Final thoughts and message from our official study abroad blogger: Marquis Holley. Love how Marquis captured complete and totally random moments, objects, scenes, and people from our study abroad experience in his photos. I think his writing and images show his background in communication and instructional design. It fills my heart with joy to know that this short experience will have a lasting effect in him as a participant in the program.
It’s hard to believe, but this week will mark two weeks since we’ve all returned from Switzerland. What a journey it was. Here are a few more images to provide a closure of sorts for our trip. We’re truly thankful for you following us, as well as your commentary. Please know that education was the reason we as students decided to study abroad, and we learned more than we could imagine on this trip. Special thanks to the University of Tampa for allowing this trip to take place. Furthermore, the Instructors that accompanied us during this trip are to be commended. Much appreciation to Mr. Frederic Palazy, CIS representative, as a true help and guide during our stay here. And to all of the teachers, students, administrators, and people we met on this trip, much love and gratitude to you for making it one to remember for a lifetime. Once…
Jetlag sucks and it is important to take it into consideration. When I do this again, I will plan to have very light activities on the first few days.
It is very different to travel with students that have a high interested on the theme of the program compared to students have some interest. In the group with had a 75% of students with very high interest on the theme of the program. The other 25% were participating mostly for the experience.
The leadership team of this program are very active individuals that had no problem been on-the-go. It can be challenging to accommodate for others who do things like “nap” or are not very active. If you want to participate in this type of programs or recruit students to participant, make them aware that to make the most out of the experience you will be spending very little time in the hotel room posting on Snapchat.
Just like with any group, there are students who tend to be more vocal. Therefore, they tend to drive the direction of the group. It is important to give the other students options or opportunities to voice their opinions/choices.
In making connections or plans to meet with schools, university research groups, or others, it is at times difficult to know how casual or formal the visit will be. Asking for as much information as possible before hand will help give the students context.
I cannot say enough about my assistant coordinator for the program: Merrie Tankersley. I already miss her! Having a good traveling partner to bounce ideas will make your study abroad program an amazing experience. Merrie was an absolutely joy to be around. I will miss our time together in Switzerland and I look forward to our experience next year in Belgium.
We organized most of the logistics through a study abroad service provider, CISabroad. As part of that arrangement, we had a on-site representative all the time. We met at the airport in Zurich after arriving in Switzerland, his name is Fred. Fred was honestly the best. He was very resourceful, friendly, and extremely patient.
The weather was just perfect. We would have made the best out of rainy days in Switzerland but I am glad that every day we were blessed with good weather.
Although there were some challenges with group dynamics, I was very happy to see that the five girls in our group grew so close together. They were also very inclusive of our male student. Overall, I am glad we had each of them in the group.
Aside from an strain ankle and a student with a cold, we had no major incidents during the trip. All students were always on time, respectful of the program rules, and participated in all required activities.
Switzerland is a beautiful country (and pretty much that sums it all). Our side trip to France was a treat. I strongly recommend visiting Colmar, France.
I am EXTREMELY thankful to every individual and organization that welcomed us during our visit in Switzerland. I plan to spend a good chunk of my pre-departure time at the Zurich airport writing thank you emails.
I am sure there are other comments I want to write about this experience, but this is all I have for now. Here are some of the pictures I captured:
Almost exactly two-months ago I gave this talk at the TEDxUTampa event hosted and organized by undergraduate University of Tampa students. The video is now uploaded to the TEDx Talks YouTube channel. I am excited to share this in my blog and I welcome constructive feedback (keyword: “constructive”). Also, please feel free to share it with others if you believe in my message:
“Instead of solely focusing on the ‘bad’ or ‘thinking of social media as a waste of time’ it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”
If you have 13 minutes to spare, here is the video:
Last week we all learned about Facebook breach of data. It sucked. But to be honest, it was not surprising to me at all as a user. I never really had expectations that Facebook would keep our data safe, protected, that they would use it ethically, or that they were really thinking about providing us healthy ways to use the platform. I wish they did. But they are greedy.
Many friends, family, and colleagues have discussed their discontent and are considering doing without a Facebook account. I am not here to encourage you to continue using Facebook. I think it is a personal decision. I have quit Facebook in the past (I do not mean deactivated my account. I mean, that I took the time to delete every single post and photo, unfriend every single person, wipe my account clean, and made the request to Facebook to completely delete my account) and it was hard. Three years of “social connections from my undergraduate years” gone! However, at the same time it was exactly what I needed to do then.
I returned to Facebook two and half years after my hiatus with a completely different mindset. That time apart (from Facebook) really made me realize the benefits and disadvantages it has. I should also say that the context of my situation made it very unique: during the time I quit Facebook I ended a five year romantic relationship, moved from my little college town in Kansas to a city where I knew no one, and started a doctoral program (I talk a bit about this in my TEDxUTampa talk). Last, I should add, this all happened before “smartphones” and apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and others where a thing.
Again, I am really not here to convince anyone to keep their Facebook account or to delete it. I am here to say that for me it would be difficult to quit again. I was born and raised in Panama. I did all of my elementary, middle, and secondary school there. Unlike most people who attend different school during the K-12 years, I spend most of my years (since grade 4th) in the same institution with the same classmates (yes, there are people that I know since I was in 4th grade). I am connected with most of them through Facebook, which in Panama is almost the equivalent of text messaging (the only App that is more popular in Panama is probably WhatsApp). No one really writes emails there anymore. Seriously, I cannot even remember the last time anyone from Panama wrote me an email (now that I think about it).
I have lived in three different countries: Panama, Canada, and the United States (six different cities total). Ain’t nobody got time to be emailing to keep up with people (I already have enough with all the emails I get and have to send for work).
Another reason it would be difficult to quit, is my constant connection to professional organizations and support groups. Connections to the groups that are created as part of my professional organizations, truly helps me stay connect to colleagues throughout the year. It helps me know what they are up to professionally. Also, sometimes there are beneficial conversations that occur (in professional circles and support groups). I may not be a participant in the conversation (just a lurker) but the resources that are shared help me in one way or another. Sometimes I participate, if I know something about a topic or have resources to share. This is something I learned during my time away from Facebook: use the platform to your advantage.
I know some people are thinking: it is an echo chamber, people just use it to post their perfect pictures, others are just nosy about your business, all those political post are annoying, etc. Maybe it is because I am at different point in my life, but I enjoy seeing updates from my FB friends (no I do not get offended because I did not get a personalized text message from them letting me know about something special that happened to them). Also, I am very intentional about who I connect with. If I cannot be “me” with you, then I will not accept your request OR I will simply delete you as a friend. If I feel that what you post is toxic, then “delete.” BTW, I am also like this offline. This is who I am, you can take it or leave.
During my time away from Facebook, I learned that it is really hard to keep up with people. Relationships require time and it is easy to neglect them. Again, this was all before smartphones and the development of all those other social platforms. I know what you are thinking: a centralized friendship “hub” is evil. Yes, it sucks that in order to keep up we have use this evil thing call Facebook but I personally do not have time to do it differently.
That is all I have for now. BTW, I am human. I may have a different opinion tomorrow. I also want to leave you with three personal quotes:
“So to some extend it is true. Social media can be harmful (and affect our mental well being), difficult to manage and overwhelming, too public, distracting, and influence and miss inform us.”
“Instead of solely focusing on the “bad” or “thinking of social media as a waste of time” it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”
“I am also not saying that we need to overlook the challenges that social media present for our social, mental, and physical well-being. We absolutely need to find ways to deal with this challenges.”
Had my yearly Pap Smear today and it served as a reminder of post that has been in draft folder for too long [it is also Spring Break so I get to catch up on a few things that I normally tend to put of for later]. Let’s talk about complicated pregnancies.
We often think that pregnancy is this magical time in a women’s life in which they can eat whatever they want, glow, and crochet something for their bundle of joy. Well, at least, that is what I thought pregnancy was until I experienced it.
The reality is that for me pregnancy was the worry of knowing how my baby was developing, heartburn, and sleepless nights. But I was fine with that because “it is all just part of the process.” It was until I was 22 weeks pregnant that things got “complicated.”
During a routine visit to the doctor (the first week of classes of that term) the ultrasound technician noticed that I was experiencing an “incompetent cervix.” Everything went from calm to faces of worry and the doctor rushing into the ultrasound room. I was asked to go the emergency room in the hospital and told that they were extremely worry that I would deliver early.
I was so confused by everything that was happening but without thinking about it, my husband and I drove to the hospital and expressed what the gynecologist had just explained. I was immediately checked into the emergency room at the hospital. The doctor in the emergency room explained what an “incompetent cervix” meant. Basically means that I have a “weak” cervix tissue.” What followed was just a mess:
Taught class for one week that semester [Fall 2015]
Then rushed back to the emergency room (and FMLA for the remainder of the term)
Was told by the doctor to consider having an abortion (early delivery would mean having a baby that would not survive or would have severe brain damage)
Was told by another doctor to consider having a cerclage procedure done to prologue the pregnancy as long as possible (although he clarified the success rate for a 50/50 chance)
Decided to do the cerclage and wait to see what happened.
Orders of bed rest until delivery date
Three long months of at home bed rest
Why did I continued my complicated pregnancy? Because I honestly could not terminate my pregnancy after watching my healthy baby boy in an ultrasound.
What is was like to do three months of bed rest? For me, it was torture. I honestly channel my energy into doing things that I enjoyed (writing, reading, researching, or anything I could do from bed/couch).
This is is really a summarized version of everything that happened. All the emotions that I experienced during those months, would be really difficult to capture in a post. I was very private about all of this, when it happened, because if things did not work out in a positive way, I did not want to mourn my loss publicly. It would have been too difficult. However, I did have many reach out to me privately and I would share what I was going through (I guess my lack of FB and Twitter post was noticed). I had many friends and family check in with me regularly (almost daily). Thank You. I also a had a dear friend that lives in the area have lunch with weekly through the three months of bed rest (thank you JoAnne Scott).
I am not writing this post because I want a pity party. I am writing and sharing it with you because pregnancies don’t always go as planned, which is even more reason to have have adequate institutional policies for pregnant women and partners. I would have never predicted my health issue (not even in my wildest dreams). Since this happened to me I’ve known at least two other women who had similar experiences, including another faculty member at my institution.
I also want to add that my story had a complicated but happy ending but not all stories end the same way. I want to share with the emotional story written by Ilde Torres Walter in her blog (it is a journey of love): http://www.journeytoliam.com/2017/01/09/hello-world/ [you should make time to read her five blog posts].
I am sharing the full-text of my recent talk at the #TEDxUTampa event on February 3rd, 2018 at The University of Tampa campus:
Making Social Media Work for your Educational Advantage
Enilda Romero-Hall, Ph.D.
In the year 2005, I was an undergraduate student living in a small college town in Kansas. My classmates and friends had recently started using this website called Facebook. It was: “ a better version of MySpace,” which I had never used. Of course I started using Facebook, friending others, and posting picture of my social life. It took three years but eventually, I became overwhelmed with Facebook. So, I proceeded to delete my Facebook account.
A year later, I had moved to a different state and city, started a doctoral degree, and was volunteering as a graduate student at an international conference. I noticed in my interactions with other graduate students that I felt out of the loop. For example: many of my colleagues had participated in a MOOC (massive open online course) about statistical analysis taught by a well known scholar in our field that they found out about through a Facebook group posting. I had never heard of it. At the end of that conference, I really started to wonder if I needed to reconsider my decision and re-join facebook.
It took me about six more months but eventually, I started to use social media AGAIN and made a conscious decision to use it for both personal and professional reasons. Not only did I join Facebook, I also joined other social media platforms with online communities that allow me to exchange information with others, connect with people who have similar interest, and informally learn about the topics that interest me.
Now, let’s fastword to 2018:
Today social media is ingrained in the way our society communicates, for good or bad. There is evidence that the use of social media will continue to grow as applications expand and new ones enter the market in the near future. Users are eager to try applications that offer engaging and unique ways to communicate with others.
I bet many of you are Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook users?
Well, if you are a Snapchat user, you are one of 166 million daily active users. According to the Pew Research Center, social media adoption in the United States has grown from 5% in 2005 to 69% percent in 2016. This adoption rates are a global trend.
The great majority of social media users access this platforms for informal, social interactions with friends, family, and acquaintances.
However, is not uncommon to see “concerning” headlines and research about social media in the news. For example:
Meghan Markle just quit social media. Here’s why you might want to as well!
Facebook admits that social media can be bad for you!
Social media is changing how we think, and not necessarily for better
Stop over-posting your vacation photos
Because we have all seen pictures of our friends and family in their amazing vacations! Everything just looks so picture perfect. The kind of vacation that you dream of. Just recently I also had a picture perfect vacation. My husband, my two-year old, and I embarked on an adventure to our sunny destination: Cartagena, Colombia. The pictures did not disappoint. But let’s be honest my husband and I were traveling with a two-year old. His behavior was not always picture perfect.
Yes, he had temper tantrums. Yes, he cried. Yes, he was loud when asked to be quiet. He is a two-year old after all!
So to some extend it is true. Social media can be harmful (and affect our mental well being), difficult to manage and overwhelming, too public, distracting, and influence and miss inform us. So I am not here to tell you that it is all rainbows and unicorns, Nor it is doom and gloom. But what I want to share with you is that we have to find ways to positively use this mediums that are not going anywhere, anytime soon. There are a large number of research efforts that hope to better understand and analyze the use of social media for teaching and learning purposes. As an educator and researcher myself, I have experienced and investigated how social media can be used for informal learning purposes.
Since 2013 the graduate students in the program in which I teach have been actively using social media online communities to informally learn more about our field, instructional design. We have both public and private online social communities. In this social media communities students exchange articles, post jobs and internship opportunities, ask questions and seek recommendations, and simply stay connected. Through my research, I found out that this online social media communities have helped keep the conversation going outside of the classroom and as one graduate students mentioned: “Some posts have triggered the students curiosity and in turn has led to exploring different topics and developing skills.”
But this informal learning experiences are not unique to the graduates students in the instructional design and technology program at the University of Tampa. As a knowledge seeker, I wanted to know if graduate students in other institutions of higher education are also using social media online communities to post, share, network, and connect. Here is what I found:
Students in other institutions perceive social media online communities as a quick method to help support social and knowledge communication
This communities help “break the ice” because it provides a relax way to communicate with others since conversations happen in a far more spontaneous and candid way
For students in fully online programs social media groups provided a sense of community… a sense of belonging…
To me what was really striking was that not only did students in this social media online communities appreciate sharing with others who have similar interest but most importantly they participated and valued the interactions with others who shared a different perspective because it challenged their views and allowed them to reflect, rethink, and in some instances re-shape their of own knowledge.
Of course, not all students are quick to post and share their thoughts with the world or their online communities. What I found is that some students enjoy lurking around and quietly participating while reading and consuming information provided by others.
So you may be wondering, why is this important? Why is it important for me to invest my time to listen to this lady talk about informal learning in social media communities?
Because, instead of solely focusing on the “bad” or “thinking of social media as a waste of time” it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.
And how can you do that?
Become a self-directed learner. Use social media to gather information about trends related to your field or area of interest:
What are new and emergent topics in your field?
Who are leaders in your field that you should follow?
Where can you find rigours research related to your field of study?
Use social media to connect with individuals outside your network
It is good to connect with others who have the same ideas as you
But it is also good to breakout of your network because this interaction can lead to innovation
What it boils down to: using social media to engage in transformational learning opportunities in which you:
Engage in critical reflection
Engage in discourse
Take action to transform your frame of reference
Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying “stop posting your favorite funny cat videos and memes” or “stop sharing selfies of yourself.” I am also not saying that we need to overlook the challenges that social media present for our social, mental, and physical well-being. We absolutely need to find ways to deal with this challenges.
What I am saying is that there are other ways in which we can enrich social media environments. There are educational aspects that we should consider. We, as users, have the power to control: what we post, when we post, who we interact with, and how we interact with others. You cannot rely on social media developers to provide healthy ways to use this platforms. It is our responsibility to make it work for us!