Tag Archives: travel

Travel an Essential Part of College Experience

I hope that over this past six-week break everyone has enjoyed their family, friends, and the comfortable familiarity of their respective homes. Then again, I also hope you didn’t. I hope you took advantage of this extended vacation (one that few will be blessed with ever again after graduating from college) and stepped out of your comfort zone. I hope you experienced more of the world than what you’re used to. I hope you went on adventures simply for the joy of new experience. I hope that everyone was able, in his or her own way, to travel.

It’s easy to fall into the sleep, eat, and sleep again cycle that seems only natural when at home with a personal bed and food a couple feet from it. I must say, that seductive lifestyle almost lulled me into a false sense of contentment, but no! I had made extensive plans for my time off in January back in September. These plans included a visit from a dear friend of mine from Massachusetts for two weeks, a guaranteed way to keep me from simply staying home and, inevitably, boredom.

It didn’t take much planning and obviously did not take much money (seeing as we are both scholarship dependant and working students). The biggest hurdle to cross was, ultimately, making the initial decision to take the trip. This was accomplished with two text messages. The first: “Lindsey, want to take a road trip to Seattle over winter break?” The Second: “Yes.”

We left San Francisco, drove through the night and, 14 hours later, arrived in Seattle. We proceeded to experience the city in classic ‘sleepless’ fashion. After meeting up with a distant relative, exploring Pike’s Place Market, tea tasting, and taking the Underground tour, we returned to the house of a very generous family who had volunteered to house us for a night of couch surfing (another way to cut down on costs). For the next couple days, we took our time returning to California, stopping along the way in Forks (yes, that Forks), La Push, Olympic National Park, and Portland. We brought most of our food with us from home, so food was only purchased when absolutely necessary. Coffee was one such necessity. Sleeping took place in the back of my car, the hostel we stayed at in Portland, or the homes of any compassionate acquaintances we could bully into letting us sleep in their house for a night. Our biggest (and only) expense was gas, which ended up being about 200 dollars each; a price I would gladly pay again for such an adventurous vacation.

The first point I would like to make with this story is that traveling is much easier than many of my peers believe. You don’t have to fly on a plane for ten hours and cross an ocean to travel. Anywhere besides where you’ve been before will do. Secondly, it most assuredly does not need to be expensive. A couple months of meager savings will surely suffice. Where there’s a will, creativity, and Google, there is a way.

Finally, it is almost criminal to not take advantage of these breaks and travel. College is a time where our primary responsibility is to learn, and we’re given six weeks off from this in winter, 3 months off during summer, and a week in spring. Why spend this time living out the same routine you have every other time you visit home from school? This Spring break I urge everyone to live like they will never have another opportunity like this (which, lets face it, you probably won’t!) and travel.

Profile: Ivana Rosas, Globally Minded Senior

Senior Ivana Rosas speaks three languages and has traveled to Europe and Central America during her career at USF.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Senior Ivana Rosas speaks three languages and has traveled to Europe and Central America during her career at USF. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Through study abroad opportunities and service learning trips, senior Ivana Rosas has seen many countries including Nicaragua, El Salvador, and France. Rosas, an international studies major focusing on the environment and development, considers herself a citizen of the world.

Born in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Rosas’ family moved to Los Angeles when she was five years old. Her family returned to Venezuela frequently and of these visits she remembers, “I would spend time with my cousins, aunts and uncles. We would celebrate birthdays. I had my first communion there.” Adjusting to her new life and learning English was not difficult for Rosas. She said, “I was in an ESL kindergarten class. My teacher spoke in English all the time. I don’t have recollections of [learning English] being really hard.” At her parents’ insistence, Rosas spoke only in Spanish at home so she could maintain her native language. Today she listens to music in Spanish and also speaks with her parents and cousins in Venezuela to keep her Spanish sharp.

Rosas studied French in high school and continued to take courses at USF. In the spring of 2008, she studied for a semester at the Catholic Institute of Paris in France. By the end of the semester, she was fluent. Rosas now speaks three languages and is learning a fourth: Portugese.

Of the study abroad experience, she said “I really enjoyed feeling like a foreigner and being completely lost to my surroundings, regaining a sense of self, making my own niche in a different society and discovering what it means to be a global citizen.”

Through a liberation theology course, Rosas was offered the opportunity to travel to El Salvador to observe firsthand how liberation theology was affecting communities.  Within a few months of this trip, Rosas again boarded a plane for Central America. Last summer as part of a service learning based project, Rosas interned at the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Nicaragua. She worked with a women’s environmentalist group that sells products made from recycled paper, specifically working on marketing and internal management. “The knowledge I gained was how to do more with community organizing and questioning what is development and taking it further by asking what is sustainable development especially in “third world” countries,” Rosas said.

After she graduates in December, Rosas plans to continue her work at the Global Women’s Fund, where she is part of a team that receives fund proposals from different organizations, like the Central America Women’s Fund.  After taking a year off, she plans to apply to graduate school to study urban planning or architecture. She said, “Studying space is so interesting and the relationship that humans have with space and their surroundings, both manmade and natural.”

Rosas holds her world traveling experiences very dear and strives to maintain her global citizenship, which to her means “being aware that while we may have our own identities be they multicultural or not, we are all responsible for our own existence and we have to be aware of and respect others’ right to exist as well.”

Profile: Sophomore Gabriel Avina Has Multicultural Upbringing

Gabriel Avina.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Gabriel Avina. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

It’s not every day that one meets a person who has traveled extensively or has lived outside of the United States, except, that is, if you are from San Francisco. Gabriel Avina, a sophomore and Asian studies major, knows how important and how different cultures can be, having spent most of his life living in Asia.

As a six-month-old infant, Avina’s family moved away from New York where Avina was born and settled down in Bhutan, or “mountain country” as Avina calls it. Bhutan is located high up in the Himalayas and surrounded by the countries China, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Bhutan, “land of the thunder dragon,”  opened its doors to technology and the beginnings of democracy in 2007. Bhutan shares the same culture as Tibet and practices Buddhism.

Avina had to move because his father worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and was often relocated.  Now Avina’s mother works as a jewelry designer and his father works for Microsoft. After living in Bhutan for four years, the family then moved to Laos for another four years, and finally Thailand for eight years. Rather than feeling unsettled, Avina calls his upbringing a, “wonderful experience—I’ve got a lot of perspective on life since I have lived in various countries amongst unique cultures. That’s why I’m probably taking Asian Studies right now, because I have a good understanding of other cultures because of my upbringing.”

However, even though understanding a multitude of diverse cultures, places, and people were intriguing for Avina, he did admit that moving around was difficult at times. In fact, he admitted that, “It’s hard not knowing anyone for more than five years. I’ve met a lot of people that I’ve lost contact with.” Regardless, Avina plans to do a lot more traveling, to places such as Asia, Southeast Asia, India, and France.

When asked how he felt when he first arrived back in the United States, and California for that matter, his answer was “culture shocked.” He went on to explain that he had visited it a couple times before, but he did not understand a lot of the references. Furthermore, he said that more of his emotions were based on missing home rather than concentrating on where he now saw himself. Avina said, “People overseas are much more informed and kids are more culturally aware and tolerant. Here, politics are much more internal.”

Instead of becoming familiar with Hollywood enchantment, he was familiar with a far more unique magic. Growing up in Thailand, he encountered a lot of folklore. Stories of yeti sightings and magical forest and mountain spirits surround Avina’s childhood. As in the culture, one is respectful of all that is around, plants and animals alike.

Candace Stevenson wrote to congress members to change earthquake safety policies after her father Joseph Stevenson (also shown) was fatally injured in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Photo Courtesy of Candace Stevenson

Candace Stevenson wrote to congress members to change earthquake safety policies after her father Joseph Stevenson (also shown) was fatally injured in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo Courtesy of Candace Stevenson

For a college experience, Avina describes San Francisco as open-minded and “fresh.” He said, “There was no where else I could really come after where I’ve been.” For all those who are considering study abroad, Avina’s message is simple, “Travel is important, especially when you are growing up. Experiencing other countries leads to a much broader perspective on the world.”

Professor Attends Conference in Dubai

When USF Professor Mouwafac Sidaoui sent his original research to a Chancellor at a public university in Dubai, he did not expect to spend his spring break in the United Arab Emirates, eating lunch with royalty and enlightening others on his work.
When Dr. Tayeb Al Kamali, Vice Chancellor of Higher Colleges of Technology in the U.A.E., received Professor Sidaoui’s piece, he invited the Lebanese native to be a Delegate/Mentor at the 2009 Education Without Borders Conference.

“When my research was done, I sent it to the participants in the study and the Communication Director at the Higher College of Technology (in Dubai) called me and asked me if I wanted to go and present my research in December,” he said. Professor Sidaoui got a call back in November asking him if he could hold off until the conference six months later than scheduled, and he agreed to do so. “There were 500 students and 100 faculty members from around the world,” said Sidaoui, who had the opportunity to present his original work, entitled “Transformation Leadership Practices of Deans and the Perceived Organizational Culture of the United Arab Emirates Public Universities” at the conference.

Professor Sidaoui began working on his research in 1994 after he visited a friend in Dubai and was fascinated by the culture and educational system.

“Dubai is where east meets west,” said Sidaoui, noting that only 10 percent of Dubai’s population is native to Dubai, and the rest are from other pars of the world. Because of this, Dubai is one of the few places in the world where western and eastern culture are living side by side.

“In Dubai, you see a woman dressed in a vale walking next to a women dressed in short sleeves,” he said, explaining the range of the cultural spectrum in Dubai and the role of women, who make up between 60-70% of Dubai’s higher education students.

After his 1994 trip Sidaoui bgan his research, which was done both online and by traveling to the United Araba Emirates. Sidaoui’s reseach is not specific to Dubai, but is relevant to the entire U.A.E. Professor Sidaoui’s trip to Dubai was not all work. Sidaoui was able to eat lunch one afternoon with Prince sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan of Dubai.

“It’s amazing, the networking that goes on over there,” said Sidaoui. Just by meeting a few people, I was able to meet and talk to the President of the Al-Jazeera Network as well as his Highness.”
Professor Sidaoui said he did not realize how important this conference was until he got there. “I had my picture and my name on the plasma T.V’s all over campus,” he said. “It made me feel like this was much more important than I originally thought.”

Professor Sidaoui was highly impressed with the educational system for the natives in Dubai. According to Professor Sidaoui, every born citizen of Dubai gets a free education from the time they begin school through college. Assuming they meet requirements, students can also receive a free post-graduate education. This system coincides with what Professor Sidaoui described as Dubai’s “community culture” that differs from the U.S.

“Over there, everything you do impacts the community. You learn to engage and listen to people at a young age,” he said. After visiting Dubai and doing extensive research in the U.A.E, Professor Sidaoui is highly optimistic about the job market in Dubai, though it is not perfect.

“The hospitality industry was hit hard,” he said. “But it’s a different job market out there for students. Sidaoui noted that there are many jobs in Dubai that are catered to English speakers, and there are no federal taxes.

“Visas are easy to obtain,” he said. “I would encourage students to check it out.

The conference his held biennially in Dubai and Professor Sidaoui plans on attending the conference again, this time with company.

“I want take some top USF students with me next time, not only business students, but any students,” he said.

Students Scale Down Spring Break Plans, Focus on Relaxing and Rehearsing

As the frigid winter ends but before the icy clutch of San Francisco summer, spring blessedly nears the horizon. Easter may still be more than a bunny-hop away, but it is never too early to think about Spring Break. Yet between pocket-burning airline tickets and a queasy economy, some must curtail possible globetrotting excursions. However, there are still some exciting options available to thrifty students. From community service to thespian retreats, USF students have certainly not resigned themselves to a dull spring break.

Stephen Gotfredson, a theology graduate student and Phelan Hall resident minister, has created Alternative Spring Break for any Saint Ignatius students staying on campus. Alternative Spring Break is “for students who are really passionate about giving back to their community and who don’t know many organizations here in the city. Every single day will be spent with a different organization.” Habitat for Humanity, Glide, and the Rescued Orphan Mammal Program are just a few of the organizations.  For performing arts and social justice majors involved with the April production of “The Laramie Project,” spring break means following artistic pursuits. According to stage manager Zoe Bronstein, “the majority of the cast has decided to stay and rehearse.”

Priscilla Trasvina, a sophomore business major, has taken an economical view of her spring break. “I’ll just be working at the front desk,” she said. “It’s extra money to spend.” Her big vacation will come in the summer, with a trip to Los Angeles.

Another campus-bound student, freshman Gabriel Avina, plans to “relax, hang out, and read books. Maybe go see Lake Tahoe. It would be nice to go home but it’s so far away.” Avina is from Thailand, and a trip home would take two days just in transit. “For that amount of time, it’s just not worth it.”

Other students will return to their native soils, some happily, others not quite. “I was going to go to Vancouver and see the sights,” said freshman Aaron Halbleib. “But people just weren’t on board.” Canadian adventures thwarted, Halbleib said he will return to his San Mateo home and “cry myself to sleep because I don’t have anything cool to do. Actually, I’m not that disappointed. I’ll save a lot of money. I’ll probably to do a road trip to Chico State instead.”

On the other hand, Sacramento native Barbara Evangelista is happy to see home again. For her, it is the perfect occasion for catching up on sleep. “I’ll get to relax and not deal with the stress of classes and midterms.” Evangelista, who took a cruise over winter break, said, “A vacation is cool, but just being able to go home is nice enough.”