopefully right now, you’re smirking at my witty Snickers slogan reference, and ready to hear more about Haiti. In Doug Corbitt’s Core II class, we have thoroughly discussed the reality of life in Haiti. The country has very little access to clean drinking water, the government is corrupt and laws are not justly enforced, and there is a widening societal gap as the poor become poorer and the rich elite continue to prey upon them. Our class wrote our research term papers over institutions that we think need to go through a reform in Haiti. Learning about the past and present of Haiti and the everyday struggles that Haitians endure ignited a passion in our class to help Haiti and it was the spark that kept us powering through our service learning project.

“Hark for Haiti” was a benefit concert that we hosted to raise donations to the non-profit organization, Hope for Haiti. Hope for Haiti’s mission statement is “We work to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly children.” To help support this mission, we spent several class meetings brainstorming ideas for our event and delegating tasks to ensure that Hark for Haiti would be a success. To bring in more funds, we decided to host a silent auction that ran parallel with the concert. Local businesses, restaurants, and individuals donated items to be auctioned off. The UCA Choir and many members of the music department, both staff and students, agreed to be a part of the concert. The performers were magnificent and a couple original pieces were composed for the event. Hark for Haiti turned out better than any of us had expected.

Freshmen college students, for the most part, have very little event planning experience. Hark for Haiti was an intimidating idea at first and even leading up to the event, a variety of fears hung in the air. Learning to trust and rely on others to complete tasks was hard; however, none of us could have accomplished this alone. We all had to contribute to the group’s goals and be in sync with each other to keep the ball rolling. There were many doubts and concerns as we moved through the planning process, but Saturday, April 8th turned out to be a great day. Hark for Haiti raised $522.70 for the Hope for Haiti foundation and was a great time for everyone involved.

2017 Dragonfly BioBlitz by Alexis Bibbs

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When I learned that my Junior Seminar classmates and I were to participate in a service learning project that involved both camping and the collection of dragonfly larvae, I have to say I was a little apprehensive. After all, I am not a biology major, I have little knowledge of ecology, and I am definitely not a camper. While the majority of my classmates buzzed with excitement and wondered what all adventures our weekend trip to the Steel Creek Research Station at Buffalo National River would entail, I asked myself “Can I do this?” I questioned not only my ability to spend the night outdoors but whether or not I would actually be able to contribute to the success of the project we were working on. Despite my worries, I chose to go on the trip after receiving encouragement from classmates and family.

​As we made the two and a half hour drive up to Ponca, I told myself “You’ve got this.” When we arrived at the Research Station, almost all of my worries about the camping aspect of the trip were calmed. We were not, in fact, going to be “roughing it” in the forest. Steel Creek Research Station turned out to be an adorable stone house where we were to prepare meals and hold class. Outside an NPS tent was already pitched on top of a raised wooden pallet with clean cots arranged inside. Together, we made a dinner of sautéed vegetables and ramen noodles and our host for the weekend, Ranger Faron Usery, brought us the most delicious beans and cornbread.

After our meal, we all gathered in the living room turned classroom of the house to learn about the project and prepare for the following day of collecting dragonfly larvae. Cameron Cheri, a University of Arkansas graduate student studying biology and member of the Conservation Corps, explained to us the purpose of the research and taught us how to identify different species of larvae. The fancy tent and yummy food had calmed my nerves, but learning that I was going to be scooping dragonfly larvae out of an old mill pond brought those same feelings of nervousness right back up. As my classmates looked with enthusiasm and anticipation at the different species of dragonflies and damselflies, the same question creeped back into my mind, “Can I do this?”
​The next morning we packed our daypacks and split into teams. Each team was to collect larvae from a different section of Boxley Mill Pond, the site of our collection.

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Within each team, there were to be two people collecting larvae out of canoes and the rest of the group was to collect larvae from the banks. I tried to force my way into one of the canoes, yet somehow ended up the one member in chest waders. With my new gear on, my group and I made our way to our marshy section of the pond. Armed with borrowed work boots and a noble sense of bravery, I sank myself knee deep into the mud and began scooping up little dragonfly and damselfly larvae up from the banks.

I never thought I would say this, but being knee deep in the mud while pulling bugs out of a pond was actually one of the most interesting and fun things I have done in my Honors experience thus far. I loved the challenge of finding the perfect place on the bank to scoop up samples and I was having fun catching tadpoles, fish, and anything but the larvae I was supposed to be collecting. When we took our samples back to the researchers, we used tweezers to help pick the larvae out of all the mud we had scooped up.

By the end of the day, we were all able to identify little dragonflies and damselflies with little help from the rsearchers. Together, our class must have collected dozens and dozens of larvae. Cameron with even informed us at the end of the day that our class had collected two species he had never before seen in the pond. It was the greatest feeling to know that we had helped work on a project that not only helped the researchers but the National Park Service and the rangers at Buffalo National River as well. Although I came into the project with feelings of apprehension, I left with a new confidence in my ability to go outside of my comfort zone and participate in new activities.

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London Christmas Lights and More by Diana Morales

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In December of 2016, I traveled to Italy and London, spending roughly a week in each country. I spent the entire day after my last final packing for what I believed would be an unforgettable experience. The very next day, I departed from Fort Smith, AR, and was on my way to Italy. Italy brought back joyful memories while offering new and exciting experiences.

Once I arrived in Rome, I promptly made my way to Vatican City to get a ticket from the Swiss Guards to the Papal Audience that would be held at the Paul VI Audience Hall. By the time I got to the Bronze Doors to attain a ticket, the sun had set leaving St. Peter’s Square illuminated by the beautiful large Christmas tree at the center. The morning of the General Audience I watched for two hours as the Audience Hall filled with people from all over the world carrying flags and singing a variety of songs. Listening to Pope Francis address the audience with the charisma I have frequently seen through his televised speeches was beautiful to say the least. As if getting to see Pope Francis was not enough on its own, everyone in the audience was informed that Pope Francis’ birthday was the following Saturday and close to the end of the event, a large portion of the crowd began singing Las Mañanitas (a Spanish birthday song). There are truly no words to describe that breathtaking moment. While this was absolutely one of the highlights of my experience in Italy, there was a multitude of other sights to see.

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I spent a week visiting some of the most beautiful overlooks Italy had to offer: from Janiculum hill, a hill with a view of central Rome, to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome from which there is a stunning view of all of St. Peter’s Square. I also had a chance to visit the typically more touristic attractions such as the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Piazza del Popolo. While in Florence, I was even treated to an unexpected show called F-Light Firenze in which the city videomapped several masterpieces from Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Raphael, Andy Warhol, and other artists onto the world-famous Ponte Vecchio. Florence never disappoints, and neither does the gelato.

From there, my adventures continued in London. If I had to name one thing I loved the most about London, it would absolutely be how stunning the city looked covered in Christmas lights for the holiday season. I walked down Carnaby Street enjoying the “You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970” light exhibition and continued on to the magical light display throughout Oxford Street.

A day trip to Salisbury, about an hour away from London, was just enough time to visit Stonehenge, a prehistoric landmark, and the surrounding town. Unfortunately, The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour was booked full for the next few months while I was there, so my only option of doing something Harry Potter related was visiting the Platform 9 ¾ shop at King’s Cross Station. While there, a young man took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend in front of the trolley replica available for pictures and the station promptly erupted into cheers for the happy couple. What better way to end a wonderful trip than by going to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, a magical festivity that has an open-air ice rink, a circus, rides, a Christmas market, and food from all over the world. Walking around Hyde Park and watching as everyone had a very winter wonderful night out was an unforgettable experience. Overall, you could say I was more than impressed with London’s Christmas light exhibitions.

stonehenge