The first 100 days

Nov 20, 2014

Today is the hundredth day of my learning journey in my Humphrey Fellowship year, so it's time for a small recap.

The most important, the most impressive, the most powerful experience that I've gained here is meeting people - people from all the six continents, people so different in so many ways, yet so similar, so kind, so friendly, so helpful.

Emerging technologies come next. Learning from experts is absolutely priceless. It feels great to be a student again, especially here at Penn State where I have access to all the books, journals, articles and databases! A whole new world opened up to me when I got my student PSU ID.   All it takes to borrow a book or an article is just a click. In a semester a student can borrow up to 200 books and keep them for the whole semester! If only I had  time to read all of them.

What I still haven't learned is thinking in English. I'm still waiting for that click to happen to make me think in English spontaneously .. and speak it fluently so that the words come easily, naturally, magically. Come to think of it, this doesn't happen when I speak my native language, either, so obviously I'm not endowed with the gift of gab. Maybe I  should have kissed that Blarney stone when I was in Ireland some years ago. Writing is different, sometimes easy, sometimes not so, but always somehow fluid, rolling, teeming with words and thoughts.

Week 14: Brown bags

Nov 18, 2014

Brown bag lunches are very popular here at Penn State. A brown bag lunch is an informal meeting that takes place over lunch. It's usually an informative session about a topic that is of interest to faculty and students. They can bring their own food, usually packed in a brown bag, but sometimes the food is provided for the participants. I went to my first brown bag in September when all the Humphrey Fellows were given several minutes to introduce themselves and the work they do to the College of Education faculty.

This past week I spoke at two brown bags and I'm speaking at another one this Friday. In two  of them I spoke about Croatia to the staff of the Corporate Controller and I think they liked my talk and I hope I was a good ambassador of my country, especially as some attendees told me after the presentation they would like to go visit Croatia. I spoke about, I think, unusual things, like what coffee means in the life of a typical Croat, the secrets of lace-making from the island of Pag, the lighthouses, the sunsets, the wooden toys, the Dalmatians, Zinfandel and those beautiful Chicagoan Indians on Horseback by Mestrovic, to mention just a few.

In today's brown bag for the Teacher Leadership Faculty  I co-presented with Bart Verswijvel, Education and Communications Officer from the European Schoolnet in Brussels. He joined us via Webex and was so kind to stay with us during the whole session, even though, unlike us, he didn't get a brown bag.  Bart and I talked about the eTwinning network and how teachers are using it to launch projects, connect with their peers and develop professionally.

I also gave two webinars for Croatian eTwinning  teachers. It was wonderful to speak to so many enthusiastic teachers who wanted to learn more about Lifelong Learning on the eTwinning network and the Skills of the 21st Century. Those were the first two of the three webinars that I'm leading as a Croatian eTwinning ambassador in November.

The most emotional and the most cherished moment of the past week was about eTwinning again: I won the first prize for my last year's eTwinning project Coursera Kids in the national eTwinning awards competition. My project partner from Greece, Lina Kalliontzi, also won the first prize in the same competition in Greece! So this must mean that the project was really great! What we did was rather unique. We enrolled our students in a Coursera MOOC and guided them through this fast-paced course. The MOOC was in fact a project within an eTwinning project, which enabled the students to learn more thoroughly, more slowly and more creatively how to develop their writing skills and get ready for their school-leaving exams. The Prize ceremony was held in Zagreb and I "Webexed" in to give a short presentation about the project. My headteacher, Ms. Svea Bielen was there to receive the award and take it to my school and to my students. 
Photo by Suzana

There were also my dear friends Ivana, Suzana and Natasa. I couldn't see what they were doing, but I could hear them and I knew they were up to something fun.

Photo by Svea
Photo by Svea

Week 13: Global Leadership Forum

Nov 11, 2014

2014 Global Leadership Forum was held in Washington D.C. from November 2-6. All the Humphrey fellows from 16 campuses got together in DC. There were 171 fellows from 98 countries!

The event was organized by the IIE and there were many events we attended, such as the dream-like visit to the National Geographic Society or the grand reception at the Department of State where I met Mario Skunca, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Croatian Embassy and Maja Cakarun, 2013-14 Humphrey Fellow from Croatia.

The topic of the GLF was climate change and resilience and each campus gave a presentation. For the occasion we had  T-shirts made with a print of a photo of all of us in the woods of West Virginia and Brinda and Muhammad,  who delivered the presentation, rocked!
The GLF was also a great opportunity for us to meet with representatives from local organizations and talk about the possibilities of doing our professional affiliation in their organizations at the end of the Humphrey year. It was a huge pleasure and honor to talk about my PA with Dr. Cheryl Williams, Executive Director of the Learning First Alliance and Dr. Helen Soule, Executive Director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Excellent speakers were invited to the GLF. The most powerful and inspiring talks were those given by Dr. Gary Weaver on culture shock and by the Humphrey Alumni Shanta Nagendram and Agnes Igoye. The highlight of the conference was Sharing Cultures during which the fellows performed traditional songs and  dances from their countries. It was a cultural trip around the world. 

Week 12: It's ..... yeeeeeaaaaah .... Halloween!!!

Nov 2, 2014

Needless to say, to celebrate  Halloween was one of my must-do things while in the U.S. and I was lucky to have been invited not to one, but to two parties. The first one, on October 31, was thrown by Jackie, who was so kind as to prepare all kinds of things kids usually do on Halloween, like decorating cookies or putting hands in the feel box where there were some things like eyeballs, guts and some other gross stuff.

The other party we went to tonight is I think one of the most famous Halloween parties in this part of Pennsylvania!  It is thrown every year by my mentor Dr. Kyle Peck at his home in the middle of the woods. There were about 100 people there wearing fantastic creative and original costumes, there was a band playing and we were all dancing, singing, drinking, eating, chatting, it was fun, fun, fun.

with the host, my mentor Dr. Peck
Adelina, who I thank so much for giving us a ride to the party
The Fellows with Adelina
Brinda and Yosra
Yes, I was cowgirl and was wearing a pigtail
Leila and Nick
Yes, his name is Andy

Elvis, of course

Jackie Brown and the Gill Street Band
Chatting by the bonfire

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