Week 3 - Classes begin

Aug 31, 2014

We were eased into the new academic year by visiting Boogersburg School in Pleasant Hill. This one-room school where students were taught from 1877 - 1952 is now a museum where local school children and visitors from afar can come and see what it was like to teach and learn in the times past. Teachers in period dress, a register book with names of children and their grades, a pot-bellied stove, slates, small desks and chairs, some now funny, yet strict rules for teachers ("Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.") brought us back to the times when education became public and free for all.

During the first week, which is also known as "add and drop week" we visited different classes and by the end of the week we had to choose those that we would take for credit, audit and sit in. (Almost) all the classes last three full hours with no break at all in some classes, or up to a ten-minute break in others. While visiting the classes I experienced my first culture shock - it was so unusual to see students eating during the lesson! Now I'm pondering if we are too strict regarding food and drink in my country; will students learn more if they are not allowed to eat in class; should eating be restricted to dining halls only; if eating doesn't interfere with active participation in the learning process, should we allow it?

The professors whose classes I attended amazed me! They are leading experts in their fields, prominent researchers,  prolific writers and  highly cited professors, yet they are so friendly, so supportive and so willing to help! I'm indeed very lucky to be able to study here at Penn State, one of the top 1% universities worldwide, and especially so because my mentor is Dr. Kyle L. Peck,  Professor and Research Fellow in the College of Education, Co-director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning and Principal Investigator of NASA's Aerospace Education Services Project. I'm immensely looking forward to learning from him and sharing the gained knowledge with educators in my PLN upon my return.

Weeks 1 & 2

Aug 22, 2014

It's been ten days since my arrival in the US. Ten days so busy that it seems to me that I've been here for at least a month. On the first morning when I entered my unfurnished apartment, I thought I would never furnish it! But thanks to Janis, my amazing, amazing host, only four days later my apartment already felt like home. Those first four days were all about the bare necessities - buying an inflatable mattress to sleep on until I get a proper bed, buying kitchen stuff, pillows, comforters (even though I still don't quite get the difference between a duvet and a comforter, I bought a nice zebra patterned comforter), visiting yard sales and giveaways (my first yard sale ever).

Also, getting my student ID, opening a bank account, getting a new sim card and finding a plan that will allow me to be connected on the go, registering my computer for the use in my apartment are just a few things that we managed to do successfully during the first week. Our three wonderful coordinators, Jane, Leila and Talat took great care of all of us and made sure it all went smoothly.

The second week was about getting to know the campus, classes to choose from and  team building. My fellows Humphrey Fellows :-) are all wonderful people and we get on really well. We gave short 15-minute presentations to get to know each other, went to Milbrook Marsh and Niagara Falls and had a lot of fun together. I even managed to overcome my fear of sleeping in outside corridor motels.

The only thing missing is my family.

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship about to begin

Aug 11, 2014

My Humphrey Fellowship officially begins tomorrow. I'm about to embark on a new ten-month learning journey at the Pennsylvania State University, one of the leading US universities. I'm thrilled  to take part in this year's program at the College of Education along with 9  fellows from 8 countries. We're part of a 2014/2015 cohort of 150 fellows from all over the world. As I'm the first Croatian school teacher to have been selected for this prestigious scholarship, I'm going to blog about my year as a Humphrey Fellow as often as possible.

So I'm writing this pre-departure post from my home in Zagreb. My bags are all packed and yes, I've packed everything but the kitchen sink, which was actually quite easy. But parting from my family is not easy at all, it's unbearable! But I'm sure we'll manage to go through it.

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