Quirky insights to science, art, studying abroad, & other miscellaneous happenings.

Quirky insights to science, art, studying abroad, & other miscellaneous happenings.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

My thanksgiving experience this year was one of awareness, to be honest. It all goes back to the beginning of November, when I counted ahead and realized that with the way things were going in my work schedule -- working every other Thursday, mainly -- that I would probably be scheduled to work on Thanksgiving. My shift is 3-11pm. I didn't request off, thinking I wouldn't be missing out on much. My family wasn't doing the whole thanksgiving shebang this year, and my mom was visiting her parents. . . halfway across the world. I didn't think it'd be a big deal. Holiday pay and free ham from my work was compensation, and I accepted it with ease (kind of).

So then I drove straight from my parents' home to work ~ 45 minutes. 
See that lonely stretch of road? Quite depressing to drive to work knowing that most people have the day off… giving thanks.

I began thinking, what is thanksgiving, anyway? An American holiday where we stuff ourselves with amazing food - namely, sweet potato casserole, green beans, turkey, mashed potatoes, etc. and get together with family. {I'm not even going to touch on the Black Friday mess.} But the fact that we have a day off (usually) and a major holiday for it - that's quite a feat. We're supposed to be thankful, but in context, when people are usually thankful - it is TOWARD someone specifically. When we say "thanks" or send thank-you notes, etc. it isn't simply for saying thanks. It's to say thanks to somebody.

I recalled a verse - Colossians 1:12. 
"Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints in the light."

This led me to a wonderful verse about thanksgiving - one of my favorites:

Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Isn't that such GREAT wording? I became so inspired and I felt my spirit was renewed. I didn't feel very thankful that day, to be absolutely honest, but after this, I was ready. I didn't feel thankful, but I gave thanks anyway and that caused me to be thankful.

I started making myself think about all the things I really AM thankful for and needed to acknowledge and praise the Lord for: my job, being able to study abroad in the spring, being almost done with college, my wonderful family, my life, and most of all, that I knew Him, Jesus Christ. Without Him, I would have none of this. 

Moving on. . .

I'm far from perfect, to say the least, and work was work. Actually, probably busier and crazier than normal. Exhausted from everything, and getting home at 11:45pm (you'll learn that in healthcare, you rarely get off work on time), I saw the kitchen light on. I immediately thought, Chere (my roommate) must've forgotten to turn it off. She was working 8pm-4am at Kohl's (the joys of Black Friday, which again, I shall NOT get into) and had left a few hours before.

I was a little hungry (this happens to me after work about 12% of the time) and for some reason, sat down at the kitchen table & debated what I should eat. My options being fruit snacks or tater tots. Then, it was like magic. 

I saw a little note, which you can see below.

[The pie wasn't on the table, of course. I set that out after seeing the note.]

Most of you would think, Aww, how sweet! And don't take me wrong, I did! But if you know me well enough, I absolutely despise all things pumpkin. I hear the word and I want to vomit. (Not physically, just in my mind). I really don't like the taste of pumpkin, the smell of pumpkin, or pumpkin anything. 

So my mind was thinking, Oh, that is so sweet! while at the same time, mentally gagging. I am very proud to say that the sweet side won, and my stomach was too hungry to argue.

For the first time in my 20 years, I willingly ate pumpkin pie.

Look at how delish it looks! (It took me a few bites to get used to it -- and then I could zone out the pumpkin part and simply focus on the yummy crust, haha).

All in all, I gained a new awareness of thanksgiving. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

How Geography Affects You

Geography doesn't merely refer to location -- it also includes demographics, economic issues, environment, and most importantly, shapes culture. The United States is pretty large, comparatively, and unless you live in Alaska or Hawaii (or another territory, such as Puerto Rico), you're pretty linked to the rest of the country. Doesn't take much driving to get to the nearest neighboring state. This probably has contributed to our country's drive toward unity and self-sufficienty. It would be quite different for say, Switzerland, for example, surrounded my more countries than simply one above it and another below it. 

The U.S. is also quite variable in climate, so in terms of appropriate clothing for the weather, different levels of dress can exist. Comparatively, smaller countries might appear to have a stricter protocol with dress, if weather is more predictable. The location of a country can also indicate its demographics. The largest ethnic minority (Hispanic) is probably so due to Mexico bordering us on the south. All of these things will cause us to view this as "normal" -- until we see otherwise.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Identity & Gender Roles in Italy

3 Identities for me: Asian, Christian, Woman

Identity is what us who we are. It's how others see us, how we view ourselves, how we fit into society's demographics. Being a woman is more than just happening to be born female. It's how society looks at us - our salary potential, our ability to travel independently, right down to the Disney princess we should dress up as for Halloween.

Introspectively, my identity as a Christian would be the strongest. I'm really curious to find out what Italians' attitudes are towards God and Christianity, and how that influences their culture! Being an Asian American has made me more aware of different cultures and diversity as I was growing up. It's put me in situations that make me reconsider the correctness of affirmative action. I think our identities expand as we continue on in life. Things we experience add on to shape us and determine who we are as a person.

In a study abroad context in Italy, I think identities continue to develop and we get a greater sense of who we are in this great big world. 

Steps I plan on taking to minimize culture shock:

1. Discomfort or stress is natural when experiencing a different culture.
2. Look for reasons behind the culture patterns -- how does the pattern fit into their culture?
3. Be flexible -- adapt easily to new norms and changes.
4. Travel in the spirit of humility -- you are a guest in their country.
5. Observe and reflect on your experiences for greater understanding.

Food for thought - will those who have grown up exposed to different cultures (like me, being an Asian American) experience culture shock differently? Or cope better?

{For women traveling to Italy…
Europe in general appears to be more conservative and less casual in their dress. When visiting churches especially, women should not wear strapless tops or skirts/shorts above the knee. Italians also do not wear sneakers as much as we do -- not surprisingly, considering their cultural emphasis on fashion.

Gender roles still seem to be traditionally grounded. Unwritten rules about gender roles are important to note - direct eye contact or a smile is usually interpreted as more than just being friendly and as an open invitation. Americans tend to be more bold in our behavior -- I mean, we did have the feminist movement. In general, flirtation is interpreted much more easily in Italy than it would be here.

Some tips and differences for women would be to act confidently and behave like the native women. Coming across as a foreigner or tourist might automatically bring a different attitude altogether.}

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cameras Infiltrate Nursing Homes

The other morning I read this article from the New York Times: Watchful Eye in Nursing Homes.

[My friends often have called me an "old soul" but I looked into it for reasons beyond that. I currently work as a certified nurse aide (CNA) at a local assisted living facility. Always triggering deep thoughts.]

To sum it up, nursing home abuse has been brought to question. The story of an elderly lady's neglect was only revealed in truth due to hidden cameras placed in the room by the family - who became suspicious when items they bought for their mother suddenly disappeared. The video also revealed the nursing assistants abusing their mother verbally and physically. 

I'm not surprised, but calling attention to a specific instance makes it much more real to the rest of us. When I first started working, I became very conscious of the fact that we, who were being paid slightly above minimum wage, were entrusted with the very well-being of so many - often in one-on-one interactions. In some cases, care cannot be verified, since most of the work is done privately between the patient and aide. It's actually a really scary thought. 

You're letting your mom being taken care of by aides you may have never met. You're trusting the facility to hire caring, diligent aides. 

When I started training where I work now, I noticed little things  - even the most seemingly hardworking aide would occasionally skip steps, ie. not using toilet paper after the patient used the bathroom, not brushing their teeth before bed, etc. (The latter is a commonly skipped step due to inadequate staffing - which leads to even bigger problems of oral care and potentially causing death.)

In my opinion, however, this article is only bringing out a side effect of the major, long-lasting problem of inadequate staffing, especially nurse aides. Granted, purposeful abuse is difficult to detect already, but if facilities weren't so desperate for workers, well, it could be minimized simply by choice in candidates. 

{Here's a story: there exists two sides where I work - one being the independent assisted living, the other brig locked down for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia. One notorious aide used to work on the assisted living side - now she only works on the memory care side. Rumor has it that she has been rude and neglectful, refusing to help when asked. Family members complained. 

So why is she now on the side with those with dementia? Because they are unable to report it, due to their memory loss. When they do remember, other aides have told me of some complaints by residents: there is this aide that throws my clothes at me in the morning and yanks my arms, shouting at me to put them on.}

It's a complicated world out there, everyone. 

Adequate staffing would:
- lessen the amount of work per aide, allowing more time 
- more time means more mouth care, emotions care, one-on-one time
- lessen number of falls and accidents
- greater job satisfaction and patient satisfaction
- higher staff retention rate
- save costs on medication (when patients are agitated) 

You get the idea.

Cameras have never been implemented as a requirement, due to the ethical controversy over privacy. I think it's quite sad, though when such measures have to be taken to ensure quality care. What does that say about our system of healthcare and trust?

But when almost everything in this world is based upon profit - well, I'll leave it up to you to discern. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Culture as an Iceberg?

So, this is such a typical Jennifer-move. I'm going through these online modules for my program, right? And there's a lot of them. My brain subconsciously estimated 50 hours worth of work… And then I somehow stumble upon the fact that we're actually not supposed to do ALL of them - only a selected few. So that global scholars intro post I have here? Yep. Didn't have to do that. 

An exercise I did compared culture to an iceberg. Aspects of culture that you can observe and see (most obviously) are on the surface of the iceberg and the less obvious aspects below the surface. 

Well, most of them were pretty self-explanatory. Annnnd maybe a little obvious. I mean, music? Facial expressions? Clearly different throughout the world. 

But some I think I will have to take some extra consideration. Childraising beliefs? Definitely variable even here in U.S. already. But I always figured concept of fairness to be pretty universal - but it's not. Or even the nature of friendship, values, or even the importance of time. I've been warned that Italians do things a little slower; we like to stay busy and rush everything here.

We shall see! Excited to keep everyone updated. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Starbucks and a Mishap (or two)

For a few weeks now, I've been meeting with my friend S (for the sake of Internet anonymity) on Tuesday mornings at Starbucks. Usually because it's nice to have company when cramming for a weekly quiz I have in Statistics class. 

Well, a little bird had told me that holiday drinks were buy one, get one this week, so my roommate and I decided upon Peppermint mocha. 

Look at the excitement.  

P.S. The lid is off because she likes to eat the whipped cream before enjoying her drink. It worked out for photography aesthetics, too. 

Needless to say, they were not buy one get one. It was on Sunday - two days ago. I could probably have a whole separate blog on all the things that go wrong in my life. It's okay, I think. I'm getting used to 20 years of this. 

Here's us together. Took a few tries but we are all smiling simultaneously which is an absolute miracle. 

My friends, starting from the left: S, me, D, and C. 

The mishap today, without giving away too much detail, was me today at school reading something on my phone and turning to enter a room, only to run into - no, not merely a wall, but a glass wall. It ricocheted loudly as I calmly but rapidly moved away to enter from the actual doorway. I think it was too late. I didn't bother making eye contact with anyone in there, but my friend's laughter destroyed my remaining semblance as she asked while laughing, "Did you just run into the glass like a bird?"

Cheers to Monday Tuesday mishaps. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Top Ten Reasons to Study Abroad

1. Studying abroad is a life-altering experience!

I mean, when else will you have the chance to go live in another country for 4 months, no strings attached?!? (Okay, so maybe there are some strings attached, like money… but in terms of life attachments.) No work commitments, taking vacation days, having a family to consider, not bound to the work force…  yet. The most difficult part is making it feasible financially.

2. Learn about yourself and gain independence. 

Studying abroad is a chance to challenge yourself with situations that will test your abilities to adapt and learn. I'm a little nervous about sharing crazy and embarrassing stories that I'm sure will come along! I've always considered myself independent, having moved many, many times, but I'm sure being in a foreign country will still be a learning experience for me!

3. Gain perspective on another country & culture.

Studying abroad is a chance to step outside of the ordinary and experience a culture completely different from your own. We make so many assumptions from our day to day culture, and it's easy to fall into the trap that the "American way" is the "right" way. Now I'll get to see more complexities. 

4. Learn the language!

Although I've studied Spanish and German "by the books", I've always had difficulty communicating with a native speaker -- despite all my practice. The only way to truly become fluent in a language is to be immersed in it. I've heard Italian is similar to Spanish, so my goal is to be able to speak decent Italian. 

5. Broaden your education.

 In today's global economy, study abroad can be a vital element in a college education. Although I am a science major, I am studying painting and Italian in Italy. I'd like to be open minded and more strongly equipped with a mind that can combine both the arts with the sciences.

6. Programs work with any academic program.

There are SO many different study abroad program choices, not to mention exchange programs. If you really have the heart to go abroad, it is definitely feasible if you do your research! Common obstacles usually are financial or graduating on time. I'll share my experience and touch on both of these later!

7. Experience unique academic structures.

Do your biology research in Costa Rica or a business internship for a Japanese railroad company; intern with the British Parliament, or design your own academic fieldwork project in the country of your choice. I believe different academic settings can stimulate learning growth better - in Florence, I will be out doing field studies for painting and taking trips to museums in the city as part of the class!

8. See the world (or at least a part of it).

While in Italy, I plan to do some traveling both within the country and also to neighboring ones, such as Switzerland and France. The opportunities are endless!

9. Make connections that can last a lifetime.

This one is important to me. There's value in knowing people that are completely different from you in personality, background, and life values. The college I attend attracts a pretty homogenous population - white, from more small towns or rural areas of Ohio. Let's just say there's a proper way to say "deer huntin' " - pronounced without the 'g'. :)

10. International travel and study are fun and exciting.

Probably scary too.. But still a unique experience to be taken advantage of if possible!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Global Scholars Intro

Oh, the craziness of having a blog. Just to establish myself – first things first. I am studying abroad in Florence, Italy in the spring of 2014 – Jan. 16 to May 9, to be exact with the program AIFS. I’ve decided to partake in their Global Leader Certificate program, and hence the impetus of this blog.

First task – to answer a few questions for the first entry.
Profile Information
I’ve never lived abroad, really. But traveling — let’s see: over the years, I’ve done a few jaunts here and there.
  • Canada (around Vancouver)
  • Mexico (drove south past Tijuano into Baja California; Cancun)
  • Just about the whole island of Puerto Rico – I would LOVE to go back! 
  • Taiwan (once when I was 3) and over a summer when I was 14 to visit family. Yes, both my parents immigrated from Taiwan a little over 20 years ago.
  • Belgium & Germany (over spring break during freshman year of college)
I will graduate in May with my undergraduate degree in Biology (or Biological Sciences, to be precise, or if I want to sound slightly pretentious…).
I’m currently a senior at Wright State University in the small-ish city of Dayton, OH. 
In the 8th and 9th grade, I learned some Spanish. In the 10th and 11th grade, I switched over to German. My background has enabled me to know a little Mandarin – as in, I can understand the gist of what you’re saying and can probably communicate understandably if placed in a situation of dire need, but I’m far from fluent. 
I’d like to think I have some foreign language learning skills by this point!
My fears and concerns about studying abroad? 
  • Not making the most of my time there – finding the right balance between traveling, studying, blogging, taking pictures, etc.
  • Being comfortable living as a Florentine
  • Not gaining the vision I’m looking for – why the Renaissance was able to flourish there and how science and art can work together
“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
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