Maddie Tucker: Fresh Start in Florence

Upon deciding to take this trip, I had just undergone many big changes in my life. I had just completed my first year of nursing school and I was in love with the work I was doing, no matter how difficult it was. I love helping people and trying to understand their hurts, both physical and emotional. Going on this trip really helped my cultural awareness in a way that I know will help my nursing practice. My mind was opened to a different communication style, new lifestyle, and health management.

The people were quite different from those in America. There was a collective sense of being in Florence. The people were more openly kind and helpful to one another. I hope to bring this sense of community into my nursing practice with not only my patients, but also my co-workers.

Another huge part of the trip that affected me was the nature. We hiked in Cinque Terre, on the Mediterranean and the views were incredible. I pushed my body past limits I thought I had. We hiked for 7-8 hours each day through stunning vineyards and mountains overlooking the beautiful blue water. I couldn’t help but absorb the pure, raw beauty. It was so perfect and untouched by luxury. The buildings were colorful, simple and without too much flare. They were so old and the residents had been there for years and years with their families. It was a small village, everyone-is-friends mentality.

The next big hiking endeavor was in Bolzano, in the Alps. The mountains were stunning, like giants looming over the picture-perfect Alpine meadows. There were beautiful wildflowers of orange, purple, pink, blue, and yellow. They danced in the soft breeze and I couldn’t help but run through the field with the new best friends I made on the trip.

I highly suggest exposing oneself to the beauty of Italy. I love that we not only got to experience historic, artistic Florence, but we also got to explore many other Tuscan hill-towns via train. The small towns had stunning cathedrals and history and small shops, whose shopkeepers were captivating in their knowledge of Italy. The churches were moving both in their immense size and in the spiritual wholesomeness they exuded. Upon entering the churches, one could feel the history and the reason so many people clung to their faith a long time ago. The statues, murals, and altarpieces were so detailed and intricate.

This trip was full of history, art, architecture, cultural comparisons, and natural beauty. Nothing was overly modernized with technology the way things are in America. If you have the opportunity to expand your mind and cultural awareness, take it. Too many people never get the chance to see what is out there. More people need to in order to be more compassionate and open-minded in today’s ever-changing world.

Morgan Sweere: Mobile Clinic in Succotz, Belize

The crazy thing about going on a service trip to another country is when you get home. Everything is the same – same people, same places, same smells. Yet, everything is different. I realized that what had changed was me. I learned about medicine while I was there, and we helped people as much as we could during the time we were there. However, the biggest help we gave to the local people wasn’t healthcare at all – it was love. Building relationships and sharing stories with the people, showing that we cared, and playing with the children with all the time we had seemed to mean the most to them. The people were so grateful for anything we had to offer, and they were so kind and content.

The culture was very different from anything here in the United States. The children were especially well behaved and grateful for receiving even one McDonalds toy, as it was the only toy they had.  We spent the first day in-country visiting local orphanages. We prepared for the King’s Children’s Home first, where we saw about sixty children in the afternoon. Our group gave out gift bags to each of the children in the home, which contained pencils and notebooks (they need school supplies badly), as well as sunglasses to protect from the rampant sun damage and a toy. We also visited Marla’s House of Hope, which was in a secret location because it housed girls who were victims of sex trafficking originally and many of their children as well. After each girl had a visit with one of the doctors, we gave out vitamins and flip flops, as many of them didn’t have shoes, which caused them to contract pinworms from walking around in the dirt.

It is difficult to explain the gratitude each of the children in these orphanages showed on their faces. They looked forward each year to the week when our group came, as it was their only “gift” of the year and their only medical visit. The next three days were spent working in the “clinic” we had set up, which consisted of trash bag room dividers and a suitcase pharmacy in the local Nazarene church. We got help from local people, who we paid $25/day to translate for the people who didn’t speak English (mostly elderly). When we arrived at the clinic the first day to set up, there was a line of people stretching down the street who were waiting to been seen by a doctor. Many of these people sent one person from each home to wait in line to be seen, depending on who might need medical attention the most. When the patient was “triaged,” we got information on how many people were living in their home so that we could better determine how many vitamins to provide for their family.

I was so surprised at the condition of the homes in the villages we visited (one room huts made of trash and sheet metal). Each of these contained around 15-20 people.

My primary job during the clinic was to work at the glasses station, which I found to be the most rewarding experience of the entire trip. Some of these people who came to our clinic were in their sixties and had never had glasses before. A local Conway opthamologist had donated five hundred pairs of glasses to our trip, although we didn’t know what prescriptions they were, as they were used. It was kind of difficult at first to help people find the glasses that might work best for them because of this, since we had to just keep trying them on until we found a pair they liked. However, we eventually found ways that worked best for us at our station and attempted to sort them by their strength.

The coolest part of the entire trip was seeing elderly patients who finally put on that “perfect” pair of glasses. Their faces lit up immediately, and that’s how we knew we had found the pair that fit them. It is amazing how these people were so resilient; they had gone their entire lives without being able to see and had successfully held jobs and raised families.

I was also lucky enough to get to observe our two physicians, Dr. Andrew Cole, OBGYN, and Dr. Tom Roberts, orthopedic surgeon, as they did some of their patient care. The medical problems we have here are very different from the medical problems there, because there is so little health care available to the people. Dr. Cole removed several warts and growths from people’s’ skin (we joked that he was the new dermatologist). Because of the high carb diet (beans, rice, tortillas), the people often had hypertension, diabetes, and obesity as diseases, but it wasn’t very well controlled, so we gave out as many glucometers as we could. I met four year old Aliyah during the last day of clinic, as I talked with her while her mom was seen by the doctor. She ended up stealing my pen and writing her name on my thigh so I “wouldn’t forget her,” but I knew that I never would. She had the most innocent and real smile I’d ever seen.

In the clinic, we saw 492 families, treated 1387 people, filled 2603 prescriptions, and gave out 500 glasses. The last day, we spent visiting the school another group had built in a previous year. I was walking around the school when Aliyah came up and jumped on me. She showed me her classroom and we spent a little while building blocks before we had to leave. She hugged me and said that she would miss me and hoped that I would come back next year. I will.

Kane York: First Conference Experience

I attended the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) conference in San Antonio, Texas between March 31st and April 2nd. Before the conference enjoyed research; however, it seemed as if I was working in a vacuum. The only people I could discuss my findings with were my professor and a select few people in the department. This changed when I was able to attend SWPA. Walking into the poster room blew me away. I expected there to be a good amount of people in attendance, but witnessing the amount of posters and people discussing the subjects made it all the more real. This became even more poignant when I stepped back and thought of the amount of work each project took. Each poster or presentation was the result of hours of data collection, critical thought, and analysis.

Each day consisted of a myriad of talks and poster sessions. The first day I attended a talk discussing the manner in which we value human lives in and out of war. The speaker drew upon themes in psychology, economics, and philosophy to enlighten the discussion. We addressed questions regarding donations made to nonprofit organizations, how we as a developed country form our views of people in war torn countries, and how we allow the state to place value on certain lives. This talk impressed me because of how the speaker and the audience drew upon different disciplines. It displayed that psychology is a field that draws from many sources.

In the latter portion of that day, I observed a symposium with Cognitive Psychology as a focus of the talks. I was excited to hear this presentation since the content differed from the social psychology presentations I had already heard. A common theme through all of the speakers was studying the visual system using visual search tasks. In short, this is a task in which a participant needs to “search” for a target object among other objects known as distractors. This tasks allows the experimenter to manipulate the stimuli that appear on the screen and draw conclusions from the participants input. From this we can make inferences about unobservable mental processes. This provided me with more reference material for a project I plan to work on next semester, one that studies ensemble processing—the ability of humans to make quick judgments when presented with large amounts of visual stimuli. It brought me joy to see that my area of study was alive and well.

During the second day I attended another talk that was about how teachers can approach learning differently. The speaker quoted a number of studies in discussing how professors and students need to stop thinking of lectures as a transferring of knowledge from one container to the next. He claimed that it was an active process on both parts. His presentation gave me new insights to learning and was able to dispel some myths. The amount of false assumptions I had was a bit surprising. One interesting takeaway from his lecture was that students are responsible for 50% of their learning. This puts a number of student problems into perspective. Later, it was time for my poster presentation. What I figured was going to be an event full of anxiety turned out to quite enjoyable. What I expected was to be rigorously questioned by professors and academics, but this did not happen. People expressed a genuine interest in my research and asked understandable questions.

This was a fantastic first conference experience. To see the amount of and how diverse the people in attendance brought me much joy. Seeing so many studying in my field gives me confidence that I am choosing a worthwhile degree.

Russell Jeffrey: Rwanda

You Need a Friend

Mr. Gaby was the first person we met in Rwanda, and without him we would have been completely lost. His head, shorn like the heads of most Rwandan men, balanced on his body more than six feet in the air – inches above the tallest in our group. Gaby seemed to know his way around everywhere, and he could bargain, discuss, argue and talk his way around until he got what he had come for. We were naturally curious when we discovered that he could speak seven languages. He advised us that the first word to learn in any language is “thank you,” or, in Kinyarwanda, “moracoze.” After that, it is up to you.

The second person we met on our trip was Gaspar, the bus driver who drove us all across the country. He was a very shy, humble person who was probably the best bus driver in Rwanda. Gaby knew that Gaspar was excellent, and the bus company knew that Gaspar was Gaby’s first, second, and third choice if he needed transportation for a group like us. We soon learned that Gaspar could squeeze the bus through gaps in the rush-hour streets of Kigali as smoothly as he could cruise through the hills, and because of our trust in Gaspar’s skill, the bus became a safe place for us throughout our trip.

We spent our first week in the capital, Kigali, at a guesthouse called Kings. As such, we became familiar with the staff members, Justine, Augustine, and Celestia, and the owner, Mr. Amos. Justine could not stand idly by as the white, American students struggled to do the most rudimentary household chores. She often had to show us the proper ways of doing things like washing clothes and peeling potatoes after she had a good chuckle. Augustine was a cheery fellow who always greeted us with a smile, but we were never quite sure exactly how much English he understood. He always smiled and nodded politely when we asked him questions, but we found that some conversations required much more pointing and gesturing than others. Luckily, he was quite familiar with the English phrases, “There is no hot water,” and “There is no Wi-Fi.”

I met another person in the village of Kanembwe. At the time that we visited, there was some confusion about the ownership of the land we were working on, so while Gaby was off talking his way through a Rwandan police force, an electric company, and a village of several thousand people to sort things out, we were left with little more than hand gestures and the Kinyarwanda words for “yes”, “no”, “thank you”, and “white person”. The guy I met seemed to be about my age or a bit younger, and he was one of the only people we met in the village who spoke a lick of English. He wore a red snapback cap turned around backwards, and he called himself Jumeve. (Pronounced with a soft “J”, Ju-may-vay is my best attempt at spelling the name from I-don’t-know-what-language that I only saw written as “JMV”).

Over the course of the two days we spent in Kanembwe, there were many occasions that sent me in search of Jumeve to make sense of the ideas that the people were trying to communicate to us. I was told that I could be cut by sharp minerals if I touched the cement, I was told that it was considered a “blessing” to get peed on by a baby, and I declined the requests of several men who thought it was my job to marry off the ladies in our group. None of these messages were understood without the help of Jumeve. At the end of our stay in Kanembwe, I briefly got to say goodbye to him. His grin, which I had always received when I smiled at him in passing, fell away when he understood that we were leaving. He gave me his WhatsApp number and asked for something to remember me by. I thought frantically: Shoes? I need those; Notebook? Tattered; Money? Impersonal; Tape measure? Cheap. Then it struck me: Pocket knife. I unclipped it from my belt and handed it to him. He nodded, we exchanged mournful smiles, and I went on my way to join the others for the ride back to our hotel.

On the morning of our trip home, Gaby arrived with a different bus driver (Gaspar had a scheduling conflict) and took us to the airport. I was comfortable letting everyone else take pictures that would be shared after the trip, but my biggest regret about the trip is that I failed to capture Gaby. There are very few pictures of him in our shared folder for, I suspect, the same reason that there are not many pictures of Gaspar’s bus. In the rush and jumble of our first few days, Gaby and Gaspar quickly became the secure foundation from which we operated – the giants whose shoulders we stood on to see Rwanda. I only have one recording of Gaby speaking. In the recording he says one word, “Nzagukumbura,” which is the Kinyarwanda word for, “I will miss you.” I miss him, too. Because, although I have returned from Rwanda, I left a little piece of me behind. I left it on purpose, and maybe someday I will go back to look for it.

Radishes, Swiss Chard, and Kale, Oh my! by Tessa Wolff

Many students are unaware that UCA has its own organic garden on campus. It’s called the Dee Brown Memorial Garden and it’s named after Dorris Alexander “Dee” Brown. Dee Brown attended Arkansas State Teacher’s College (now known as UCA) from 1928 to 1931. He is well-known for his influential book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” which chronicles the history of Native Americans in the early western U.S.

​This semester, my classmates and I had the opportunity to learn about the impact and history of gardening in our world today by attempting to grow our own organic garden. “Organic” horticulture incorporates sustainable, environmentally friendly methods of gardening by eliminating synthetic pest and weed controls, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seed varieties. In contrast to today’s industrial agricultural habit of monoculture, organic horticulture attempts to mimic the natural world by promoting the integration of various types of plants and animals into a single garden ecosystem. It also requires a lot of work, which my classmates and I were soon to realize. We started out with thirteen empty garden beds, from which (we hoped) would soon flourish many fall crops. To prepare the beds, we added compost from our campus compost pile which provided a foundational amount of nutrients for our baby plants. Then, we took to our hands and knees and began to plant seeds and seedlings in the fresh Earth. We planted Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Lettuce, Radishes, Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, Carrots, and my favorite, “Baby Bear” Pumpkins (which, unfortunately did not do well this season). We added Pansies and Marigolds to attract pollinators and add to the beauty of the garden.

Many hours were spent watering, weeding, amending the soil with extra compost, and inspecting for insects, all in an attempt to make sure our harvest came to fruition. Additionally, we planted three beds with peas to prepare them for the next growing season. Peas are nitrogen fixers; they take nitrogen from the air and return it back to the soil. This is an important step in preparing beds for future vegetables that require high amounts of nitrogen, such as tomatoes or squash. Over time, our baby plants grew into mature plants and finally started producing vegetables! The leaves of Swiss Chard and Kale can be harvested as they grow and the plant will continue producing leaves for further harvest. The broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and pumpkins take a bit longer to produce fruit, but patience is a virtue! As we wait for the rest of our veggies to grow, we continue to learn about the benefits of organic horticulture to humanity and the environment. We’ve learned that agricultural costs aren’t strictly limited to monetary ones. By not using synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, organic gardeners and farmers are reducing agriculture’s harmful impact on the Earth. For example, synthetics can cause soil depletion, increased insect resistance, pollution, and may even have long term, detrimental health effects on humans. By gardening organically and selling locally, farmers reduce the use of oil in transportation and preservatives in shipping. They also promote the growing of fruits and vegetables during their proper growing season and preserve the important heritage of heirloom seeds, which are natural, non-genetically modified seeds that have been preserved over generations.

​I came into this class with what I thought was a pretty good amount of gardening experience and knowledge. The first day of class, we were told to rate ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 meaning “gardening genius” and 1 meaning “clueless.” I rated myself a 5. The fact was, I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did and I have certainly had a bit of a wakeup call when it comes to the astonishingly far reaching effects that food production has on our world. My classmates and I are proud of our little garden, knowing that our hard work paid off and that we did our own small part in treating the Earth respectfully.

Scotty McKay: The Life of a Protein

I worked in Dr. Marian’s lab for three semesters. During this time, I learned to culture cells, determine the protein concentration of a solution, perform immunoprecipitations, perform immunofluorescent microscopy, SDS PAGE, as well as western blotting. I was also able to present my work at three different conferences and wrote my honor’s thesis titled “Cadherin 18 Localization and Interacting Partners” over this project. I got into this research because I wanted to explore whether research was something that I would want to pursue after graduation, but also because I saw potential for this work to have a real, positive impact on people’s lives.

The goal of this project was to learn more about a protein that is found naturally in human cells called cadherin 18. This is a type 2 cadherin that very little is known about, which to me is one of the most fascinating things about this project. Knowing throughout your research that something you notice could be the first time that anyone has ever made that observation is an awesome feeling. For this project, we had two main goals. These goals were to find out where cadherin 18 is localized within cells as well as determine what proteins cadherin 18 interacts with. By knowing where it is located and what proteins it interacts with, we will have a much better idea of what it does in the cell. Gaining a greater understanding of cadherin 18 is important because by learning more about cadherin 18, we will have a better understanding of any bodily process or disease that cadherin 18 is found to be involved in.

In order to see where the cadherin 18 is located in cells, we used immunofluorescence. Immunofluorescence makes use of antibodies as well as fluorophores (light emitting organic molecule) to locate a particular antigen. In our case, we bound a primary antibody that specifically binds cadherin 18 to cadherin 18. We then bound a secondary antibody to the primary antibody. This secondary antibody had an attached fluorophore that emitted light when it was exposed to a certain wavelength of light. Using this method, we were able to take pictures of our cells that highlighted where cadherin 18 is located.

We then used immunoprecipitation to determine what proteins cadherin 18 interacts with. Immunoprecipitation uses the same antibodies as immunofluorescence that are specified to cadherin 18. In this case though, the antibodies are bound to agarose beads. After the cell’s proteins are extracted, all the cellular proteins are allowed to interact with the antibodies. Only the cadherin 18 should bind to the antibody, and any protein that interacts with cadherin 18 should bind to cadherin 18. After performing washes and centrifugations, we should be left just with the beads, antibodies, cadherin 18, and possible interacting partners of cadherin 18. An elution buffer was then used to remove the proteins from the antibodies, and the proteins were subjected to an SDS PAGE to help determine what the interacting proteins are. During SDS PAGE, the eluted proteins are mixed with a dye and then pipetted into the wells of a precast gel. This gel is then put into a tank of SDS buffer which denatures the proteins and gives them a negative charge. When this gel is subjected to electrophoresis, the proteins are pulled toward the positive electrode. The gel that the proteins move through is very porous which allows small proteins to move more quickly through it. The end result is a gel with multiple bands of proteins separated based off molecular weight.

The end result of my work on this project is that we believe, based on our fluorescent images, that cadherin 18 is located throughout the cytoplasm of cells. We also were able to see multiple distinguishable bands on our SDS PAGE which we believe are possible interacting partners of cadherin 18. This project will be taken over by another student next semester who will help verify and expand upon these results. I am very happy that I was given the opportunity to assist with this project and am extremely pleased with the results we were able to get in such a short amount of time. I highly recommend that other students get involved in some research project of their own. This was an experience that not only taught me useful skills, but also an experience that greatly developed my critical thinking, problem solving, and presentation skills which will be invaluable in the future.


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!!


  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.)


  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


  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


  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.


  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.