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December 24, 2009

Papers, Presentations, and "The Twitch"

Undoubtedly, this semester has been the most challenging of my undergraduate career and has been the most taxing on my own physical and emotional health.

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November 29, 2009

"Mexico, Here I Come": The trials and tribulations of preparing to study abroad

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Studying abroad in Mexico has been my dream since my freshmen year at the University of Minnesota. Next semester, that dream will come true.

My parents emigrated from Mexico during the 1980s, and since then, we have returned to visit our friends and family almost every other year since I was eight. However, I have always yearned for a deeper connection to my roots. Learning abroad in Mexico seemed like the best opportunity to fulfill that desire.

Luckily, on my freshmen admission's application, I checked a little box that said I was interested in studying abroad at some time during my undergraduate career. Because of that decision, I was awarded with a Freshmen Study Abroad Scholarship, which I would be able to use at any time during my undergraduate career as long as I accepted to study abroad. The U's belief that I was a viable student to study abroad only deepened my desire to go.

But as I soon came to find, the application process is not as simple as it seems. I actually applied for my program a year in advance, just to get the initial application out of the way. I was accepted, and I even had the initial application fee waived! Once this semester set in, I finally began the rest of the application process, which was expansive. It involved visa photographs, visa applications, letters to my prospective family, a candid photo for my prospective family, a letter from my physician, a letter from my bank, a current passport, a passport photocopy, proof of insurance, insurance for study abroad, questions about myself and my likes/dislikes, etc. etc. etc. However, because I organized and timed everything well, it was never too overwhelming. Like everything, studying abroad is a process, and you need to dedicate yourself and keep yourself up-to-date with all of the requirements for your program. Yet, my organization paid off. The Learning Abroad Center provides scholarships to students participating in their study abroad programs, and thankfully, I was awarded with the University of Minnesota--Twin Cities Diversity Scholarship!

I am studying abroad through a co-sponsored program. The Council on International Educational Exchange, or CIEE, works with the U's Learning Abroad Center to offer a wide variety of programs. However, because I am attending a co-sponsored program, the requirements are a bit different, so just make sure you take a look at that if you decide to do a co-sponsored program as well.

However, I cannot wait to start my program. I will be studying at the Universidad de Guanajuato through CIEE's Guanajuato-Liberal Arts program. Thus, I will be enrolled in a couple of courses in Mexico with other CIEE students from all over the United States as well as have the opportunity to enroll in classes directly with the home institution. And, because it is a Liberal Arts program, I can choose courses from art history and architecture to painting! Luckily, with help from my first adviser from the Martin Luther King advising community in the College of Liberal Arts, and currently with the guidance of my adviser from the University Honors Program, as well as my advisers in my majors, I was able to organize my undergraduate years so that while I am abroad, I can take any courses! I have completed all the requirements for my majors during my first two and a half years, so I need not worry about any major credits transferring back to the U of M. Granted, if I would have needed some credits to transfer, I could have done so with help from my advisers, so that's always an option!

But, I am doing something else as well while I am abroad at the Universidad de Guanajuato. I was granted the opportunity to conduct research with a grant from the University Research Opportunities Program while I am abroad! Working long-distance with my mentor Dr. Patrick J. McNamara, I will be analyzing the bicentennial and centennial celebrations taking place in Mexico in 2010 and the ways in which Mexicans use memories of Mexican Independence and the Mexican Revolution to develop a sense of nationalism and a sense of belong. My mentor and I will communicate via e-mail, and I will be creating an image database as well as keeping a research journal to write down all of my findings.

So, as you can see, not only can one have the opportunity to learn abroad in a different country and through a different institution, but one can also take part in an amazing research opportunity that will only making your experience abroad that much more fulfilling and worthwhile! And do not let financial concerns stop you from participating in a study abroad program. There are programs that can fit your wants and needs, whether they be three-week, summer session, winter break, or even year-long programs. What is more, there are always scholarships that can help you finance your trip! Wish me luck :) Hasta pronto!

Research? What's that?

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When one says "research," one immediately thinks about people working in laboratories with long white coats and and chemicals bubbling all around. This semester, I have been presented with a completely different perspective of what research really means... at least to those of us in the social sciences and humanities.

Because I had established a professional relationship with one of my journalism instructors, Catherine Squires, I was offered the opportunity to conduct my own research as a directed study course, an option that all students can take advantage of through their particular departments. As a directed study, Professor Squires and I meet one-on-one on a weekly basis and discuss the readings I have done for the week or the reviews I have completed for that time period. While less formal than a regular course, it still fulfills three credits for my journalism degree and allows me to analyze a subject that interests me, rather than taking a course that might not. Unlike a regular course, I was allowed to choose the journal articles and books I read, with the guidance of Professor Squires, and thus could investigate an area that is rarely discussed in current scholarship. Furthermore, it gives me an opportunity to perfect my writing and obtain more experience for my future goal of attending graduate school.

I was also presented with another unprecendented opportunity to conduct research through a mentor and former professor of mine. During the summer, Professor Patrick J. McNamara asked me if I would be interested in participating in a research project with the Immigration History Research Center located in Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities' West Bank campus. The project, titled "Minnesota 2.0," involved documenting the ways immigrant and refugee youth were using social networking sites, like Facebook or MySpace. I was immediately intrigued, so Professor McNamara contacted the IHRC and recommended me as a student researcher and sure enough, I applied for the position and was accepted. The position was initially only a work-study job, but because I do not have work-study, I was allowed to participate in the research also as an Independent Study through history, similar to my directed study in journalism. My role has been to analyze and record the ways Mexican youth are using these sites, and I have come to learn a great deal not only about myself, but of the creative ways young adults are using social networking sites.

My research is nothing like the "lab coat" image most people get in their minds. Actually, I spend hours on Facebook looking at what people are writing and posting-- it's a hard life. My other research involves reading books and articles regarding a topic I am fully invested in, so again, not work, but rather an opportunity to invest in my own interests. And, if you are interested in a research opportunity but it is only work-study, still apply and talk with the chief investigator! There could always be some way to get involved! Research is especially key if you are intererested in graduate school, so keep it in mind. It is a great and extremely coveted and venerated learning experience!

November 5, 2008

Lived to see the day...

A year ago, I waited outside the Target Center to see the next President Elect of the United States speak in front of thousands of people.

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October 1, 2008

Sleep? What's that?

As the clock’s long hand continues to spiral in a never-ending circle, I find myself sitting on my couch, with only the lamplight to accompany me and the buzzing of the fan circulating the air through my apartment.

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August 16, 2008

Is it really over? Yes!

I sit here and contemplate my first summer home. Everyone warned me it would be a bit different, and they were right.

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May 13, 2008

~El Final~

I sit here having completed my last final, and I cannot believe I find myself in this position. My roommate and I are both moving out today; ironic because we moved in together and we are leaving together. But I must stop, because I can feel the tears welling up.

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April 23, 2008

*Graduation Heebie-Jeebies*

I remember this time last year. I can still picture it in my mind. I was stressing over finals (which were a joke compared to what they are now) and worried about how I was going to get my hair done on graduation, while also quite concerned about the shoes I would wear across the stage.

On the other hand, I was quite anxious—in a good way—to head off to Minneapolis.

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March 24, 2008

~Mi Casa Es Tu Casa at La Raza~

Having never in my life ‘blogged’ before, I feel it only appropriate to introduce myself. I am an Oak Park, Illinois native, yet was raised in a small town in Wisconsin about fifteen minutes away from the tourist hot-spot Wisconsin Dells. I am a freshman at the University of Minnesota, and I am honestly loving every minute of being here, no lie. While sometimes the whole ‘school’ aspect of what I like to call the ‘college experience’ is, to say the least, stressful, difficult, and time consuming, I could not imagine it any other way.

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